Genealogy Basics: The 1900 Census

It’s another Monday and time for another post.  Today, we’re continuing our recent discussion on census records, today we’re looking at the 1900 census.  The 1900 census was enumerated beginning 1 June 1900.  Let’s look at the actual census record to see what information can be extracted from this census.  Using my great-grandpa Edward’s census listing, let’s look at what can be discovered about his family:

Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing in the 1900 U.S. Census

Edward B. Conwell, Sr. is listed here with his wife, Zella.  Breaking the census listing down into three parts will help us view the information a little easier:

Section #1 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing in the 1900 U.S. Census

The first three columns contain information on the location:

  • Street and house number (in cities)
  • Dwelling number
  • Family number

The information isn’t shown on my screen shot but the census record shows that Edward and Zella are living on Cherry Street.  So this is another address that I can go look up to see if the house is still standing.  Add that to my list of genealogy things to do.

Column #4 is the name of each person whose place of abode on June 1, 1900, was in this family (surname first, then first name and middle initial if there is one):

  • Conwell, Edward B. – head
  • Conwell, Zella – wife

Columns #5-#14 are personal description data:

  • Relation to head of family
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Month of birth
  • Year of birth
  • Age at last birthday
  • Whether single, married, widowed or divorced
  • Number of years married
  • Mother of how many children
  • Number of these children living

This is pretty self-explanatory information, though it does bear mentioning that at this time Edward and Zella had no children together and they listed their number of years married as zero.  Right there, that is a great indication to look for a marriage record within the last year.

Great information to get off this census is the age at last birthday, their marital status and number of years of present marriage, the number of children born and number now living and probably the best information: month and year of birth.

Moving on to part #2 of the census record:

Section #2 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing in the 1900 U.S. Census

Columns #15-#17 are nativity information:

  • Place of birth
  • Place of birth of father
  • Place of birth of mother

This is also really great information because, if I didn’t already have places of birth for each person and their parents, this census provides it.  Keep in mind this information is only as good as (1) the person giving the information and (2) the person writing the information down.  But it gives you a clue where to look.

This census enumerator has taken the time to list each person’s birth location and the birth locations of their parents (as provided by the person providing the census information).  As you can see, everyone was U.S. born and most were born in the Midwest in either Kansas, Illinois, Indiana or Ohio.

Columns #18-#20 are citizenship information:

  • Year of immigration to the U.S.
  • Number of years in the U.S.
  • Naturalization

Again, by this time all my family was U.S. born so none of these columns apply.

Moving on to part #3 of the census record:

Section #3 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing in the 1900 U.S. Census

Columns #21-#22 are occupation information:

  • Occupation, trade or profession of each person ten years of age and over
  • Number of months not employed

From this we can see that Edward Sr. was working as a collector of bills.  He worked the entire year so number of months not employed wasn’t applicable.

Columns #23-#26 are education information:

  • Attended school (months)
  • Can read
  • Can write
  • Can speak English

Neither Edward Sr. nor Zella attended school but they both were able to read, write and speak English so they must have attended school at some time.

Columns #27-#30 are home information:

  • Home owned or rented
  • Home owned free or mortgaged
  • Farm or house
  • Number of farm schedule

In 1900 Edward Sr. and Zella were renting and they were renting a home.  That’s not surprising considering they were newly married.

The 1900 census can contain some great information for genealogists.  There are several ways to access the census records, from using (if you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry, check out your local library or Family History Center for free usage opportunities) for indexed images to using some of the non-indexed sites and paging thru the census record pages one by one.  I prefer the indexed version, however, going through page by page can wield treasures of its own.  Additional family members have been discovered in this manner and it can also give you a picture of who was living around your ancestor.

Next week: the 1880 census!  But wait, we missed one didn’t we?  Nope, unfortunately due to a fire in the Commerce Department building, most of the 1890 census was destroyed.  Some parts of the census did survive and information on what survived can be found here.

About Danni 116 Articles
Join me on my genealogical journey where I hope my experiences, discoveries, mistakes, and successes will help you on your journey. We'll throw in some bits of history for a little flavor and that is what makes up Talking Box Genealogy.