Genealogy and the 2020 Census

By Isaac H.

Yes, yes, you’ve probably heard the 2020 United States Census is upon us. “Sure, but why is this such a big deal? It’s just a headcount for the country!” – you might be saying.  The truth is, it’s a really big deal! The United States Census is one of the most important civic duties you can engage in. In addition to facilitating the proper release of funding for countless organizations, it also facilitates representation in our ever fragile democracy. Government agencies that determine funding by population sizes and composition rely heavily on the census results. For that reason, the census is an invaluable tool for public agencies. It’s equally invaluable for genealogists looking for information, or confirmation of historical relatives, places and events.

Census data is also extremely useful for determining when the federal government will release historic census data, an important thing for genealogy research. The 72 Year Rule states that federal government will not release personally identifiable information about any individual until 72 years after it was collected for the April decennial census. So, if a company or individual were looking for data from the April 1940 census, that information wasn’t available until April of 2012. If looking for information from the April 1950 census, that information won’t be available until 2022. The rule is a huge calendar mark for genealogists.

My own family history research has lead to amazing results, with some confirmations of vague historic references by older family members, to downright controversial history that had been obscured by time and word of mouth, to completely unknown facts (and even relatives) no one living was aware of. Family members ranging from from survivors of the horrors of slavery and the continued atrocities of Jim Crow to questionable maritime Caribbean merchants (Smugglers? Pirates? I really want it to be Pirates) to nationally recognized ceramicists to famous actors. People who lived or are living in every part of the United States, Central America, the West Indies and beyond. It was all somewhat mind-blowing after growing up being told my entire family, with scant few exceptions, had only ever lived in a tri-county area of the South since the end of the civil war. The only thing more shocking were the raised eyebrows I received when informing my family of my findings.

Here’s a list of historic and genealogical materials for researchers, to remind you to fill out your census forms. And don’t forget to be nice to your census worker if you’re visited by one. It’s an important and difficult job!

Researching Genealogy and the 2020 Census

Do you have any family history research experience? Let us know below!

Be sure to take a gander at our library genealogy resources here. When you’re done there, check out the Sno-Isle Census 2020 webpage for more information.

And of course, don’t forget to complete your census data!

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