I admit to being very disappointed when I read my Census form earlier this week. It certainly accomplishes its goal of counting the people, but will offer little else to future researchers.
I use the census data from 1790-1930 on a daily basis. Often I will have an account book with little identifying information. On the inside there may be a notation such as, “John Smith, His Book.” Where did John Smith live? Many times I can determine the town, or at least the county, by searching the census for the names of others listed in the book. The more information I am able to add to my catalog records, the better I am serving my library’s patrons.
Recently I was working on the account books of Franklin A. Camp and his son, Franklin I. Camp. Among the clues about the family was a stamp on the inside of one of the volumes:
It would have been easy to assume the Camps lived in Waterbury. However, there are many mentions of Meriden throughout the volumes. By searching the census I was able to confirm family’s residence was Meriden, not Waterbury. Franklin A. Camp had many notations about the International Silver Company. The 1900 census confirms that he was a bookkeeper for the company. The 1930 census shows us that Franklin I. Camp was indeed in sales, though no longer in stationary and office supplies (click to enlarge images).
This is just one (and not even necessarily the best) of many examples I could share illustrating how the census regularly assists me as I catalog materials. I’m sure the Census Bureau has their reasons for shortening the form, but I hope they will consider expanding it again for 2020.