Census Misconceptions

  • This is a fake census entry for illustrative purposes. Do not email me about the Guffermans. 😉

    Pre-1850 US census records tell you nothing. They can provide some information about general members of the household, but the analysis is not as easy as with census records 1850 and after.

  • Tax records can be a good census substituteTax records can be used as part of an extensive research plan and they are helpful when census records are not extant, but keep in mind that tax records serve a different purpose than do census records. Census records were theoretically meant to count everyon
  • e. Tax records usually locate people who have property to tax…usually.
  • Census records are always inaccurateCensus records can be correct or they can be incorrect–just like any record. Some families were better about giving more accurate information (or tell the truth) than others, some were easier to understand than others, some enumerators did a better job than others, etc. Don’t assume the census is always wrong. It’s not.

Census records contain details that were considered useful at the time. They served a certain purpose and they were created by humans–just like any other record. And they should be analyzed in the same way–just like any other record.

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