Talk:United States Census Analyzing Census Data

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The section about ""Primary vs. secondary census information" says that most of the data in a census schedule is secondary information. We really don't know who the informant was, so would that make the information indeterminate?


Also, This section is confusing: "Usually other more primary sources would better document names, relationship to head-of-house, age, marital status, education, place of birth, citizenship, occupation, or military service. But it is best to corroborate one piece of data with several independent sources that agree, even if the source's information is secondary census data."

Maybe it is missing a verb?Viitanenm 15:22, 3 June 2015 (UTC)

Secondary usually means the information comes second-hand from another source in closer proximity to an event. Sometimes, it also describes a situation where someone was actually attendant at the event, but used his or her memory at some later time to describe it. The genealogical implication is that a researcher should look for more primary information because secondary information is usually less trustworthy than primary information.
Indeterminate implies we cannot figure out if the information is primary or secondary. Or, if I understand your argument, since we do not know who supplied the information to the census enumerator, we cannot figure out whether it was primary or secondary information. In the best case scenario, suppose the mother of the family supplies the census enumerator with the data. Isn't she normally in the best position to know the ages of her children of anyone alive? Yet, I would still describe such information as secondary because of the time delay since her children's births. And in a worst case scenario, if a neighbor was the informant, isn't the information even that much more secondary? All I am trying to show here is that most census information needs corroboration to be fully trusted. I believe the time-delay factor of most census information is even more significant than whether the informant was in a good position to witness the events described. By the time the census enumerator is standing on the door, most data is "secondary" because of time-delay more than because of who the informant is.
I do not believe changing "secondary" to "indeterminate" would better describe the situation or make the genealogical implications any clearer.
All sentences in that section have a subject and a verb. DiltsGD 21:27, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

I forgot to say that I agree with your classification. Thank you for expanding on this. Viitanenm 15:22, 3 June 2015 (UTC)