Saturday, February 27, 2010

Will the 2010 census be genealogically relevant?

In 2082, when the 2010 U.S. census data is released to the general public, will it be greeted with excitement or will it be a 'ho-hum'?  Provided there still is a United States at that time, what will the researchers of tomorrow be hoping to find in the 2010 census that they cannot find elsewhere?

Will the 2010 U.S. census be genealogically relevant?

Although the census is a genealogist's treasure trove of information, with each one revealing clues about a ancestor's family, their neighbors and their community, will the information from this year's census get lost in the 'noise' of the multitude of other records available?

While the 1850 census was a landmark because it was the first to record the names of everyone in the household, and each successive census asked different questions that told the story of the household, will this year's census shed much light on our daily lives for our descendants?  I'm eager for the 1940 census to be released because of what it can tell me about my family just before the U.S. entered WWII, will my great-grandchildren be as interested to find out where I was in 2010?

The questions that will be asked on this year's form can be found here. While the answers will be information for future genealogists, will this be anything that cannot be found elsewhere?  In today's society, we have created so many paper and digital records that I believe it would be unlikely a researcher in 2082 will find a clue in the 2010 census that couldn't be found elsewhere.

I believe that genealogically, the census may have lost its importance to future researchers.  

That is not to say that it shouldn't be filled out, as it helps determine political representation.  There have always been those who have managed to avoid the census, and even today, there are those who are advocating that others do not fill it out.  Those concerned about privacy must be oblivious to the fact that we have at this time the most documented, regulated society we've ever had, and it would be a rare individual who cannot be found through online sources or public records.

As a genealogist, it almost sounds sacrilegious to even ask the question about the relevance of the census to the genealogy community.   What do you think?  Am I way off-base here?
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