Using U.S. Census Population Schedules, 1900

Developed by the Office of School Services, Wisconsin Historical Society.

Adapted from:


Study the copy of the 1900 U.S. Population Schedule.  Answer the following questions in writing or in discussion.

  1. What kind of document are you studying? Who collected the information? Why? 
  2. Are there any parts of the document that are illegible or confusing? 
  3. Who lived in the community? Where did they come from?
  4. Can you infer what might have brought them to this community? (If you were to move to a new place, what might you look for?) What seems to be the main industry in the community? How did they make their living? Can you find some occupations that people still work at today? 
  5. What can the information in this document tell you about life in 1900? 
  6. Did people have larger or smaller families in 1900 compared with today? Can you think of any reasons why this might be true? 
  7. What could you learn about your own community using federal census records? Would you find any of your relatives? 
  8. Do you need more information to answer any of the above questions or questions of your own? 
  9. If you had to design a new federal census population schedule, what new categories would you add and what categories would you delete?


  1.  Calculate the percentage of the people represented on these population schedules who were:
    1. born in another state                             ______ %
    2. born in another country                         ______ %
    3. born in Massachusetts                           ______ %
    4. Create a pie chart illustrating the results.

  2. Calculate the percentage of the people represented on these population schedules with at least one parent who was born in another country  ______ %
  3. Survey the class to see how many had a parent or grandparent born in another country, or were themselves born in another country.
  4. Select one household and carefully study its members (family size, occupations, ages, level of education, property). For part 1 of this assignment, collect the raw data and write a brief description of the household. For the second part, answer the following questions:
    1. Which parts of your description are based on facts?
    2. Which parts are based on inferences?
    3. What other kinds of information would be useful? Where might you go to find this information?
  5. Examine columns 11 and 12 on the population schedules.  Calculate the total number of births and, second, determine how many of these children were alive. Examining other sources--including world almanacs and encyclopedia to investigate infant mortality rates in history. How do these numbers compare with today?
  6. Examine column 8 and find some people younger than eighteen years old. Then look at column 19 and find their occupation (if any). How many were "at school"? How many had jobs? Describe these occupations. Have students identify the youngest and oldest people who had jobs. How do these numbers compare with today?
  7. Examine column 24. Does it include any people who did not speak English? Where were they from? Did any of their relations speak English?  What are the advantages of speaking more than one language?