I was an enumerator for the United States Census Bureau in 1990 and 2000. I was one of the many who knocked on doors to get forms filled out that hadn't already been returned. It was the most fascinating job I've ever had. I woke up every morning excited about getting to work. It wasn't easy work some days. Unlike the gated communities I enumerated in 1990, rural areas were my domain in 2000 - some of them quite remote. Cell phone signals were iffy but mine worked just often enough to get me out of a bind or two. I'd had a few unruly types threaten to shoot me. One guy became irate and was hauled away. He wouldn't answer his door even though I knew he was home. One afternoon I stood there on his porch and called him. For some reason he answered his phone. That's when I asked him to please come to his door and fill out the form. He didn't just come to the door - he came through it. I hotfooted it back to my truck while calling for help. I thanked the heavens that day for aerobics class, four-wheel drive, and working locks.
Nonetheless, at the end of the season I felt disappointed because it was all over for another 10 years. There weren't just those who refused to fill out their forms; there were also those who didn't understand how or why. I enjoyed a goodly amount of lemonade, fresh baked cookies, and town gossip as I tutored along.
At the end of training for the Census, I'd been sworn to keep everything I would learn to myself for 72 years. I understood why, but it really sunk in after I started documenting my family's history through releases of the U. S. Census, the most recent being the 1930 Census. With my mother's passing in 1999, I became the oldest female in her line. At the ripe old age of 37, it fell to me to ensure the safety and welfare of all pertinent information, but it wasn't until I was in my 40s that I became the least bit interested in documenting all the information I'd been given. Little did I know how much of it simply could not be documented. It wasn't an issue of existing documents. It was an issue of stories that weren't quite in keeping with what had actually happened.