For Mother's Day this year, the kids and
I got Melanie a
23andMe DNA testing kit. She has spent a fair amount of
time over the years researching the family lineage which, in case you care,
traces back primarily to Germany and Switzerland. Along with some of the online
ancestry websites, she searched the U.S. Census database for immigration and
early American household information (number of people, ages, names, occupations,
etc.) The entire 1930 Census form consisted of a single page seeking basic information
on whether you own or rent, value of the home, live on a farm or not, color
or race, place of birth, veteran or not, etc. Interestingly, the 1930 census
also had a question asking whether there was a radio set in the house. Station
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, made the first commercial radio broadcast in November
of 1920 (reporting the Harding-Cox presidential election results), so having
a radio in the household was a relatively new phenomenon.
If you look on the
U.S. Census website's
page listing the questions included on the
1930 Census form, the radio question is not there! The
1930 Census Form 15-4a for which an image is provided
indeed does not include the radio question or any space for household data.
1930 Census Form 15-6 (image above), which Melanie found, contains the
Evidently there were multiple versions of the form, so that raises the question
of how accurate the summarized data was. This is why whenever possible, I look
for original documents when researching historical data rather than relying
on somebody else's research. A combination of ignorance, stupidity, laziness,
and personal prejudice often results in incomplete and/or incorrect data being
presented by 'authorities,' which is then cited as gospel by successive authors.
Beginning with the
1940 Census, separate questionnaires were used for personal
data and household data. The
1940 Household Census form asked about the presence of a
radio, and the
1950 Household form asked about both radio and television.
1960 Housing Census was the first to ask about air conditioning
and telephone. The
1970 Household Census asked specifically whether there was
a battery-powered radio in the household. None yet have asked about computers
or the Internet. This information assumes the page author actually got it right.
Images of U.S. Census forms:
1920 |1910 |
Posted June 9, 2017