Like The Weather, Wait Five Minutes And It Will Change ~ So Much For Census Scandals

I am feeling hurt over having politics try to creep into genealogy. Now we all know that the politics of a person helps to locate them in records. Religion and race and nationality and so forths have all been used in every corner of the earth to sort people. And as genealogists, that sorting helps us to locate folks.

I have not heard anyone talking about what will be on the American Community Survey this year, or what has been recently, or what is planned. In some circle,s that survey is called the “census long form.”

The census records of the future might provide none of the genealogy gold that we can find about our ancestors in the older census records– information that our descendants will want in the future.

My ancestry is in the USA for only a few generations on one side of my family, and most of the others cannot have been here all that long either.  But I do have a bit of Native American on one side, and a trace of what the Canadians call First Nations on the other. I am thrilled over my many ancestries. I want to enjoy a German beer with my English beans, and eat Welsh Pasties with my First Nations fried bannock and French fricassee. Then I will have a short Scotch Whisky chased with all the beer I can drink (I love the German parts!).

I am a mutt of sorts, a real colonial migrant mix of all earthly delights. I have no culture that I might claim that is specific to any place – I have made my own, and others have joined my little club. My mother was Catholic and my father was Protestant and in my little world that difference was everything. I love and loved it all and know all folks can easily get along. It is just the evil jerks whoneed transporting to Mars.

I want us all to say where our folks are from, and be thrilled to tell the world about the many ancestral homes. If you are inhibited, you could message me, and maybe I can add someone anonymously. (Maybe this is not a great idea – but if you want to brag on your folks and their origins, we can add some one-liners saying where folks were from and how the census records helped you find your people.)

I cited the 1881 census of Canada for my Dai’s family in a recent blog. Born in Ontario and said so, but also was of Irish heritage and for Nationality said Irish. And they were Church of England. I can imagine heads exploding if this was suggested here and now.

I believe Pierre Trudeau was prime minister when multi-culturalism was introduced in Canada. People were invited to retain their traditional dress and share their culture with the community at large. They didn’t have to hid,e or play the Borg and assimilate in unnecessary ways. Even in my hometown of Birmingham there was a cultural gathering at the Municipal Auditorium. My Lebanese step-father’s family’s friends would have a booth and so we would go and sometimes help. And we got to enjoy the many different countries represented.

I like to remember that during World War I, our military folks spoke I think it was 48 different languages. And this multi-humanity made us the country we are today.

I had a lady a few years ago who was fortunate to have a decent connection through traditional genealogy to a family that could be traced across the pond. Now, I have read the critics of Burke’s Peerage who point out the book has people who were supposedly born to 10-year-old girls and 70-year-old women. So I give these records their due, but I don’t hold them in reverence.  I explained the limitations of these records and said they might not stand up to a DNA test. But I said that because of “pedigree collapse” (which I love), we are all related to most of these folks anyway. So enjoy the process and the history and herstory.

But in getting back to this lady I wrote a short bit about some of these folks. And as they were Catholics, the niceties included a semi-ancient marriage record or two; it was wonderful stuff. But, No! She was appalled. No one in her family had ever been Catholic. End of subject.

From the beginning of the country and the taking of the first census, folks have fibbed. Or even just answered when they did not know. There was one census where the lady made her age much lower.  I forget who, it was an Alabama girl.  She said she was single and x age. But I really wondered if that census-taker might have been of interest.

Years ago, anyone in the house could answer the questions. You know there must have been someone who didn’t know anything at home. They would have gotten the ages wrong, the places of birth wrong, the places of parents’ birth totally off. And so, from the beginning, the census is considered a secondary, not a primary record.  It is less than other records in all kinds of ways.

If the US government is using the census for anything important – like voting districts or something – based on thinking the data in the census is correct, then we know the info is skewed. Even a genealogist could tell the government it just ain’t so if it holds to the tradition of the last two hundred years.

But the hoopla is always a “chicken little-the sky is falling” story. All day long today – it was ratings world for the news, OMG OMG, it will be a constitutional crisis! Oh give me a break – the weather changed.

 

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