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Census General

Short Stubs:

In actual census forms, longer (but often still cryptic) descriptions of the columns are usually printed vertically over some columns. This is impractical for transcribers, so they use very abbreviated column headers. These abbreviation may vary slightly from one transcription project to another. Generally Arabic numerals are included in the column heads which are keyed to the questions. Transcribers also sometimes include columns which do not occur on the actual forms, such as remarks, or tract numbers carried down from the heading of the form.

Problems in census responses:


Where age is asked, what is generally meant is "Age at last birthday before the official date." Almost always the date this question is asked is not the official census date but is before or (more usually) after the official date. This invites an error of one year, and over-correction may result in an error of two years.

In large families it may be difficult for any respondent to answer correctly for everyone even if he or she completes understands the question, but the censuses which ask month and year of birth are much more likely to be reliable.

Dwelling and Family number

In the short stubs transcribers use, including transcriptions here, these are usually abbreviated DW# and FM#. These numbers refer to the order in which the enumerator visited buildings and families living into them. Generally, there is no scheme which allows comparing these numbers between years. Respondents do not provide these numbers; the enumerator does. The items Street and house number (HS#) are ordinary street addresses used in urban areas. Respondents would know this information, but it is usually just filled in by the enumerator. They may be comparable over census years although streets may be renamed and renumbered occasionally.

Questions for the censuses and various supplemental information such as sample forms and enumerator instructions can be found at IPUMS USA: Enumeration Forms.

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