Thinking of The Genealogists of 2082

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

In the year 2082, if current laws continue, the individual records of the 2010 census will be released for genealogical research. This has happened for several decades now. After the forms were processed in prior censuses, they were placed in the highly secure confines of the National Archives. After 72 years passed, the individual records of a census were released. (The 72-year figure was chosen to assure that the vast majority of the persons covered by a census would have died by that time. It will be interesting to see whether that logic should be re-evaluated given modern life expectancies.) The latest census to be so released was the 1930 census.

The digitization of old census records has been a wonderful boon to those trying to rediscover their roots. The construction of family trees has been greatly aided by the ability to search for the names of ancestors.

Our paper forms for the 2010 census are being processed by very high speed optical scanners, which create a digital image of our forms exactly as we filled them out. Those machines also create a numeric data record that is used for the statistical aggregation of answers from all persons in the census.

One decision we had to make was whether to save both the numeric data record (for statistical purposes) and the digital image (to aid the genealogists of the future). We’ve decided to save the digital images and transfer them to the National Archives for safekeeping until 2082. This means your descendents many years from now, if they’re interested in seeing traces of their ancestors, can see your own writing that you used in filling out the 2010 census. You might want to keep them in mind when you complete your form.

Please submit any questions pertaining to this post to ask.census.gov.

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38 Responses to Thinking of The Genealogists of 2082

  1. joe says:

    I will be dead by then and don’t care, I still don’t know why you need more than just a head count. In 2000 the census person had to get info from my neighbors, I think this year that I will do the same. The Feds only need to have head count, the census is not worth spending 6,ooo,ooo,ooo or money money on. They wonder why us Americans don’t trust the goverment.

  2. Jerry McCoy says:

    As a special collections librarian at the District of Columbia Public Library’s Washingtoniana Division, not a day goes by that I don’t help patrons research the U.S. Census in search of information on their ancestors. Sure, we may be dead by 2082 (I know I will be!) but someone in the future will be curious about you and the life you lived. Why deny future generations of this information?
    My only criticism of the 2010 Census is that it asks so few questions. I’d rather the tag line be “20 Questions, Twenty Minutes!”

  3. Citizen says:

    This seems to violate the provisions of 13 U.S.C. 9(a)(1) prohibiting “any publication whereby the data furnished by any particular establishment or individual under this title can be identified.” There are no expiry periods of 72 years or any other amount of time.

  4. laguna says:

    Joe,
    Just because you don’t care doesn’t mean that no-one else cares, either. The Feds need more than a head count; in fact, this census is pretty sparse in its information gathering. I hope you won’t have any curious descendants!

  5. Bob G says:

    With that 6 Billion dollars they are going to institute all kinds of socialist programs. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Can you say “there goes my grandchildren’s futures”? Don’t trust them as far as I can throw them.

  6. Cheryl says:

    For future genealogists some attempt should be made to gather women’s maiden names. I use census data in my research all of the time. Regretfully the 1890 census was destroyed so we have a 20 year gap where meaningful information is not available. I agree with the prior comment, too few questions on this census.

  7. Avi in FL says:

    See 44 U.S.C. § 2108(b) and 36 C.F.R. § 1256.4(a)(3).

  8. Sharon NANNEY Wells says:

    I Think if Americans take their time to fill out the Census, It should be able to be used in Genealogy work. Maybe that should be one of the questions that is added on the form?????? And I think it should be a FREE SERVICE That is offered.

  9. Mike Henry says:

    I received a letter today from Census Org. saying “I will received my census forms next week”. How much did this mailing to every household in the U.S. cost? Don’t you get it….you are spending the taxpayers money. I know you are mandated to take the census every 10 years. You are not mandated to waste our money.

  10. Jennifer says:

    There are numerous methods of finding information WITHOUT the government’s involvement. If you want to start a genealogy movement, do so; don’t insult our intelligence by using the “needing information” excuse to forgive the government of its gross intrusion with the Census.

  11. AT Boston says:

    Remember that in the age of digital technology, we are storing BYTES not paper! Sure we could maybe lose a census like ’1890′ to fire or natural disaster but today we have COMPUTERS and we all know how well they work. Who knows when the next Microsoft operating system will make the file format of the 2010census illegible to future processors (or will we employ MORE programmers on the gov dollar?).
    Don’t see why we can’t have cities & towns collect census info if you claim we need the stats for future planning of schools & roads. We aren’t in the wild west with dirt roads!

  12. Shannon says:

    @ Jennifer: how do you propose information be found “without the government’s involvement”? With a birth certificate? That’s a government document. With marriage licenses? Government document. A will? That’s a legal document and is held by…wait for it…wait for it…you guessed it: the government. I could go on and on. The government is the single best, and most logical, collector and storer of vast amounts of information on the population.
    To all: I’m astounded that you are so incredibly unwilling to provide information to the government that can easily be found in minutes – or seconds! – with a simple Google search. Jeepers…paranoid much?

  13. Rick says:

    They really don’t need 10 questions. They need to know how many live in the house, sex and age. They don’t need to know if I Own or rent. They don’t need my phone number.

  14. Joe says:

    seconded. The census, just like the electoral college is an old dated system that needs to be done and buried. Its not the 1800′s anymore.
    What do they care though? The workers(non temp ones) are sitting in their big offices making big noise and making big money.
    The only plus to this years census is its employeeing people who hopefully need the jobs.

  15. Bart says:

    Such ignorance. All sort of businesses rely on the data collected by the census. Each question there comes from the actions of Congress acting on behalf of their primary source of income: corporations and businesses of all sizes.

  16. New citizen says:

    The whole thing is a lie. Specially for the immigrant community.
    They say that the census data will not be share data with any other federal agency. Yeah right. Lets just say that they will only share “statistics”. And that’s the trick.
    Let’s just say that the statistics after the census show that there are X number of non-american citizens. So far so good. But that’s when our beloved Immigration and Citizenship agency comes by and say. “Ahh huumm! But we have only this number on millions registered”.
    It only takes a simple mathematic subtraction to know exactly how many illegal aliens are on each community.
    Not good for Pedro and Maria, who had filled the form thinking that it was safe….

  17. Cindy says:

    In reference to tracing your ancesters. I tried tracing my relatives, since many in my family do not share or care where they came from. I found out where my grandfather lived many years ago and his occupation. But in reference to women’s maiden names, I think it is a good idea since in my tracings I could not find my grandmother and her family, only hints she existed. It is for history. The census took 2 minutes to fill out. I am surprised there were not more questions.

  18. Gale says:

    “Your data is protected” HA HA – they hide the fact that the data and an acutal copy of my form will be released some time in the future. They say the phone number will be deleted from the recored once my data is checked…..not so if a copy of the form is in some “special collection”

  19. Pamela says:

    So is that the reason for having “Black, African American, Negro…” and on other races it’s not specific? I mean for genalogy, right…..

  20. PennyO says:

    I agree that we should look forward but more with regards to the next 5-10 years. It would have been nice to have the census be available online. THEN in May get the exceptions done door to door. I am sure the reminder that was sent out a week earlier could have had some kind of security feature. And that security feature could have been used to access this online.

  21. ColleenK says:

    The 2010 is so lacking in information that it will be virtually worthless for genealogical purposes. As far back as 1850, the BIRTH PLACE of a person was given and in 1880, the birthplaces of both parents as well as the individual were included. Later census data included vital information such as dates of marriage and the number of children born to a family. The 2010 Census is no more than a head count, with no way of distinguishing between US citizens and naturalized citizens, nor does it give any indication as to the origin of families.

  22. Christe says:

    Finally, someone was smart enough to make reference to the fact that our government actually mailed out census forms to every household in America with Negro listed as a Race. Just how ignorant is that? I didn’t know Negro was a Race! No wonder the Director failed to put his name on the insert and only referred to himself as Director US Census Bureau. I would be embarassed too.

  23. RSA says:

    I agree with Colleen K. The 2010 census is useless other than giving the government a head count. In comparison to prior census information, it is worthless from a genealogical research standpoint. With the amount of tax dollars spent, we could have gotten a lot more for the money. And for those with “Big Brother” concerns, the government already has ways of obtaining our background info, so why sweat it. The info they have asked us for in this census is truly no big deal.

  24. Tess says:

    I have been utterly and completed disappointed with this census. I was really looking forward to completing it because I wanted to have my descendants experience the same excitement that I have researching our prior censuses and learning so much about their families from them. Things like where they immigrated from and when, what they did, who could read and write, what their income level was, and who they shared a household with. Even the oldest censuses – like the 1810 one – were able to tell me that my great-great-great-great grandfather lived in a small New England town near his two brothers with and that six of his children, including my great-great-great grandmother, were still living with him. The 2010 census will tell our descendants nothing of interest about us; it was a giant waste of time and money. If the 2020 census is going to be along the same lines, I’d like it if they’d waste a little less ink and not pretend they care about sharing information with our descendants. They’ll learn nothing from it. What a disappointment. Oh, and for the non-computer savvy complainers about government data collecting, you really shouldn’t be posting on this site if you don’t want to be traced. IP addresses are simple to grab and easy to physically track.

  25. Harvey Ricketts says:

    I agree with Jerry. As a geneoligist, I look at Census Reports almost everyday, looking for information for others. I think the census should be very extensive and every one should be required to fill it out just like taxes. This census only ask names of people in a house. The families who have more than one family in ther house are not going to list them if they don’t want anyone to know and how would the government know if it is correct. I though we had laws about more than one family in a single family home and why are these laws not followed.

  26. The "Californian" Race says:

    This race thing is crazy.
    You got one guy from who’s a naturalized citizen from Warsaw, Poland and another born and raised in LA; they’re both “white”.
    You got two more guys, one from Pingxlang, China and another born and raised in Ha Long, Vietnam (about 45 minute drive-time from each other); they’re 2 different races, one “Chinese”, the other “Vietnamese”.
    If we’re gonna break it down that way, why aren’t “Californians” considered a separate race from “Oregonians” and “Washingtonians”?

  27. Wanda says:

    The information is already out there, if you ever got credit, had utilities in your name, etc. the info is on the web. Either google yourself or use Zabasearch. Everything you have done for 10 years is out there, your addresses, phone number, age, employment, criminal record. And the government had nothing to do with it !!!!!!!!
    So usless you are a criminal what’s the big deal?

  28. kjt says:

    I agree with those who think there should have been more detailed questions. I use the old census records almost every day in searching for my ancestors. Very helpful information! And often, the only information we can find.
    Don’t worry, those of you who are paranoid about “the government” having your information. They already have lots more information than what is on the census form. And a lot of it is online for anyone to access.

  29. Bonnie says:

    Absolutey!! I’ve done genealogicat research for 10 years relying heavily on past census records – they have been a great source of information. Not so the 2010… I know it isn’t the requirement of a census to provide my descendants with info 72 years from now but really…. couldn’t we have done better than name and address??? Big whoop!
    Why is everyone worried about that? The phone book knows more about you than that census required.

  30. Bonnie says:

    Well said Tess!!

  31. Christina says:

    I completely agree, Jerry. I’ve recently discovered that an ancestor was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, another was a Civil War soldier on the Confederate side, and that my widowed maternal great-great-great grandmother married my great-great-great grandfather from a different branch of the family tree later in life! Were it not for Census data, I never would have found the seemingly conflicting information that led me to look further at OTHER historical records and make these wonderful discoveries.
    Those who think the government has ulterior motives seriously need to have their heads examined.

  32. Christina says:

    Yes, that can ALSO serve historical purposes. If you’re looking for ancestors using the Census, it is VERY helpful to be able to eliminate those persons who are not of your race — and that applies to ANY race.

  33. Sarolite says:

    You’re afraid of someone calling your phone number in 2082?

  34. Sarolite says:

    By doing the pre-mailing, they are hoping to save money on enumerators. It’s millions of dollars per 1% increase of mail-in replies.

  35. Sarolite says:

    Show us a news story about an illegal immigrant being deported based on Census data. It doesn’t even ask legal status, so I don’t understand how even a breach of privacy would put immigrants at risk.

  36. Debra Dellas says:

    I have a question. Why is there only two skin colors on census 2010? Where is red? yellow? brown? light brown? beige? light beige? medium beige? pinkish white? ivory? light brown? dark brown? dark tan? Florida tan? California tan? I’m being funny if you can’t tell to make a point.What’s with the colors only being white & black? Are we so colored blind we can’t see anything but black & white? We are a rainbow of colors & different shades. Cenus should not include color, only ancestory of people. If you are adopted and do not know then should include a question I do not know(in the future). That should help future generations. Let’s get rid of black & white colors.What do you think? By the way I wonder what the U.S.President thinks of his Mom side of him being called white and nothing else about her race or orgin.I’m sure his girls would like to know more about their Grandma in the future.

  37. a Chicago enumerator says:

    There is NO question on the form regarding citizenship. It doesn’t matter. The fact that you exist in this country does. People can be here for all sorts of reasons and not have citizenship.

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