The 1910 U.S. Census, which recorded Americans’ status as of April 15, 1910, was taken at a time of great promise. The Model T Ford was hot off the assembly line, the Panama Canal was nearing completion, and New Mexico and Arizona would soon join the union. It is a fascinating time to get a glimpse of your ancestors’ lives, as they stood on the precipice of what would end up being a tumultuous decade, featuring revolutions from Russia to Mexico and the First World War.
What the Census Revealed about the U.S. Population in 1910
The 1910 U.S. Census determined the resident population to be 92,228,496—a 21 percent increase from 1900. Foreign-born residents made up 14.7 percent of the population in 1910 (13.5 million), reflecting a surge in immigration at the turn of the 20th century. New York City was the largest city with over 4.7 million residents, three-quarters of whom were either immigrants or children of immigrants.
What 1910 U.S. Census Records Can Reveal About Your Ancestors
The census does more than collect information about the country as a whole. It also includes compelling details about your ancestors that help bring them to life.
The 1910 Census asked 32 questions, probing beyond the basics of name, age, and race. They covered occupation, education, and immigration status. The census also asked whether respondents spoke English and where their parents were born. A month before the count, the Census Act was amended to add a census question about the mother tongue of foreign-born residents. Since the census questionnaire had already been printed, enumerators put the response in the form’s birthplace column.
The 1910 Census asked mothers about the total number of children born—and how many were living. This reflects the era's relatively significant infant mortality: Out of every 1,000 births in 1900, 165 infants died within the first year, compared to about 7 infant deaths per 1,000 births by the end of the twentieth century.
Tips for Searching 1910 U.S. Census Records on Ancestry®
The 1910 United States Federal Census database on Ancestry® is a valuable resource for census records research. It includes data from all 50 U.S. states, as well as Washington, D.C., Military and Naval Forces, and Puerto Rico. Here are some tips for uncovering your family stories through this collection of records.
Search for your family in other censuses and vital records. There's more to your relatives than what's on the 1910 Census, so look at other censuses for more details. For instance, both the 1900 and 1910 censuses asked about unemployment status and home ownership; your ancestor's responses could show how their financial circumstances changed over the decades. Birth, marriage, and death records, known as vital records, can fill in information missing from the census. These details, like a woman's maiden name, can help you build your family tree.
Remember that borders changed, when looking into your family's stated place of origin. International boundaries changed after the end of World War I in 1918, so your family’s country of origin listed in the 1910 Census may be different from the one listed in later censuses. Sometimes people searching for their ancestors see two different countries listed in two different censuses and think there was a mistake in one census; but remember censuses are a snapshot in time, reflecting geopolitical boundaries in that census year. For example, in 1910 the country we now know as Poland didn't exist; it was partitioned between Austria, Russia, and Germany until 1918. So in the 1910 Census, depending on what region of Poland they came from, one of your Polish ancestors might have listed Germany (or Austria or Russia) as their native country. But in the 1920 Census, Poland might appear as their native country instead.
Look for veterans in military records. The 1910 Census can help you find Civil War veterans in your family. Though the war had ended 45 years earlier, enumerators asked U.S.-born men over 50 (and all foreign-born males who immigrated before 1865) if they had been in the Union or Confederate Army or Navy. If one of your ancestors served, you can search Civil War records to learn things like their rank, whether they were a prisoner of war, or if they left behind children or a widow.
Immigration status can lead you to passenger lists and naturalization records. The 1910 Census includes the year people arrived in the U.S. This can lead you to ship passenger lists with your ancestor's country of origin and port of departure. The census form also asked if someone was a citizen. If so, for immigrants you can search naturalization records from the previous years where you may find details like names of family members, last foreign residence, and even their signature or a physical description.
Your ancestor's “mother tongue" could yield more clues about your origins. Nationality alone couldn't capture immigrants' ethnic diversity, so enumerators asked foreign-born respondents about their native language. This reveals the culture or region that your ancestors came from. Someone born in Russia might have spoken Lithuanian, Yiddish, or Polish; a Bohemian-speaking person from Austria-Hungary probably hailed from what is now the Czech Republic.
Explore Your Family Story in the 1910 Census
The 1910 Census can reveal a picture of your family at a pivotal moment in American history. Find your family stories in the 1910 Census today.
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