Now What? Record Numbers

Now What? Record Numbers

What do census marital status abbreviations mean?

Q. In the 1910 federal census of Racine, Wis., I found the abbreviations M0, M1 and S for marital status. The M means married and the S is for single, but what do the 0 and 1 stand for?

A. According to the 1910 US census instructions, the enumerator had to ask if the person was “single, married, widowed or divorced.” (Go to <> and click User’s Guide to see enumerators’ instructions for all the federal censuses.) He was to record an S in column eight for unmarried subjects, Wd for widowed, D for divorced and M for married. The enumerator was supposed to inquire about previous spouses and write M1 for a first marriage and M2 (married more than once) for a second or subsequent marriage.

Joseph C. Hamata was the enumerator for the 1910 census in Racine’s Ward 7 (you’ll find the ward and the enumerator’s name at the top of census returns). Hamata wrote M0 in column eight for Leona and Edward Pulda, a couple living in the household of Hannah Dischler – they’re noted as Dischler’s daughter and son-in-law. Column nine, the length of the marriage, is blank, as is the column 10 space for children born to the mother. (Offspring born prior to a woman’s current marriage were included; no code differentiated children born out of wedlock. Stillborn babies weren’t counted.)

If a person married after April 15 – the “official” enumeration date used to calculate ages for the 1910 census – and before the date the census taker visited, he or she would be recorded as single. A similar policy applied for widowed people. The enumerator was to use a 0 in column nine for couples wed less than a year as of April 15.

Since the M0 notation is unusual, I looked for similar entries in the rest of Hamata’s census territory and found none – he seems to have followed his enumeration instructions quite well. My guess? Edward and Leona weren’t actually wed, but Leona used his surname, suggesting a common-law marriage. I recommend looking for them in Racine County marriage records to check this theory. Your other genealogical research also might reveal an explanation behind the Puldas’ living arrangement.

From the September 2007 issue of Family Tree Magazine.