1920 Census Federal Population Schedule

The 1920 census contains records for approximately 106 million Americans. The Fourteenth United States Census officially began on January 1, 1920 and took just over a month to complete. 

Areas with populations over 2,500 had two weeks in which to complete the enumeration. Other areas were given thirty days for completion.

Overview of the 1920 Census

Most genealogical experts suggest that the 1920 census is the best place to begin genealogy research because most people can trace their family history back to at least 1920. The 1920 census is full of information that can help researchers to trace their family roots even further.

The 1920 census was quite detailed, listing the usual age, sex, ethnicity and relationship questions covered in previous censuses, but also listing street or road names, house numbers and more.

It also included immigration status, schooling information, parent birthplaces and mother tongues, and type of work (including salary, wage or own account/now known as freelance work).

1920 Census Facts

  • 1920 Census Number:  106,021,537
  • 1920 Census Day:  January 1, 1920 
  • 1920 Census duration:  1 month
  • 1920 Census States: 48 States
  • 1920 Census Territories: Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Canal Zone, Guam, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands

Questions Asked in the 1920 Census

Example of the 1920 United States Federal Census for Griggs County North Dakota
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Example of the 1920 United States Federal Census for Griggs County North Dakota

Some of the questions answered by the 1920 census included:

  • Place of residence
  • Name of each person at residence
  • Relationship of each person to head of household
  • Home data
    • Owned or rented
    • Value of home or monthly rental
    • Does family own a farm
  • Personal Description
    • Sex
    • Color or race
    • Age at last birth
    • Marital condition
    • Age at first marriage
  • Education
    • Attended school or college in the last year
    • Whether able to read or write
  • Place of Birth
    • Each person and his or her parents birthplace
    • If United States give State or Territory
    • If foreign birth give country in which birthplace is now situated
  • Native language of foreign born
  • Citizenship
    • Year of immigration into the United States
    • Naturalization
    • Ability to speak English
  • Occupation & Industry
    • Trade or profession,  type of work done
    • Industry or business
    • Class of worker
  • Employed (Yes/No)

Enumerator Instructions

The 1920 Census was begun on 1 January 1920.

The actual date of the enumeration appears on the heading of each page of the census schedule, but all responses were to reflect the individual's status as of 1 January, even if the status had changed between 1 January and the day of enumeration.

For example, children born between 1 January and the day of enumeration were not to be listed, while individuals alive on 1 January but deceased when the enumerator arrived were to be counted.

1920 Census Resources

By order of the Eighty-Third Congress, all of the original 1920 census schedules were destroyed. Therefore, you must consult the actual microfilm in order to do genealogy research based on the 1920 census.

You may find the following resources helpful in your research of the 1920 census.

The 1920 United States Federal Census database at Ancestry.com consists of all individuals enumerated in the 1920 Census, the Twelfth Census of the United States.

Additionally, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to actual images of the 1920 Federal Census, copied from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Download Free a US 1920 Census Extract Form which allows you to read column headings and record information from the US Census.

Unique Features of the 1920 Census

Census Date

The date change for the 1920 census was requested by the Department of Agriculture. The department believed that in January, harvests would be completed and information about those harvests would still be fresh in farmers' minds.

Additionally, it argued that more people would be at home in January than in April.

New Areas Covered

The 1920 census did not list military service, duration of marriage or number of children, as the 1910 census had. However, it did contain some interesting new information.

For example, it was the first US census to include American Samoa, the Panama Canal Zone and Guam.

It’s also worth noting that the 1920 census has a microfilmed index for every territory and state that it covered. Indians on reservations at the time were recorded as part of the general population, not on separate schedules.

Institutional and Military Records

The Soundex index for the 1920 census lists institutions at the end of the Soundex and at the end of the enumeration section. Also, the Soundex index does include an index for overseas naval and military forces.

Servicemen were to be listed as members of their duty posts, not in their family’s enumerations.

Historical Considerations of the 1920 Census

Detailed Immigration Information

By 1920, a growing volume of the U.S. population had recently immigrated. One of the most genealogically useful things about the 1920 census is that it asks for detailed immigration information.

For instance, it asks for the year that each immigrant arrived in the United States. It also asks for the year of naturalization, where applicable. This makes it very easy to research naturalization records for that time.

Women as Head of Household

The 1920 census lists many of women as the heads of their households, rather than listing the men as heads of their household.

Therefore, when you are researching using the census, you may find it useful to look for female names.

World War I

During World War I, certain boundaries were modified. Therefore, enumerators of 1920 asked more specific questions about those whose origins were in Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany, or Turkey. 

Some even asked specific questions about town of origin for those born in other countries. The information and the way in which it was recorded varied somewhat between enumerators.

Interesting facts about the 1920 census

  • William H Taft is President during the 1920 census.
  • The U.S. population increased by 15 percent from the 1910 census to the 1920 census.
  • It took roughly $25,117,000 and 87,234 enumerators to complete the 1920 US census

Historical events surrounding the 1920 US Census

  • January 16, 1919 - The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified banning the manufacture and sale of “intoxicating liquors.” 
  • 1920 - American Professional Football League is formed.
  • August 18, 1920 - The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified allowing women the right to vote. 
  • November, 1920 - Warren G Harding wins the Presidential election in a landslide. Was the first presidential election in which women had the right to vote.
  • 1922 - The American Professional Football League changed its name to the National Football League.
  • 1925 - F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby. 
  • 1925 - The first collection of stories by A.A. Milne featuring Winnie-the-Pooh was published. 
  • 1927 - The Jazz age peaks with the selling of 100 million phonograph records. 

States Covered in the 1920 Census

1920 Census Map
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1920 Census Map

The 1920 Census recorded information from 48 states and 7 territories.  The new states of Arizona and New Mexico was included.

The 1920 census covered 48 States:

Alabama, ArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelaware, FloridaGeorgiaIdahoIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasKentuckyLouisianaMaineMarylandMassachusettsMichigan, MinnesotaMississippiMissouriIdahoNebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaOregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTennesseeTexasUtahVermont, Virgin Islands, VirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

The 1920 census also covered 7 Territories:
Alaska Territory, Hawaii Territory, American Samoa, Guam, Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

What was lost from the 1920 U.S. Census?

No major loss of records for the 1920 census.

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