Census Comparison Worksheet

It has been some time since I posted about the Charles and Caroline Carson family of New Jersey. I needed to remind myself where I left off with respect to the census information I had collected thus far. I needed a form to see my census data at a glance. With only a bit of searching on Pinterest, I found a promising census comparison worksheet, posted by Jenny Lanctot who writes the “Are My Roots Showing?” genealogy blog.

census comparison worksheet from Jenny Lanctot, found on Pinterest

Jenny has graciously made her census comparison worksheet available for download at this link. Thank you, Jenny. I like this form, in that there is room to record information from up to five different census enumerations for one couple and up to fourteen of their children. It is similar to the way I have previously laid out census extractions in a table in Microsoft Word, but with more columns. More columns equals more data points for correlation, which is a very good thing when you are writing up your research with accepted genealogical standards in mind.

I downloaded her form and began doing the data entry in short order. It did not take me long to realize that I actually wanted to see a bit more detail than the form allowed for, so I began tweaking it just a bit. In the column on the left where the couple’s marriage information is recorded, I added a row to record the marriage officiant by name and role. I added an additional row below Twp. (for Township) to note a smaller jurisdiction, abbreviated as P.O. (for Post Office), since that level of detail is included on some census enumerations. Finally, on the main tab, I also added a row for the street address when known, as this is important for tracking our urban ancestors.

completed census comparison worksheet for the Carson family, 1850-1900The main table in my census comparison worksheet allows me to visualize 50 years of census data at a glance for one nuclear family (in this case, Charles and Caroline Carson of New Jersey). I have hidden the ribbon (using CTRL+F1 in Excel 2010) and the rows near the bottom for more siblings to make the completed worksheet easier to see in this screenshot.

In my example, I chose to only include United States Federal census information, but you could just as easily create a table that includes state census enumerations or non-population schedules such as agriculture or manufacturing. I also chose to input ages, birthplaces and occupations to improve the ability to compare across census years.

The biggest change I made was to include additional tabs in my workbook, one for each census year extracted on the main page of the form. I renamed each tab to correspond with the year, then I attached an image of the actual census page that I had previously downloaded. Lastly, I included a carefully crafted source citation so that I can simply copy and paste it into other documents or blog posts when needed.

census comparison worksheet with census image and citationI added more tabs in my workbook to include an image of the census page and a source citation, one tab for every census year on the main table. This image from the 1870 Federal census shows Caroline Carson living with an unidentified male named Lewis Rainier in Mercer County, New Jersey. We have yet to learn what relationship the two shared.

This is a time-consuming process, and one that I am unlikely to do for every family that I am researching, as I normally would simply extract the relevant census information into a note linked to a census “event” in my RootsMagic database. But, for those families that present brick wall problems, or for those families that I am writing about, it is a useful endeavor. If you have a genealogical problem you have worked on for years without a resolution, then I would recommend compiling your data in a format that allows you to visualize and correlate information differently, such as a census worksheet, a timeline or mind map.

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14 thoughts on “Census Comparison Worksheet

  1. I love these additions, Dawn! Thanks for sharing. Any chance you could share the actual file so I don’t have to recreate it myself? If not, no worries… the screenshots alone are incredibly helpful. 🙂

    • Hi Jen, I am happy you like the expanded worksheet. I created a blank and will send it to you shortly. I think you will find it useful to look at your data this way. My example covered the 1850-1900 time period, but you could do something similar for other years. Having the image and complete source citation on other tabs is a real time-saver. Other examples on my blog (search for “census”) will show other matrices for comparisons of Federal and state census enumerations. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
      Dawn Bingaman

  2. I have struggled to organize the tidbits found on numerous family lines. This looks to be the very thing that I need! May I please have a copy of the spreadsheet workbook. It may actually preserve my sanity.

  3. Hi Willie,
    My census worksheet is just one way to organize census data, but one that I think helps visualize the family better. I will be sending you a blank workbook shortly. I hope you find it useful. Thanks for visiting the blog.

  4. Dawn, Great form! I was looking for something like this while taking the BU course. Ended up converting a couple of .pdf’s… not pretty, but workable. This one is exactly what I needed. May I please have a copy? Thanks!

    • Hi Caroline,
      I cannot take full credit for it, I just modified someone else’s form as described. But it is a great way to visualize a family over 50 years to make sure you have correctly identified them in the census. Will send you a form in a few minutes.

    • Hi Margaret,
      I just sent a copy of the worksheet to you via email. I hope it brings you new insights for your family research. Happy Holidays.

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