13 October 2014

US Census also tells the stories of towns and communities

We often use census data as a tool to research our family members, and focus almost exclusively on learning more about them. An article by Justin Pot (Make Use of), Your Town Has A Story, Here’s How Census Data Can Help You See It.

A coal miner earning $540 a year lived near downtown Boulder, Colorado in 1940. One of his neighbours, a cook at a frat house, earned a little more: $770. If you live in Boulder, as I do, you’d know that even adjusted for inflation that kind of pay wouldn’t cover rent here in 2014. Clearly this town has changed a lot – something any longtime local will tell you.

I learned this, and a lot of other fascinating things, by exploring census data for my town. Here’s how you can do your own research – it’s easy, I promise.

His article reminds us that census data can tell us much more and provide great context to our understanding of a community at the time an ancestor lived there

What he calls the Census Tool is one of the wonderful resources created by Stephen P Morse, creator of numerous One-Step Webpages, and in this case Joel D Weintraub --- The Unified (Year) Census ED Finder.

Do also check out the United States Census Bureau, Data Tools and Apps page for quite a collection of interesting and useful resources.

Even if the tools mentioned are not new to you, sometimes we need reminding of the rich data the census provides us with.  Whether you are getting a sense of a neighborhood, its composition, cost of living, etc, for your personal history research project or doing a house history, census date is an invaluable “snapshot” of the U.S. as a country, a collection of states, our many counties, individual towns, right on down to the personal level of each individual enumerated.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Dick Eastman (EOGN) and one of his readers for bringing this to our attention.

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