My dad was born in May 1920, yet when I looked at the 1920 U.S. census and found his parents, my dad was not there. His brothers were, but he was not.1  Do you know why?

Because he was born in May 1920, and the official census date was January 1.   The census taker was given the instructions to list only those persons who actually lived in the household on the official census date, not the date the census was actually taken.   You will notice on the top of the census page, the date the enumerator was there, but that is NOT the official census date for counting people.  If a person died after the official census date, so was not alive when the enumerator came, that person was to be listed because he WAS alive on the official census date.

The official census date changed from  year to year as follows:

  • 1790 = 2 August 1790
  • 1800 = 4 August 1800
  • 1810 = 6 August 1810
  • 1820 = 7 August 1820
  • 1830 = 1 June 1830
  • 1840 = 7 June 1840
  • 1850 = 1 June 1850
  • 1860 = 1 June 1860
  • 1870 = 1 June 1870
  • 1880 = 1 June 1880
  • 1890 = 1 June 1890
  • 1900 = 1 June 1900
  • 1910 = 15 April 1910
  • 1920 = 1 January 1920
  • 1930 = 2 April 1930 – reflecting status as of 1 April 1930

So, next time you wonder why that baby is not listed in the census, now you know!

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Footnote:

  1. “United States Census, 1920,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MWYF-VHS : accessed 1 March 2015), Frank A Farrall, Minneapolis Ward 4, Hennepin, Minnesota, United States; citing sheet 15A, family 520, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,820,833.