Monday, January 13, 2020

What Future Genealogists Will Learn from the 2020 US Census

Page 1 of the 2020 Census questionnaire
Attending a presentation by local representatives of the 2020 US Census, I learned that in the year 2092, when the records are publicly released, future genealogists will be able to see some very valuable pieces of information. (You can browse the entire 2020 questionnaire here.)

Page 2 of 2020 Census

One key piece of info is the month, day, and year of birth for each person in the household, to be entered on page 2 of the Census questionnaire.

Future genealogists will be able to look for a birth cert, compare with age shown on other documents, match someone to a marriage license or other vital record, and so on--with more confidence because they will have the complete birth date, not just "age" or birth month and year.

I was surprised but interested to learn that another question (on page 1) is about whether a person in the household (1) owns the residence clear and free of a mortgage, (2) has a mortgage, or (3) is not paying rent. Clues to seeking deeds, taxes, and other records!

2020 Census questions about usual residence
and relationship to head of household
Happily for future genealogists, the 2020 Census asks specific questions about whether each person usually lives in this residence AND about exactly how each person in the household is related to the head of household (Person 1).

Look at the many answer alternatives shown in the excerpt above! 

These two questions will elicit incredibly valuable information for future genealogists. Question #2 will point toward where the person's usual residence is (such as with another relative or in the military). Question #3 will tell, with great precision, how each person is related to the head of the household--clues to filling in gaps in the family tree!

Future genealogists, there may not be many questions on the 2020 Census form, but there will be several top-quality clues to be followed up. Yes, I'm going to answer the Census as fully and completely as possible. You'll be able to find me and my family in 72 years, I promise.


  1. So there is nothing for birth place other than the Questions 8 or 9. Nothing about education, employment, citizenship status, income, etc. Dumbed down census which will be pretty useless for my great-grandkids in 2092.

  2. Randy, you are correct--nothing will be asked about those other key demographic characteristics. It is indeed dumbed-down but at least your g-grandkids will know whether you still owe on your mortgage!

  3. It's too bad that, as Randy pointed out, this census is dumbed down. With so many more people to enumerate, birthplace is a big clue if trying to sort out people of the same name. It's disappointing that in the 21st century, the questions provide way less information than the 1900 or 1910 census.

  4. Linda, it is disappointing that the questions are not very detailed. Another problem: I'm not sure the handwritten answers will be available to the public. The Census folks are strongly encouraging response online or by phone, not by paper. My guess (and I hope I'm wrong) is that the paper will be destroyed after being scanned or inputted. Have to wait and see!

  5. You are correct, it looks like paper forms (and digital images thereof) will be destroyed - see recently approved record disposition schedule

    I believe the annual census records are not as detailed as more detailed questions are asked in the American Community Survey -

  6. Alex, thank you very much for the comment and all the extra info you added. I'm disappointed that scanned Census paper records will be destroyed. And you're correct about the ACS being more detailed, but I believe those aren't personally identifiable the way the 1950 Census (and other pop schedules) are.