Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The 2010 Census: Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!

As genealogical sources go, the 2010 census will not go down in history as one of the most stellar. It calls for very sketchy information: name, sex, relationship to head of household, age, birth date, whether of a Hispanic ethnicity, race, and whether the person stays elsewhere from time to time. On that last question, I told our younger daughter, who lives with us, that I had to answer that question "No" for her because Walt Disney World is not listed!

The 2010 census falls far short of such as 1880, 1900, and 1930, for example. These censuses gathered such genealogically valuable information as the individual's birthplace and the individual's parents' birthplaces, occupation, whether the individual rented or owned his or her home, and marital status.

2010 does not even ask occupation or marital status! Unbelievable.

On the other hand, we of the late 20th and early 21st centuries live the most well-documented lives in the history of genealogical records. The crux of the matter here is preserving our home collections of such records. Whether these records will, in their official locations, be accessible to the genealogical investigator in the future, and to what extent, could be a problem. I have already had a terrible experience trying to access church records, at the church I attended in my childhood and my teenage years, where I was pretty much treated like a potential identity thief. That was a heartbreaking experience for me.

Apparently, censuses of the future will not play as important a role in genealogy as those of the past have. That's too bad. While it is true that the purpose of the census is not genealogy, there are also other disciplines -- demography, economic history, sociology -- which will suffer from the paucity of information in the 2010 census.

Anyone who wants their story told, wants their past preserved, and hopes their descendants will be interested in keeping the family history had better hang onto employment records, church records, and all pertinent documents in their hands.

1 comment:

Alice Dilts said...

I agree! I wish I could have at least added my maiden name.