The 1920 Census – A Research Guide

by | 7 Nov 2020

Census Day: 1 January 1920
Time to Complete: One month
U.S. Population: 106 million

On January 2, 1920, at 9:00 a.m., the Bureau of the Census began taking the 14th decennial census of the United States. All responses were to reflect the individual’s status as of 1 January 1920, even if the status had changed between 1 January and the day of enumeration (i.e., children born after 1 January should not be listed, and people who died after 1 January should be counted).

The format and questions used in the 1920 census schedules closely resemble that of the 1910 census. One notable change is that Native Americans living on reservations were enumerated with the general population rather than on special schedules as they were in 1910 and 1920. The 1920 census also did not ask about unemployment on the day of the census, nor did it ask about service in the Union or Confederate army or navy. Questions about the number of children born and how long a couple had been married were also removed. The 1920 census did include four new questions: the year of naturalization, the individual’s mother tongue, the mother tongue of the individual’s father, and the mother tongue of the individual’s mother.

For the first time, the majority of the U.S. population of 106,021,537, a 15 percent increase from 1910, was urban or living in a place with over 2,500 people. New York was the most populous city, followed by Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Cleveland. Over 13 percent of Americans (about 13.9 million people) were identified as foreign-born.

Questions Asked in the 1920 Census

  • street or road name; house number or farm
  • name, age (at last birthday), and sex of each individual in the household
  • relationship of each individual to head of household
  • whether the home was owned or rented; and free or mortgaged
  • color or race
  • whether single, married, widowed, or divorced
  • year of immigration
  • whether naturalized (na), alien (al), or have started the naturalization process (pa = papers)
  • if naturalized, the year of naturalization
  • whether attended school since September 1919
  • whether able to read and write
  • place of birth
  • father’s place of birth and mother tongue
  • mother’s place of birth and mother tongue
  • whether able to speak English and, if not, their native tongue
  • profession, occupation, or trade
  • type of industry, business, or establishment in which at work
  • whether employee, employer, or self-employed
  • whether or not currently employed; the number of weeks out of work in 1919

1920 Census Online

Research Another US Census Year:

1930 Census | 1920 Census | 1910 Census | 1900 census | 1890 Census | 1880 Census | 1870 Census | 1860 Census | 1850 Census

©2021 Kimberly Powell. Use of this article elsewhere without permission violates copyright. Short excerpts and links are welcome, with credit and a link back to Learn Genealogy.

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