The year 2020 is a Census year. Ever since 1790, the United States takes a count of its population and where they live. You will be asked nine simple questions, including who is residing at your address April 1, 2020.
Prior to the United States Census, there have been many civilizations that performed censuses, among them Egypt, Greece, Rome, Israel, China, India and the Inca Empire.
Probably the most famous census was the Census of Augustus. In Luke, Chapter 2, verses 4-5: "and Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, unto the City of David, which is called Bethlehem to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child." The Romans used their census to determine male eligibility for their Legions and to tax appropriately those lands they had conquered. Thus, Joseph, Mary and Jesus were part of this census.
The other noteworthy census was the Doomsday Book, the "Great Survey" of England and Wales. It was ordered by William the Conquerer after his conquest in 1066, and the survey (or census) was completed in 1086. The original manuscript is kept in the British National Archives and can be viewed online.
During the United States Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Virginia Plan for the legislature (Congress) was determined to be that the Senate should be comprised of two senators from each state, and that the House of Representatives should be elected based on population. Therefore a census was called for in the proposed Constitution. There was also a compromise, the Three-Fifths Compromise, that pertained to slaves. Each slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person toward determining the representation of the states in Congress. The Constitution was ratified in 1789, and the first United States Census was conducted in 1790. It's a sad commentary that while the United States had gained their independence from England and "all men are created equal," yet slaves were only three-fifths of a person.
The first U.S. Census was conducted in 1790 under the auspices of the Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. Census Day started Aug. 3, 1790, and was completed by the end of the year. The enumerators (then called marshals) took the Census in the original 13 states plus the districts of Kentucky, Maine, Vermont and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee). They had only six classifications: free white males 16 and older, free white males under 16, free white females 16 and older, free females under 16, all other free persons, and, finally, slaves. The count was 3.9 million, and President George Washington thought this was an undercount.
The Censuses of 1790, 1800, 1830-40 were conducted by the State Department. The next six Censuses were done under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. The Commerce Department took over the United States Census Bureau in 1903 and has conducted all the Censuses from 1910 until today.
Census Day has also changed over the years. The first four Censuses used the first week of August for their Census Days. The next eight (1830-1900) were June 1 (except for 1890 when it was June 2 because June 1 was a Sunday.) In 1910, the date was April 15, and in 1920, Census Day was Jan. 1. President Herbert Hoover determined April 1 as Census Day, and it has remained at this date ever since.
The 1890 Census schedules were kept in the basement of the Department of Commerce building in Washington, D.C. A fire in the basement destroyed all but 6,000 schedules, and these remnants were discarded. Public outcry led to the establishment of the National Archives. Today, the National Archives house all the Census schedules, as well as the Declaration of Independence, the original copy of the Constitution and President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Anyone doing ancestry study can appreciate these Census records. Census schedules generally include head of the household, spouse and names of the children with ages. I have also used Census statistics from 1820 until today for my articles I write monthly for the News Tribune. Cole County was created in 1820, and according to the 1820 Census, we had 1,028 citizens within our boundaries.
The current population clock of the Bureau of the Census estimates the United States population at 329,241,440, and the world population at 7,627,797,802 at the time of this writing.
In the 2020 Census, about 95 percent of housing units will receive their Census invitations in the mail. The U.S. Census Bureau will send up to five mailings to encourage our population to respond online, by mail or by phone. The Census consists of only nine questions, and question four does ask for your phone number. There are no questions asking for Social Security numbers or any personal banking or credit card information. There is no charge for filling out your Census form. All information given is totally confidential and will not be shared with any other federal agency.
The 2020 Census is easy. You will be asked to answer a simple questionnaire about yourself and everyone who is living with you April 1, 2020. This includes newborns, roommates and those who may be staying with you even temporarily. If you have family members who are away at school or working, they will be counted where they are April 1.
Cole County and Jefferson City are looking for 600 temporary Census workers to help conduct our 2020 Census. This can be a great summer job for students older than 18 who would like to earn $17 an hour plus mileage. We are still around 200 workers short so if you are interested, go to 2020census.gov and apply.
This will be the first time our population will be able to answer the Census online, but you can still mail or phone in your questionnaire. These Census workers will call on households that don't respond. The tornado last May destroyed a lot of housing in Jefferson City, and we want to find the people who have been displaced. They are important in our count. Be aware there will be scammers out there, but our workers will have proper credentials when they come to your door and will never ask for your Social Security number or personal bank information. Be careful!
Uncle Sam (Bushman) wants to count everyone in Cole County.
Sources: The United States Census Bureau, the Bible and historian Edward S. Gray.
Sam Bushman is the presiding commissioner on the Cole County Commission. He shares his perspective each month on county issues. He can be reached at [email protected]