Corner Column


In the coming weeks citizens will be receiving their 2020 United States Census forms.

We are featuring articles about why the census is important, and in particular why Wood County needs to improve on its 20 percent undercount from 10 years ago.

It got me to thinking about how the census tracks our history as a people, especially my own life and my family’s.

Those interested in history and genealogy are aware that the census is restricted from release for 72 years, so the next one to go public will be the 1950 census in two years. The last one released from 1940, in 2012, was the first to be put into a digital format online.

It was fun tracking down the homes of my parents, as the ’40 census was the first to record them.

I’ll have to wait another dozen years to see myself in census documents. The primary changes I expect to see in the 1950 release will be the addition of two aunts on my mother’s side and possibly my dad’s sister having moved away from home as a young adult.

As noted, the 1960 census will be the first in which I appear. It will show us living in Commerce, perhaps in the second of the four houses we occupied in a four-year span. It will show one little sister, with the second not arriving in time to be counted.

Roll ahead to 1970 and we will be at the home where we spent most of our growing up years in Denton, with a full family of five.

The census is a one-day snapshot of where everyone in the country was on that day. What happens in the intervening decades can be impacted by so many changes.

By 1980’s census I had graduated from high school and college and landed my first professional job. It will show me living in a small farmhouse several miles outside Bowie. But within a few months I married and moved to town. That census will show my future bride still living with her parents, just over the county line.

The 1990 census will be the first to show us as married and also with a son. It will not show that just 18 months later we would move on from Decatur.

And it will not show the four moves in the interim decade until the 2000 census recorded us living in Henrietta.

We moved across town 18 months later, purchasing a home from a family estate. The family built it in 1955, and at least some members would have been recorded as living there for the 1960, ’70, ’80, ’90 and 2000 censuses. But we will not appear in a census as living in that home, despite owning it for eight years from 2001-2009.

The census in 2010 recorded us as living back in Decatur.

For the first time since my original census appearance in 1960, I will once again be recorded as an East Texan – back to my roots, so to speak – in 2020.

All that moving around got me to thinking about how the census would record others. Some can easily be traced since they stay in, or near, one place. Others, it seems, move as often as the wind changes direction.

This will be my seventh census in which to be a participant (never in the same place twice) and fifth to be the responsible party for filling it out.

Contrast that with the number of places I’ve lived. If my count is correct, the total is 27 homes and apartments. That can be split into three broad sections – eight in the childhood homes of my parents, seven during the college years (one dorm, six apartments) and the rest since. One lasted a whole week, in a motor court after I landed that first job. Maybe it’s time to settle down.