Sunday, May 16, 2010

Census Taking, History Making

In this census year, I think we're all gaining a little insight into the ways our ancestors were enumerated in prior censuses. The Census Bureau had our 2-apartment building listed as containing 3 residences, so even though my roommates and I sent back our census form weeks ago, we just got a visit from a very nice, but slightly flustered census taker. (She started to fill in our information on the form for the house next door before I corrected her.)

The experience left me wondering what's going to happen when our descendants go looking for us in the 2010 census 72 years from now. I acted as the informant who said that the upstairs apartment was vacant, and they already had our response for our ground floor apartment, but I had to provide the information for my roommates and I all over again because something had to be filled out for the third (non-existent) residence. She included a note that the basement and the ground floor were one apartment, but now that they have our information twice over, what happens?

Are we counted twice? There must be provisions in place to avoid that, considering that getting an accurate count is the whole point of the census.

If they only "count" one return, is it the one we sent in for the ground floor apartment, or the one I just helped her fill out, for the non-existant third residence? I sure hope it's the former, because I am not the most reliable source of information for my two roommates. I couldn't remember the birthday of one of them at all. I was pretty sure it was August, but didn't supply even that information because I wasn't positive. I thought I was positive about the other's birthday, but nope, I was off by two days. Imagine the damage I may have done to some genealogist in the future!

And what if we do get counted twice, or at least if both returns are kept, as they probably will be? We're all familiar with the phenomenon of finding an ancestor twice in two different places in a given year's census, but what happens when you find an ancestor twice in the same place in one year's census? Does the universe implode?

Besides, since my name is listed as the informant for the upstairs apartment, my descendants could one day find me listed on the returns for all 3 of the 2 apartments in this building!

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