“Find Your Place” in US Census Data!

Happy National Library Week! This year’s theme is “Find Your Place at the Library,” and we are taking the opportunity to highlight some of the resources available at the RSSC Center that can help you do just that! The special service that our department of the DPL provides in this regard is showing you how to locate “your place” at points of time in the past.  Is your place a home or a business property in Davenport? With city directories, newspaper articles, city building permits, maps, photographs, and even, in some cases, architectural drawings in our collection, we can help you trace its history.  Is your place as a member of a community organization? We have records of groups like the Tuesday Club going back to the 19th century.  Is your place on a family tree with roots in Scott County?  We have vital records, naturalization records, court records, and more to help you fill in your ancestry charts.

The current effort to encourage participation in the 2020 Census suggests you might also imagine your “place” in terms of one of the categories of information the US government collects about its population. Are you or one of your ancestors a member of a group of people defined by age, sex, race, ethnicity, ancestry, citizenship status, income level, or level of educational attainment? Census resources in Special Collections can help you find out!

For example, you might use the US Census records available on our Ancestry Library database to find out more about an ancestor’s neighbors in the past. For a 2018 blog post in honor of Women’s History Month, I examined the 1910 Census via Ancestry to discover information about the lives of women of various ethnicities living in Davenport at that time. Perhaps one of the Hungarian women who kept a boarding house for her countrymen laboring in Davenport then was your great-grandmother?

With US Census Bureau publications from our Government Documents collection such as U.S. Population Estimates by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin, 1990 to 1997, you might discover more about the identity group in which you or one of your family members fit. How does your individual experience compare to the conditions reported about other black Hispanic children who grew up in the United States during the 1990’s?

Print publications that make use of federal census data like Iowa 2000 Summary Population and Housing Characteristics from the U.S. Department of Commerce includes maps showing areas in Iowa where Native Americans resided in 2000. Were you or one of your relatives among them?

Although the Ancestry database, the microfiche reader, and Special Collections reading room space are unavailable due to the DPL’s COVID-19 emergency closing, our staff is still poised to copy and deliver US Census and other information to you via email. Send us a message or give us a call with your request!

However, if you feel like striking out on your own to “find your place” within the world of US Census data from the comfort of your own home during quarantine, the Census Bureau has recently expanded its online offerings. You can search for the same publications you might find in Government Documents on topics such as education, employment, housing, income and poverty, as well as population by age, ancestry, ethnicity, race, and sex, in the Census.gov Library. Many of these provide insight into aspects of American society going further back into the past, such as Women in Gainful Occupations, 1870 to 1920 (1929) and the series of P23 reports on the Social and Economic Status of Negroes in the United States in the early 1970s.

Just last month, on March 25th, the Census Bureau released the P25 set of publications online. These are reports of population estimates and projections going back to the 1940’s. A downloadable index can be found here.

You can also find publications reviewing historical census data, such as this one:

The online Library also contains “Infographics and Visualizations” based on more recent data from programs like the American Community Survey, including this map showing different concentrations of people reporting Irish ancestry throughout the country:

Some of these are interactive: you can zoom in to Scott County, Iowa on this map to learn about the concentrations of poverty in our area between the years of 2014 and 2018.

Perhaps most exciting of all is the new (March 31st) platform, data.census.gov, which allows you direct access to Census Bureau data sets of all kinds for several different levels of geography. For example, to compare information about the foreign-born population in Scott County, Iowa, and Rock Island County, Illinois, in the 2018 ACS, you can search for the Geographic Profile of each place, limiting results to those in the “People and Population” section, and downloading the final visualization.

This table breaks down the 2018 ACS estimate of the people in Davenport reporting a single ancestry by specific nationalities/ethnicities. Not surprisingly, estimates of those with German (10,710) and Irish (4,002) ancestry are at the top.

The Census Bureau offers plenty of support for those who wish to explore data.census.gov, including “Census Academy” webinars such as “How to Access Race, Ethnicity, Foreign Born, and Ancestry Data.”

We hope you will check out these US Census data resources! Enjoy the journey to your or your family members’ “place” within our country’s past and present life!

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