Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cooperate With The Census

In the next week or so, every household will receive a census form in the mail. You can take the anti-government Tea Party position that the census asks too many questions and intrudes on our privacy and refuse to fill it out. Or you can take the practical approach and cooperate because it's in your self interest to do so. The census is used to determine everything from who represents you in Congress to how much federal money your state and county receive. Besides, not completing the census is against the law.

After the jump, my own argument for cooperating with the census.

Your great-great-great-grandchildren will thank you for it. About a year or so ago, I began digging into my own family tree. I won't claim to have found royalty in my background, although family lore does claim that a Prussian princess fell in love with a stable boy, was disowned by her family, emigrated to America, and her line eventually led directly to me. You can find her name in that family tree, even if you can't find the evidence for her royal lineage.

Back on topic, the best resource, by far, that I found for digging into geneaology is the United States Census records. Below, for example, is a page from the 1860 census in which I discovered my own great-great-great-grandfather, his occupation, his wife and children, their ages and place of birth.

1860 Census
1860 Census

Because of the census, I had the information needed to dig into other resources and uncovered this gem of personal family history from a history book published in 1911:

"Frederick Griesbach was born in Prussia and came to the United States in 1856 with his wife, Margaret, and four children, and after landing at New York the family made their way to Chicago, where the father's means became exhausted. He was compelled to go on without the rest of the family, but on reaching Waukesha, Wisconsin, he sent his son-in-law, Conrad Baler [Boehler], who had married one of Griesbach's daughters some time before coming to this county, back to the Windy City to bring the little family on. With this same son-in-law, Mr. Griesbach rented a farm, which they operated together for two years, and Mr. Griesbach then purchased eighty acres of school land in Center township, Outagamie county, hiring a team of oxen and a wagon with which to move his family into the woods. On the way from Neenah, the drivers of the ox team lost their way, the ground being covered with a foot of snow, and refused to go further, and the family eventually took possession of a log schoolhouse east of Appleton, into which the household goods were moved while the men started out to find the new land they had bought. It was finally found fourteen miles northwest of the camping place, by this time the snow having fallen so fast that there were four feet on the ground. Although they had known something of farming in the old country, these German lads knew little of conditions here, and Frederick Griesbach, who was a mason, could not see how a house was to be built without the use of nails, but was soon instructed as to that by the McGillan boy, a resident of the neighborhood, who showed Mr. Griesbach how to cut the logs to build his cabin. When the house was built, the family was brought to it, and all hands started in to clear a farm from the wilderness. That this was accomplished is found to be so when Frederick Griesbach's career is perused, as he died a prosperous and highly respected farmer."
Thankfully, Frederick Griesbach didn't decide to give the census taker only a headcount of his household or else I never would have found him across all these decades. I am forever grateful to his decision to cooperate with the census. I urge everyone else to do so as well. Do it for your own great-great-great-grandchildren.

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