From the standpoint of a genealogist and a historian, I want a census. I want an accurate census and I want certain questions asked. As a Republican, I do not find a census intrusive, unconstitutional, or the sign of things to come.
Census records are important when one is proving a lineage for a historical or genealogical society. They are important when one is doing historical research. They are a moment in time, that tells us where a person was on a specific day. The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) requires a census every 10 years, of everyone residing in the United States. For those conspiracy minded individuals and libertarians who think they need not give more than the basic name, rank, and serial number, they are showing their abject historical ignorance.
The first US Census in 1790 required the name of the head of the household. Also counted were the number of free white males 16 and up, number of free white males under 16, number of free white females, number of all free persons, except for Indians not taxed. Also counted were the number of slaves.
In 1800 the same questions were asked, only the age groups were further subdivided. Free white males, free white females and slaves were counted. Indians were not. Only the name of the head of the household was taken.
In 1810 the same questions were asked. Only the name of the head of the household was taken. No other names were important. No Indians were counted.
In 1820 the count was further expanded. Also asked was the name of the head of the family, persons who are foreigners who were not naturalized, persons engaged in agriculture, persons engaged in commerce, persons engaged in manufacturing. There was a breakdown of ages male and female slaves. There was also for the first time a category for free male and female “colored” persons with a breakdown of ages. Indians still were not counted.
In 1830 they kept it simple. They wanted the name of the head of the family, address, number of free white males and females, number of slaves and free colored persons, and the number of deaf and dumb with a break-down of ages. Also counted were the blind and those not naturalized.
In 1840 the same questions were asked, along with the number of insane and idiotic in public and private charge. They needed the number of persons in each family employed, number of schools an scholars, number of white persons over 20 who could not read and write. Also counted were the number of pensioners for Revolutionary or military service.
Things changed in 1850. Everyone was counted by name, address, age, sex, color (white, black or mulatto) if they were deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic, the value of the real estate they owned, their occupation, place of birth, if they were married that year, attending school that year, unable to read or write if they were over 20, and if they were either a pauper or convict.
The same questions were asked in 1860 and 1870. In 1870 Chinese and Indian were finally allowed to be counted. Also counted was citizenship for males over 21.
In 1880 everything changed. The census was divided into five parts: Population, Mortality, Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Social Statistics. The process took 7 years to complete.
The 1890 census changed many things. It was also destroyed by fire in 1921. The following questions were asked including name, address, gender, age, marital status, married within the year, number of families in house, number of persons in house, whether a soldier, sailor or marine (Union or Confederate) during Civil War, or widow of such person, relationship to head of family, race, described as white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian, mother of how many children, and number now living, place of birth of person, and their father and mother, if foreign born, number of years in US, whether naturalized, whether papers have been taken out.
Also asked were profession, months unemployed during census year, ability to read and write, ability to speak English, and, if unable, language or dialect spoken, whether suffering from acute or chronic disease, with name of disease and length of time afflicted.
Was the person defective in mind, sight, hearing or speech, or whether crippled, maimed or deformed, with name of defect, whether a prisoner, convict, homeless child, or pauper, home rented, or owned by head or member of family, and, if owned, whether free from mortgage, if farmer, whether farm is rented, or owned by head or member of family; if owned, whether free from mortgage; if rented, post office box of owner.
In 1900 the process was simplified to name, address, relationship to head of family, sex, race, age, marital status, number of years married, number of children born to women, immigration, months not employed, education, ability to speak English, if on a farm, and did they rent or own their home.
Basically the same questions were asked in 1910 and 1920, along if naturalized, mother tongue of person and parents, year of immigration, blind, deaf or dumb, and if they were a survivor of the Union or Confederate Armies.
In 1930 the same questions were asked along with asking if they owned a radio, lived on a farm, veteran status, and if they were an Indian, what tribal affiliation.
The question about the radio was dropped in 1940, but people were asked the value of their property. In 1950 the only questions were name, address, if on a farm, relationship to head of household, race, sex, age, marital status, birthplace, if foreign born weather naturalized, employment status, number of hours worked a week, and occupation.
A long form of 100 questions went to 25% of households in 1960. Those who did not receive the long form were asked address, name, relationship to head of household, sex, race, age, and marital status. In 1970 the same questions were asked with 20% of households receiving the long form. In 1980 only 16% of households received the long form. The same thing was true in 1990 and 2000.
Conservatives who are waiting to shoot down those black helicopters or just waiting for Obama’s Army to invade their household are making fools of themselves. Until recently the census was taken by hand, with every household being visited.
Democrats aren’t faultless in this process. Whoever is in charge for the Obama Administration has made the whole process some hyped-up, hip-hop exercise. They have made fools of themselves with jingles, commercials, and advertising the remuneration as a way a “community” can get free stuff from the government.
Conservatives who claim the whole process is “intrusive” are basically behaving like uneducated fools who do not know history. Liberals who claim the process is a way to “enrich the community” are just as bad. It has reached the point where I don’t know who is worse, the monkey-wrenching conservatives and libertarians or the as asinine promotion of the Obama Administration. Both are equally disgusting.
Like Chico Marx said in Duck Soup, “You can’t fool me, there ain’t no Sanity Claus!”