Note: Thanks for visiting CensusStories.US! This site is MOSTLY RETIRED. For new stuff, come visit me at SHROUDED IN CLOAKS OF BORINGNESS, a blog.

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In the meantime, I’m leaving Census Stories, USA here those teachers who still use these stories in their classrooms.

Now Back to the Original Site:

These posts do not attempt to be comprehensive. They are all beginnings, each an effort to win some new insights into the workings, significances, and meanings of the census.

They attempt to show that there are stories in the data, waiting to be read. Millions of Americans devote much energy to better understanding their families, to find out who they are. They begin with them snippets of family lore, with whatever they remember. They begin with stories. Then they go searching for facts: when were their grandparents born, and where? What did they do? Among those facts, though, are even more stories. These essays tell some of those stories, and demonstrate a method so that others too can see the drama in the data.

Let’s read some big data, closely.

Sources and Citations

This site depends on the archival materials preserved in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Most records belong to Record Group 29, Bureau of the Census records. I’ve posted about how you too could trek to D.C. and see these or similar files, in my piece about Agnes Parrott and her adventures. For the sake of keeping a clean look, I have not included footnotes or full references to archival material. But if you’re curious where a quote came from, the info is there: just view the source code for the blog post and you’ll find the citation written as a comment in the code immediately after the relevant paragraph.

I also draw on the manuscript census documents, the sheets that enumerators filled in with individual data. Past census documents become public after 72 years. So right now the most recent manuscript census belongs to the census of 1940. 1950 records will roll out in 2022. Available records have been digitized and can be searched using a subscription service like When I use these sources, I include the enumeration district (ED), supervisor’s district(SD), and sheet number in a comment that you can view in the page source.

If I can, I link to copies on the Web of sources I’ve referenced. Otherwise: look for citations (and extended quotes or discussions of sources) in the source code.


I will capitalize Census Bureau (except when I forget to). I will not capitalize when talking about the census, or a specific census—like the 16th census, about which I am writing a book.

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