Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings just wrote about the questions on the 2010 Census. He points out:
Unfortunately for late 21st and 22nd century genealogists, there are no questions about relationships of people living in the household, marital status, birth place, or citizenship status. Too bad. You would think that the government would like to know about these issues.
This made me think of a few other questions I have found helpful on past census forms. Here are my thoughts on these missing questions and some others which are not included on this year’s form, and would have provided valuable clues for genealogists in the future:
- Relationships between household members – I’ve seen many ancestors that were living with their cousins. This omission will be especially frustrating when the cousins share a surname.
- Marital Status – with so many people cohabitating, it will be difficult to find marriage records. People might spend unnecessary time searching for records that do not exist (if the couple never ties the knot).
- Age at first marriage – this was helpful in tracking down multiple marriages.
- Birthplace of Mother and Father – I’ve used this one a lot, especially for my constantly resettling ancestors. Sometimes these ancestors have common names, so providing mother’s and father’s birthplace has allowed me to differentiate between 2 Bob Smiths in the same town, especially since answers to the age question are so often unreliable.
- Person 1’s birth place – Are you serious? It will be much harder to track down birth certificates without listing the place of birth.
- Citizenship Status/year of immigration – Finding immigration and naturalization records will be made more difficult by this omission.
- Value of property/rent paid – this question gave valuable insights into the relative wealth of our ancestors. Though it likely won’t be too sorely missed, it was a nice little bit of info.
- Occupation – again, though it wasn’t a crucial data point, it did help identify possible sources for other records relating to employment.
- Number of Children/Number still living – this was a great way to track down children who died in their youth.
- Military Service – it would have been nice to have this information on the census to help with finding military documentation.
If I was running the census, question 11 would be to provide a 5-generation pedigree chart for each person and question 12 would be to list the locations and dates for which all vital records can be found.
That’s it! I’m calling the census bureau to get this thing changed. Who’s with me?