Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic, FR, Calhoun County, Michigan.
Team 24 New, Detroit Regional Office, U.S. Census Bureau. November-January 2008. Volume 9, Issue #1. Pp. 14-15
When researching U.S. Federal Census records for genealogical and historical data, be sure and look up the special Census’ that may have been conducted during a Decennial count, such as the special so-called “Indian Census.” These contain a wealth of information you may find fascinating.
On page 40 of the 1910 “Instructions to Enumerators” manual it mentions a special “Indian Schedule Form 8” used in the enumeration of the Native American population. This was a modified form of the general population schedule, and contained specific questions pertaining to Native-Americans. Special enumerators who had some experience in the Office of Indian Affairs were chosen to conduct this portion of the 13th Decennial Census.
The questions covered numerous major topics: population; proportion of mixed-bloods; sex distribution; age distribution; stocks and tribe in detail by purity of blood, tribal mixture, sex and age. Continuing, female reproductive health questions were asked under the major classification of “fecundity” which I had to look up in the dictionary (you can, too). Also covered were marital condition; education; employment; and Indians taxed and not taxed. There were also additional questions which inquired as to residence on own lands, and whether they lived in “civilized” or aboriginal dwellings.
In 1915, the Census Bureau published a 285-page book giving the detailed non-identifiable results for every topic covered. It included a map showing the distribution of Native-Americans across the country, and various diagrams showing percentages. This book is handily available on the www.census.gov website for those wishing to read it, and contains a wealth of information. Take for example, the polygamy question. Yes, that was one of the questions asked in 1910. Page 162 states, “The practice of polygamy is believed to be quite common among the American Indians. The census enumeration of 1910 showed 494 cases in the United States, and of these, 37 were reported as having more than 2 wives. Of the 494 polygamous males reported in 1910, 327 were Navajo--196 in Arizona, 120 in New Mexico, and 11 in Utah.” Such were the questions and results that were tallied in that era and published in this book.
One remarkable “snapshot” (quite literally) from this time period is a classic photographic postcard of a U.S. Census taker enumerating the Winnebago tribe near Waupaca, Wisconsin. Published in 1911, this postcard shows Native Americans standing by their tent dwelling. The caption reads, “U.S. Census Taking, Wisconsin Indians.” Seated on the right smoking a pipe is the bearded U.S. Census taker, as illustrated here. His Census ledger is resting upon his knees as he records the information. Notice the tall boots he is wearing and the number of laces required to tie his boots. I counted at least nine rows of laces on his left boot. If you ever attend a post card show, ask the dealer for any Census-related postcards. You just may come across an interesting photo postcard like the one featured in this article.
U.S. Census taker enumerating the Winnebago tribe near Waupaca, Wisconsin
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic