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Census Records Have Always Been A Great Tool For Genealogists
Column published: 26 February 2010
By: Shirley Gage Hodges Biography & Archived Articles
Census records have always been a great tool for the genealogist. In the U.S., census records are released after 72 years so we eagerly await the release of each census. Our descendants will not have some of the advantages that we have enjoyed. Our 2010 United States census is about to be taken. This year there will only be 10 questions asked. Our descendants will not be able to learn a lot of information about us from this census.
2010 United States census questions are as follows:
One of the things that I have found fascinating was the tendency among females to be inconsistent about their ages. As someone has said "women have been chiseling on their ages ever since the stone age." Apparently this was fairly common.
The historical records revealed some quirks. For instance, Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary, reported growing only seven years older between the 1850 and the 1860 census.
(Census Year: 1850; Census Place: Springfield, Sangamon Co., Illinois; Roll: M432_127; Page: 120; Image: 243.)
(Census Year: 1860; Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois; Roll: M653_226; Page: 140; Image: 139.)
Census records include a wealth of information that is obviously useful to researchers, as well as hidden clues that are less obvious but equally useful.
It is difficult to construct our family's histories with the brief entries that we find. When I look at the census I am always humbled by how little I will actually ever know about the lives categorized in the census records of long ago. It is always a challenge to try and find out more about those lives, whether in little snippets found within the census itself or in other sources that they have lead me too.
In future articles we will examine some of the other types of things that we learn from the census.
Until next time :)
Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930
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