Sunday, December 16, 2007

Where Were You At Census Time?

Tim Agazio started wondering whether his descendants would be able to find him in census records. And Chris had a Challenge in which a person had been unable to find certain relatives in the census records. So just where were you when the census was taken?

The first census in my life was 1960. We lived in what was then known as West Germany. We actually moved that year from Frankfurt a.M. to Karlsruhe. I have no idea how the U.S. census counted us or if it did. I assume, without knowing, that the military or the State Department somehow took care of this.

[By the way, military and government families overseas "permanent addresses" or "homes of record" in the United States for various legal and administrative purposes. For the first seventeen years of my life, I was legally domiciled at a specific address in Houston, Texas, although I had only been there twice for short visits].

In 1970, we lived in Monterey, California, and I was aware that it was a census year. Indeed, I wrote a (very bad) poem in my creative writing class dedicated to the Census Bureau and Maurice Stans who was then the Secretary of Commerce.* Despite this awareness and strange interest, I have no idea whether or how we were enumerated on the 1970 census. My parents don't recall, either.

By the time of the 1980 census, I was in law school in Sacramento, California. Law school is too intense to take note of somehting like the census, but I have a vague recollection of filling out a form that came in the mail.

In 1990, I was (again) in Sacramento. Future researchers should not be misled in to thinking that I spent the entire previous decade here since both the 1980 and 1990 censuses should show me in Sacramento, though at different addresses. In the interim, I had been to Arizona, Korea, the United Kingdom, Virginia, Colorado, and Germany. I don't recall any activity connected with the 1990 census.

For the year 2000, I recall very specifically completing a form that came in the mail. Later, a person from the Census Bureau came by the house to make sure that I really wanted to answer a certain question the way I had. (Yes, I meant it.) The answer was truthful, but unfortunately it likely may confound relatives and researchers in the future who might look into the matter. (In fact, despite the supposed privacy of census data for 72 years, my answer to that particular question makes my household stand out like a statistical sore thumb in the data that is presently available down to the street block level for the 2000 census. To get data about your block, go to See if you can identify any of your neighbors!).

If you really want to know what information the Census Bureau has about you, they'll send it to you for a fee of $65.00 per census year (!!). See the instructions at

*I (and you alike) will surely regret this, but as a good archivist (read "pack rat"), I still have that poem. It was purposely written in lower case.


ninety million cars today
". . . one hundred twenty RBIs"
two hundred million go their way
(that's four hundred million eyes!)

eleven-thirty, ten till nine
eight thousand two hundred two
three hundred feet down the line
"fifty million frenchmen do!"

register and regulate!
specify and classify!
count, tag, statisticate!
"shut up and count! don't ask why!"

eighty million johns that flush,
that is what we calculate!
twelve per cent of us can't blush!
next the ants to enumerate!

think of all the things we've numbered!
and until the last thing's found
we'll continue unencumbered,
we won't ever lose the count!

Copyright (c) 1970, Craig Manson (It's just out of a lawyer's habit that I include a copyright notice--it should be clear, to paraphrase Shakespeare in Othello, "he who steals my poetry steals trash.")


Nikki-ann said...

I am in 3 census records (1981, 1991 & 2001) and in each I am at a different address in the same village!

Lee said...

Now I'm really curious! Hmm...what could you have possibly said that would make you stand out like that?!? Gosh, I hope I'm still living when that census hits the internet! ;-)

Craig Manson said...

No comments on the poem? Awwww!