The 1900 census records represent the first records of the 20th century. They provide a snapshot of the United States, recording the location of every resident as of June 1, 1900. Over 76 million people were counted during this enumeration. Genealogists use these records to trace their family history and document their heritage.
Questions of the 1900 Census
The Federal Government conducts an enumeration of its residents every ten years for the purpose of apportioning Congressional districts. Since its inception in 1790, the census has evolved into a major source for research, both statistical and genealogical.
Each enumeration asks different questions, but in 1900 the questions were expanded significantly. Besides the personal questions asked each respondent, such as name, age and place of birth, the new questions added included:
- The month and year of birth
- Marital status and number of years married
- Number of children born to each woman, and number of children living
- Year of immigration and naturalization for foreign born respondents
- Months of unemployment
- Ability to speak English
- Whether the home is rented or owned
Importance of the 1900 Census
The 1900 census is a favorite of genealogists because of the helpful questions that were asked respondents. For the first time, the date of birth was recorded for each individual. Since few locations required birth certificates at that time, this census can be used as a substitute for birth records. The family information may also help genealogists. The answers to the marriage questions may offer important clues to location of marriage licenses. For those respondents who have been married more than once, these answers give clues about a possible date of death of a previous spouse. The answers can also help associate a child with a mother, as opposed to a stepmother.
You also may find clues in the responses to the number of children born to a woman and the number of her children living. You'll know, by the response, if you have found all the children or if there are more to discover. You'll also get a hint, if your list does not have enough children, of how many children may have died.
The immigration and naturalization data is also valuable. Genealogists can learn when the ancestor immigrated and if the ancestor had been naturalized. If they were naturalized, you can look for the naturalization papers and may find key facts about the ancestor before his immigration.
The 1900 census is also important because it is the first census since 1880. While the government conducted an enumeration 1890, almost all of the information was destroyed in a fire. This 20 year gap in census data has frustrated genealogists. The gap, however, makes the 1900 census information a key component to research.
Where to Find 1900 Census Records
The actual census documents are in the custody of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Microfilms of the census were released in 1972 to the general public. Most genealogy libraries and state archives have microfilm copies of the 1900 census records, as well as printed copies of the index.
There are a variety of databases online of the 1900 census. Most will include actual images. Some popular sites are:
- Family Search Record Search, a free site which is part of Family Search, a project of the Mormon church.
- Heritage Quest is a subscription site. Many libraries have a subscription to Heritage Quest, available to library patrons.
- Ancesty.com is also a subscription site. Many libraries have a subscription to Ancestry as well, for visitors to use free of charge.