Tuesday, April 26, 2005


1a. Editor's Desk: Who's the Head of Household?

Marie Beckman writes, "While checking several possibilities in the U.S. census records for a lookup request I had received I came across an entry that struck me as odd. It listed R. E. MORRIS as "Head of Household" -- nothing shocking about that, but the listings which followed were that of six sons. What was odd about the sons was that none of them had the surname MORRIS and some were even older than the R. E. MORRIS who was listed as head of household.

"The census went on to list a daughter and nine more sons. The entries that followed was just as odd. Upon checking the top of the census form, I found that these were entries from the Tennessee State Penitentiary. Obviously the census taker didn't follow the instructions he was given. These entries are located in the 1900 U.S. Census of Davidson County Tennessee, 13th Civil District, on pages 158-168 (T623_1566)."

The instructions to the enumerators for the 1900 census were rather specific in this regard, but obviously not everyone followed them.

They were:

"Wherever an institution, such as a prison, jail, almshouse, hospital, asylum, college, convent, or other establishment containing a resident population, is to be enumerated, the full name and title of the institution should be written on the line provided therefore at the head of the sheet, and all persons having their usual places of abode in such institution, whether officers, attendants, inmates, or persons in confinement, should then be entered consecutively on the schedules.

"If, as sometimes may be the case, a sheriff, warden, or other official lives in one end of the institution building, but separated by a partition wall from the building proper, his family (including himself as its head) should be returned as a separate family, and should not be returned as part of the 'census family' to which the inmates are credited. In such case the officer in immediate charge should head the institution schedule.

"When the officers or attendants, or any of them, do not reside in the institution buildings, but live with their families in detached dwellings located in the institution grounds, they should be reported as separate families, but should be included as a part of the institution population. The families of officers or attendants who reside wholly outside the institution precincts, either in houses rented or owned by the institution, or by themselves, should not be enumerated as a part of the population of the institution.

"When an institution is enumerated, write on each sheet in parenthesis, immediately following the name of the institution at the head of the sheet, the numbers of the lines upon which the inmates thereof have been entered, as for example, 'East Side Mission (lines 6 to 69, inclusive).' In all such cases, however, give in the proper place of entry the name of the township or other division of county and also the name of the city, village, or borough, etc., in which the institution is situated. "Special enumerators will be appointed to canvass many of the larger institutions, and in such cases the tour of duty of the special institution enumerator will not extend beyond the boundaries of the institution grounds, but should include all those persons and inmates whose usual places of abode are clearly within the institution territory."

See "Instructions to the Enumerators" for 1880, 1910, 1920, and 1930:

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 20 April 2005, Vol. 8, No. 16.