Census Data in Biography

+16 votes

I have looked at the Style Guide, trying to find a guide for census entries, but I couldn't find anything, so I made my own.  I find census information extremely helpful in trying to find out more about a family or trace it back farther.  From some censuses you can learn: how old someone was, relationship to head of family, place of birth, place of parents' birth, occupation, how long married, number of children and number of children living, value of real estate and personal property, etc.  This information is much more valuable than a bare cite to the census page.

Since complete census info doesn't really fit into the narrative of a Biography well, I have been putting it in a separate section below the rest of the Bio but above the Sources section, with an in-line cite.  My Census Section usually looks like this, with the Census entries going from earliest to latest:

=== Census ===
1900 US Federal Census  Logan, Calhoun, Iowa
: In 1900, James Hildreth, a 31 year old farmer b. Illinois September 1868, lived with his wife Carrie M., 30 b. Iowa October 1869, and four children b. Iowa: Gertie, 7 b. March 1893; Forest W., 5 b. November 1894; son Cristy H., 3 b. February 1897; and son Carrol W., 1 b. August 1898.   James and Carrie have been married for eight years, and Carrie has had four children, all of whom are living.  James' father was born in Indiana and his mother in Illinois, while Carrie's father was born in Germany and her mother in Ohio.<ref>Appropriate Reference Here</ref>

Did I miss something in the Style Guide?  If not, should there be something about census data?  is the way I am doing it OK?

asked in Policy and Style by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (318k points)
reshown by Vic Watt
You didn't mention including a link to the scanned image of the census sheet, or the US Gov. metadata (enumeration district, page #, etc.) so that others can find it. Census sheets contain a wealth of information as well as errors (spelling mistakes). These errors make finding the correct census page difficult. Therefore, I try to add a link to the original census sheet, so others can see the errors and maybe interpret it a different way. All census sheets are available for free, if you know where to look.

Since census sheets are geographically organized, it is easy to see what other families lived nearby. Often these are people and families that belong somewhere in my family tree. This is another reason to link back to the original scanned census sheet.

I agree, census information doesn't really fit into the narrative of the Biography. Using a "=== ? ===" section may be a better idea.
The referencesI use always includes a link to an image, if I can find one free.  If not, I will include a link to a pay site.

5 Answers

+13 votes

Vic, great question. Thanks for asking.

The style guide suggests a chronological narrative.

I tend to incorporate the census data into the chronological narrative of the bio instead of breaking it out into a separate section. E.g.:

In 1900, Ludwig (now Louis) and Paulina (Lena) were living at 100 Mulberyy St in the old East Side neighborhood of Buffalo. He was brewing beer; she was a seamstress.  Living with them were their children...

i also prefer to bullet the children making it easier to read. And then I cite the specific census record. 


answered by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (657k points)
heh heh

Vic, your question had me go looking at the actual profiles I'm speaking of. I spend way too much time in the 1600s in New England, and not enough on my most immediate ancestors. You inspired me to go clean up Ludwig:


I have used the complete narrative style for the censuses on this profile: http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Rodway-96  It takes a lot longer to do it this way, as you really have to work to get all the information in.

Looks great, Vic.
+8 votes
I think both ways are ok. And there are probably other ways to use census data within a bio that are ok also. I don't think it needs a style guideline.

Incorporating it into the timeline of the profile when it fits nicely into the narrative is great with or without bullets for the children. This helps to create part of the story.

Frequently I consider Census Data as supporting evidence for the life of the profilee and after I've told his/her "story", I will set the Census data in it's own section as Vic has done as === Supporting Census Data ===
answered by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1m points)
+2 votes
My thought on this is unless you are putting the information into the narrative OR the other people listed in the census record do not have a profile then it is just duplicating information already found on the profile in another location  and is not needed. I will sometimes put that data in the notes section if I am not adding the people that do not have profiles yet but otherwise do not bother with it because that information can be found easily later if I want to check it.
answered by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
+2 votes
I find both the topic and dialog here engaging. While I prefer the chronological narrative approach, using census data within a biography, it seams WT works well either way with the community adapting to differing writing styles and logic.
answered by Rod DuBois G2G6 Pilot (171k points)
+2 votes
As census data is so important, I tend to include it in the bio, in its raw form. I am not one for writing narrative, and I try as much as possible to stick to the facts, letting the reader interpret the results.

My usual way is as follows... Start with birth/christening data, then follow up with census data, showing living with parents or employment, until I can include marriage data. Then census data, showing spouse/children/servants, and any others living there. Then finally death/burial data, hopefully with any obituary.
answered by Dave Welburn G2G6 Mach 7 (78.4k points)

Related questions

+9 votes
4 answers
209 views asked Mar 31, 2018 in Policy and Style by G. Moore G2G6 Mach 3 (33.6k points)
+2 votes
0 answers
+8 votes
10 answers
+5 votes
3 answers
177 views asked Jul 7, 2017 in Policy and Style by Ron Moore G2G6 Mach 1 (13.3k points)
+2 votes
2 answers
95 views asked Jan 17, 2018 in WikiTree Help by Albert Lee Mason G2G Rookie (190 points)
+8 votes
1 answer
113 views asked Aug 15, 2017 in The Tree House by Chris Hampson G2G6 Mach 8 (89.6k points)
+4 votes
1 answer

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright