Using U.S. Census Records

Using U.S. Census Records

Document analysis is the first step in working with any primary source. Students should learn to think through primary source documents for contextual understanding and to extract information to make informed judgments.

Teacher tip: Remind students that there are four key steps to good primary source analysis: reading the document, observing its parts, trying to make sense of it, and using it as historical evidence.

Teaching Toolkit

  1. Provide each student with a copy of the Blank 1930 U.S. Federal Census Form. Ask students what information can be gleaned from the census data. Possible responses may include:

    • Columns 1 to 4: “Place of Abode”

    • Column 5: “Name”

    • Column 6: “Relation”

    • Columns 7 to 10 “Home Data”

    • Columns 11 to 15: “Personal Description”

    • Columns 16 to 17: “Education”

    • Columns 18 to 20: “Place of Birth”

    • Column 21: “Mother Tongue of Foreign Born”

    • Columns 22 to 24: “Citizenship”

    • Columns 25 to 27: “Occupation and Industry”

    • Columns 28 to 29: “Employment”

    • Columns 30 to 31: “Veterans”

  2. Provide each student with a copy of the 1930 U.S. Census document showing Charles B. Leinbach and his family on line 96. Ask students to now make observations about his life in 1930. You may want to use the categories listed above as a way for students to categorize pieces of information.

  3. Ask students what they learned overall about Charles B. Leinbach. Have students attempt to put their understanding in terms of one or two complete sentences

    • Sample response: In 1930, Charles B. Leinbach, at the age of 38, was living with his wife, Pearl (age 28), and daughter, Lorraine (age 11), in a rented home or apartment in Chattahoochee County, Georgia. He grew up in Pennsylvania and is now serving in the U.S. Army.

  4. Ask students what additional unanswered questions do they have about Charles B. Leinbach at this point? What additional information would they need to know more about his life?

Teacher tip: Additional historical background on the 1930 Census can be found in an article written for Social Education, 2002.