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 1920 Census

(c) Linda Haas Davenport (Updated 2007)

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The 1930 and 1920 census records spoil many a family historians. We have an abundance of information available and often times develop sloppy research habits. A quick scan of the census overview will serve to remind us that as we move backwards in time the amount of information available on each census is less and less. Now is the time to develop good research skills and learn to use the information found on the census records to help us discover more about our family.

Be sure to document every scrap of information you gather about your family because you never know when you will need to return to that same piece of information.

The 1920 Census Abstract form is 2 pages, front & back. The actual census spans two pages on the microfilm.


1920 Census - United States

State ___ Supervisor's district # ___ Enumeration district #____ Sheet No __

County ____ Township or other county division _____ Name of Incorporated Place _____

Ward of city ______ Name of Institution _____ Enumerated by me on this ___ day of ___ 1920 Enumerator _____________


Sample of the 1920 Census Schedule


The 2nd page:

Sample of the 1920 Census Schedule


This schedule is broken down as follows: (Page One) - Street Address; house number; number of the dwelling (this is the number of the house in visitation order); number of the family (this is the number of the families that have been recorded in order of visitation. Many times two or more families lived in the same house); Name of each person whose place of abode on Jan 1, 1920 was in this family; Relationship to head of household; home owned or rented; if owned free or mortgaged; sex; color or race; age at last birthday; Year of Immigration to US; Naturalized or alien; if Naturalized year of Naturalization; Attended school anytime since Sep 1, 1919; able to read; able to write. (Page Two) - Each person's name is listed again; Place of birth and mother tongue for - Person; Person's Father; Person's Mother; able to speak English; Trade Profession, or particular kind of work done; industry, business or establishment in which at work; employer, salary or wage worker or working on own account; number on farm schedule.

Once you have located your ancestor on the census records look carefully at the information you find that can lead you to more information.

The top of the sheet will you give you information about the county, township and perhaps town or city name of where your ancestor was found. Using this information (if you are on-line) you can locate a county web site and find what information is on-line that can be researched. On-line or not you can use this information to contact the local genealogy society and find what records are available for your use. Check the town or city and see if you can locate a public library or genealogy library.

Using the Street address and house number (if there is one listed) will allow you to locate the actual house or property where you ancestor lived. This will lead you to churches, cemeteries, local funeral homes, schools, etc., to search for source records.

Carefully look at everyone in the household and compare them with your "known" ancestors. Watch for ages of children that might mean that the wife is not the mother of all the children listed. Remember that if someone was a widow but remarried she will not be listed as a Widow and this census doesn't ask for length of marriage. Look carefully at each person's age and where they were born. If when you move back to the 1910 census you don't find your family in the same county or surrounding county, it might be necessary to go all the way back to a census record for the year of birth and look for a census record in the birth state. The 1920 census has an index that includes everyone and although most of the prior census records have been indexed the indexes are not always easily available. It is a good idea to set up a form of some type (something like the one below) so that you can subtract 10 years from each person's age to help you as you go backwards in time. This is a rough example of a form I use. It can be set up on your word processor or spreadsheet. List each known person in the first column, their age in 1930 in the 2nd column and work your way backwards. Get used to using a form like this because it will become invaluable once you hit the 1840 census when only the name of the head of household is listed and all others are listed in age categories.

Person's Name

Age 1930

Age 1920

Age 1910

Age 1900

Age 1890

Joe Smith













Look at the information on trade, profession, etc. and then search for records pertaining to that occupation or trade.

Don't forget to look for City Directories and old phone books. These city directories usually are in two sections - one by address and one by name. By finding your ancestors address in one of these directories you can match up neighbors, employers, etc.

Don't forget to list, at least, 10 families before and 10 families after you own ancestor. Often these neighbors were kin.

Use the information you have learned in "How to begin your research" and comb this census for clues to other records. If the person owned their farm or home - look at land records. If there is a number listed for "Farm Schedule" locate the farm schedule for this census (check state archives, national archives, LDS and state universities for them). The information found on the farm schedule can help you expand your knowledge of your ancestors. If they rented or their property was mortgaged check court records which often recorded these mortgages.

If Naturalized you know that it will be necessary to look for ship passenger lists, etc. If they immigrated check the dates on the form and the "mother tongue" they used for clues to where to search for passenger lists, etc.

Most people listed on this census will have a death certificate (births and deaths recording was pretty standard by 1925). If your ancestor would have lived past 1935 then be sure to check the Social Security Index for them.

This census gives an abundance of information and every slight clue from it should be followed up in local and county records.

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1910 Census or 1930 Census

Census Index

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