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Monday, January 18, 2021

Completing the census is our civic duty

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2020 marks an important year for our country, state and city. It’s a new decade and with that comes the decennial count, the U.S. census. The census seeks to count each and every individual residing in the U.S. Each household will receive a form so that everyone (relatives and non-relatives) residing in that particular home are counted.

Completing the census is our civic duty. 

The census is very important for a few reasons. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are three major reasons that being counted is important. The information from the 2020 census will be used to: 

• Ensure public services and funding for schools, hospitals and fire departments in the amount of $675 billion annually.

• Plan new homes and businesses and improve neighborhoods. 

• Determine how many seats your state is allocated in the House of Representatives and inform the redrawing of congressional district boundaries.

By federal law, “individual responses to the census are confidential for 72 years and cannot be shared with anyone, including law enforcement, immigration, tax agencies or even the President of the United States.”

All of those categories affect everyone who lives in the U.S., citizens or non-citizens. Congressional representation is critical in order to create legislation that will improve our country. 

2020 will be the first year that the census can be completed via computer or smartphone. Households will receive an invitation in the mail to respond online to the census. Some will also receive a paper questionnaire. There will still be census-takers who will go door to door to reach people who haven’t responded via paper or online. 

Staff members at your local public library will be prepared to assist you with completing your census online, if needed. 

As a genealogist, census records are vitally important in researching family history. Completing the census query this year will allow your descendants in 72 years to learn where you lived and who lived with you in 2020. 

Finding your ancestors in the census records is an exhilarating experience.

1870 was the first census that counted people by name who had formerly been enslaved. In the 1870 Louisiana census, St. Marys’ Parish, Rebecca Curtis and James Curtis are living together in the same home with Levi, Willie (female) and James. The census record indicates that Rebecca and James were born in Virginia. The record indicates the younger members were born in Louisiana. All members of the house are shown as farm laborers, except for Rebecca, where it indicates “keeping house.”

The information in the census record confirmed oral history that had been shared with me by the elders in my family during the many family reunions that I was blessed to attend. A census record is a snapshot in time. Don’t miss out on taking a picture of the people residing in your home. 

In Jemele Hill’s podcast, “Unbothered,” she recently spoke with Angela Rye and the topic of the census came up. Rye mentioned #DontBeThatAncestor. Rye encouraged everyone to answer the census. Enable your descendants to find where you were living in 2020. 

I encourage you to learn about the census by going to 2020census.gov or countmeindy.com. Follow the instructions on the questionnaire when it is sent to your home. Make your household count; ensure that your and our community are fully accounted for.

Talk to your friends and family about the importance of completing the census. Completing the census is one way that you can exercise your power and help to preserve your family’s history.

Nichelle M. Hayes is a native of Indianapolis. She is an information professional, genealogist, civic leader and lifelong learner.

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