Census 2020: Think about future genealogists and fill it out

AJC file photo
AJC file photo

It’s time for the 2020 census. And, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a much shorter form than in the past.

There are only a few questions to answer. It’s a far cry from the detailed information gathered in the past, always a great help to genealogists.

The census was authorized by the Constitution, to be taken every 10 years, to provide population figures in order to apportion the House of Representatives. Each decade, more personal information was collected.

From 1790 through 1840, census takers asked only the name of the head of the household and gathered statistics on everyone else. Then in 1850, they started asking for the names, ages, places of birth and occupations for all free people in the household. In 1880, they added the place of birth of each person’s parents, as well as the relationship between those in the household. In 1900, they asked each couple how long they had been married and a woman how many children she had given birth to and how many were still alive.

Slaves were never enumerated by name. Farming information was gathered in the 1850 through 1880 Agricultural Schedules.

Previous censuses are digitized, up through 1940, and available on Ancestry.com and other sites. They are one of our greatest resources — hence the need to fill out this year’s census for future generations.

DNA: Good time to contact your DNA matches

During these days of staying at home because of the coronavirus outbreak, it would be good time to contact some of your DNA matches, or if you have been contacted, write back.

Everyone who does a DNA test has his or her reasons, and the person may not be as deep into genealogy as you might be. Don’t badger folks. Just say something like, “I see we match at (DNA testing company) at (whatever level), and I wonder if we could figure out how we might be related.”

You also could ask people where their grandparents lived, or, depending on the program, suggest which branch of your family they match with using your “In Common With” or “Shared Matches” features.

Genealogy bargains

Check genealogybargains.com for what is being offered for free at various sites. You never know what might turn up. Family Tree Magazine was one recent freebie.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P . O. Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or gagensociety.org.