Curious as to what your ancestors were doing at the start of the 20th century? Well, the 1900 census records are a great way for you to learn all about them. But what can you find out about your family tree with these records? Well read on and I will explain.
Discussed in this post:
What’s In These Records?
The 1900 census records will give you a snapshot into your ancestors lives when it was taken on June 1st of that year. By the time of this twelve census record there were forty five states in America.
What key elements can you learn from the 1900 census records?
The first key element will no doubt help you to trace your ancestor. However, if you are experiencing difficulty finding an elusive ancestor then I have a couple of suggestions for you.
Firstly, try to use different spellings of your ancestor’s name. You may find that your ancestor’s name was recorded incorrectly and that may be the reason why you can’t find them within these records.
Secondly, if the previous tip is no help then you could try to search for your ancestor by entering their initials. It is not uncommon to find people listed with their initials.
A big clue when searching for your ancestors is knowing where they lived. If you already know this then you can be certain that you have found the right person when searching for them.
There are other clues that will help you identify the right person if you do not know this information. So if that is the case then it can be quite interesting to find where they once called home.
Relationship to head of household
Other individuals will be listed underneath the head of the household. You may deduce by just looking at the name and the age of the person how they relate. But using this key element can be of great use.
For example, if you find a male and female listed with the same surname and similar age you may deduce that they are husband and wife.
But what if they were actually brother and sister. You have therefore come to the wrong conclusion.
Color and race
The answer to this key element of the census record can also help you to identify whether you are looking at your ancestor’s details or not. But if you didn’t know either the color or race of a particular ancestor of yours then this element can point you in the right direction to find more information about them.
Answers that you can expect from this question include:
Obviously you will know the sex of your ancestor. But this element of the records can help you. If the name of your ancestor is illegible, (due to the fancy writing of the enumerator), then you can ascertain whether you are looking at a male or female from this question’s answer.
Birth and age
If you know when your ancestor was born then you can use this information to verify whether you have the correct individual. Individuals were requested to enter the month and year of their birth, as well as their current age.
Marital status and number of years married
Possible answers that your ancestor could have entered:
- Widowed, or
If your ancestor for example entered ‘widowed‘ then you can backtrack to see when their partner died. If their partner was still alive at the time of the 1890 census record then you will know that their death occurred some time between 1890 and 1900.
The number of years married element can help you to narrow down the search for their marriage record.
There are two questions within this element:
- Total children born to mother
- Number of children living
I have learned quite a lot about my family tree from these two questions. For example, from this question I was able to see that I was not aware of one child that my 3rd great grandparents had. Later I discovered who he was and sad to say that he died in his infancy.
Again this element is broken down further:
- Birthplace of individual
- Birthplace of parents
As I have pointed out with other elements of the 1900 census records the answers here can give you clues as to where you can search next for more information on your ancestors.
The government were interested to know the following:
- Foreign born
- Year of immigration
- Number of years in U.S.
The answers to these question can help you to track down your ancestor’s immigration records. It can also help you to find them within passenger records.
If you already know what your ancestor’s occupation was then you can use this information to ascertain that you are looking at the correct individual. But if you do not know then the answer to this question can be quite interesting.
The individual was also required to note how many months they were unemployed within the last year.
You can also learn a lot about your ancestor from this element of the records. The first part of this element required the person to enter how long ago they attended school, in months if it was within the last year.
Individuals also had to indicate whether they could read or write, as well as whether they could speak English.
Obviously if they couldn’t speak English then they would have had an interpreter to help them fill out the form. But it must be pointed out that errors can creep in when it came to translating an individual’s answers.
So please be cautious of any information entered!
Ownership of home
The last element of the census record was divided into three questions which asked the individual about the ownership of their home.
The census wanted to know if the individual:
- Owned or rented their home,
- The home was a farm, and whether
- The home was mortgaged.
Where Can I Find These Records?
Right now you’re probably itching to find your ancestors within the 1900 census records, and rightly so. For this I have two options available to you. One is a free option and I also have two paid options that you can try as well.
Your FREE option!
I am a great believer in trying to find my ancestors by as little money as possible, free if I can. One great website that I suggest for you to try is FamilySearch. They have millions of names and records within their database.
I have used this site quite considerably and by doing so it has saved me quite a lot of money. If I hadn’t check out this site first I would probably have spent money to get the same information that I could have got for free.
Where is the sense in that?
But there are drawbacks to this site I am afraid to say. The main problem is that you may not be successful in finding your ancestor through this free source. You will therefore need to go to the paid genealogy search sites to discover your family history.
Your PAID options!
As with any hobby there will be a time when you have to spend money. What hobby is there that you don’t spend any money?
I predominantly use Ancestry I must admit. They have billions of records. Not only do they have censuses within their databases but much more besides.
They have records such as births, deaths and marriages, wills, probates, military records, immigration records and so much more.
Despite the enormous of information that Ancestry does have within their database I have run into trouble when it comes to finding my ancestors. For that reason I have turned my attention to FindMyPast, my second go to website for tracing my family history.
This alternative has been a great help to me when I though that I had hit a brick wall in my research.
So if you are unsuccessful with one site then I suggest that you check out the alternative.
My Final Thoughts
As I have discussed in this post there is plenty of information that you can gather about your ancestor from the 1900 census records. The problem which I faced was not being unable to find my ancestors but becoming obsessed with finding every relation that I could possibly find.
For that reason I suggest that you pace yourself. Just concentrate on one ancestor at a time. When you have found out as much information as you can about one ancestor then it is time to move onto the next.
Why not write your very own family history book?
One way I have been able to tell my ancestry is to write a family history book. By putting my ancestors lives into chronological order I have discovered what gaps I have had in my knowledge of them.
That has then helped me to turn my attention to other areas of research where I can find out more about my ancestors.
Census records are essentially the first stage of discovering who your ancestors were. It is just a starting point for you. Just take what you have learned about your ancestors and see where it will take you. Trust me you will be surprised.
After reading this helpful guide you may want to check out further information regarding US Census Records. Why not head on over to the United States Census Bureau for help with your genealogy research.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
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