Census Year

1920 Census Overview

The 1920 U.S. Census records were collected in January versus the typical spring date in April, to align with the harvesting dates and with the goal of helping census takers capture a higher percentage of the population. During this census year, the U.S. population exceeded 100 million for the first time in U.S. history.

1920 Census Facts

  • Population: 106,021,537 - 15% growth vs the 1910 Census
  • Census Date: January 1920
  • Census Date Released: 2005
  • Number of States Participating: 48 48 (Alaska & Hawaii not yet states) - New states in the 1920 census: Arizona & New Mexico
  • US Territories Participating: Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Canal Zone, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
  • Data Lost: None
  • Separate American Indian Schedule: No

1920 Census Questions Asked

The 1920 Census asked four new questions including the year of naturalization and native language. Due to the border changes after WWI confusion arose around the place of origin. Respondents who declared they or their parents were born in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia or Turkey, were asked to spell out the city, state, provinces of their origin.

In addition, questions about unemployment on the day of the census or military service in Union or Confederate armies were removed.

  • Name
  • Location
  • Household Data - Number of people, if the house was rented, owned or a farm
  • Relation - of the responder to the head of the household
  • Personal Description - Sex, race, age at last birthday, marital status
  • Education
  • Year of immigration to the U.S.
  • Naturalized? Alien? Year?
  • Place of Birth - noted both US & foreign locations - Father’s & Mother’s place of birth - Father’s & Mother’s native tongue
  • Employment - type of work, if they were a farmer
  • Veteran & Name of war or expedition

Although a supplemental Schedule for Indian Population was recorded, there were fewer questions compared to previous censuses.

Notable Events Between 1910-1920:

Politics & WWI
  • Arizona became the 48th state in 1912
  • On April 6, 1917, the U.S. joined WWI with the Allies and declared war on Germany.
  • On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending the war.
Technological Innovations
  • By 1911 the first transcontinental airline began operation from New York to Pasadena, California.
  • By 1913, the first assembly line launched by Ford.
  • The first telephone conversation occurred by Alexander Graham Bell & Thomas A. Watson between New York and San Francisco in 1915.
Sports & Pop Culture
  • Boston’s iconic Fenway Park opened in 1912, Babe Ruth joined the MLB in 1914.
  • In April 1912 the Titanic crashed and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean.

1920 Census Data from GenealogyBank

When researching your ancestors, census records are a great place to start. In addition to general report data such as age, place of birth and marital status, census data can uncover details like whether your ancestor was an immigrant or worked in a specific trade. Discover more about this decade and the lives of your ancestors by searching the 1920 US Census. Then, using the details you find in the census, continue your search with our newspaper archives to uncover their stories. Did they work at the Ford Motor factory or were they featured in local newspaper stories about the impact of the assembly line on their jobs? Find out these and more by searching your ancestor’s name in the 1920 Census.

About the 1920 US federal census

The 1920 census was the fourteenth census that was carried out by the US government. When you compare the 1920 census records with other years, you will notice that it stands out from all other censuses carried out. There are a number of things that can be labelled as unique for the 1920 census.

The United States census 1920 was conducted on January 1, whereas the dates and months for other censuses in years ranging from 1790-1910 varied from August, June, and April respectively. It was after the 1920 US census that April 1 became the finalized date and month for the US census.

In this census, all responses were supposed to be as of January 1, 1920. It omitted children born between January 1, 1920 and enumeration date, while people alive on January 1, 1920, but dead by enumeration date were included. Moreover, a handful of new immigration questions emerged in the 1920 federal census, making it unique. A number of questions were also removed from the 1920 United States census as they were not considered important, such as asking the citizens how many children they gave birth to and how many lived, years of marriage, military services, unemployment, etc.

Changes were also made in the schedules which, before 1920, included a discreet schedule for Native Americans. However, after the 1920 US census, there was no separate schedule for them. Servicemen were counted at duty posts, not in their families.

What can we learn from a 1920 census search?

If you search the 1920 census, you will notice how the year created a historical impression, making this census not only unique, but important for the history of the country. The 1920 United States federal census recorded how events that took place in 1920 affected the entire world, including the United States.

Because of World War I, the 1920 census records show some of the most devastating records of all time. The vast number of American troops who were part of the Great War are recorded, as well the tragic number of them who did not return home. The census records can also show the damage done to those who did return home—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

1920 census records also show a drastic change that took place in the society over those years: the participation of women in meaningful public decisions. This was the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement. Finally, the census of 1920 highlights the great impact of the Spanish Flu. This disease showed one of the highest rates of deaths in history, the effects of which are displayed by the census. The years that followed the pandemic caused the people of the United States to make significant changes to their way of life.

Why are census records important?

A census is carried out after every 10 years and, therefore, census records play a very important role in understanding the progress of the country during that decade. These records help the government to look at past data and compare it with existing data, which they gather through these census. This data is then utilized to create a comparative analysis of the past and present situations of the country and to discover trends.

Researching into past US census records enables states to highlight their growth and improve their investment and funding in different sectors. The data helps all decision makers to use their expertise and funding on different sectors depending on how well or how poorly that sector is performing as shown by the records. For instance, suppose census records show that there is a huge percentage of people who belong to the employment age, but they are still unemployed. The government can use this info to allocate a percentage of the annual budget to create jobs for these unemployed citizens, helping them improve their standard of living.

This is only possible if you have accurate census records: the revenue of the country is at stake here. If the state allots a large amount of funds to the wrong sector—depending on the data collected through these records—then the country will have to face consequences in the other sectors where funding was actually needed.

What can 1920 census records be used for?

The data collected through the 1920 census records can help many people realize how the world shifted for Americans after facing two life changing events: the Great War and The Spanish Flu. The 1920 census can be used to view instances of social progress, where women rather than men were listed as head of household in the Soundex index. Plus, the 1920 census (column 15) indicates the year in which individuals were naturalized; the census asked more specific questions to immigrants from Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey that could facilitate pinpointing birthplaces.

The 1920 census records can be used to carry out genealogical research to trace back to your ancestors who were living during that era in the United States. So, if you are looking for more information about your lineage, wondering how your family lived after the pandemic, or interested in knowing how they survived during the Great War, you can access a large pool of information providing answers.