Research Roadmap: Enumeration District Maps

Research Roadmap: Enumeration District Maps

Learn how census enumeration district maps can be useful to your research, and get tips for finding and reading these maps.

Since 1880, the US Census Bureau has divided states into numbered enumeration districts (EDs) for taking the census. Each ED was sized such that one enumerator could complete a count of the population living there for that year’s census. You can find ED numbers for your ancestor’s hometown using the Unified Census ED Finder tool.
 

To organize enumerators’ efforts, the Census Bureau created ED maps that display the boundaries and numbers of each ED. On the ED map below (from Allen County, Ohio, in 1940), ED numbers are larger and lighter than the other type on the page, and ED boundaries, which are usually along roads or railroad tracks, are in black.

ED maps are valuable companions in census research, providing a visual representation of how enumerators conducted their research.
 
They’re also useful for genealogists, particularly when you compare them to contemporary street maps to see where your ancestor’s neighborhood was and where he lived in relation to another family. Some maps, like this one, label local landmarks such as churches and schools. In addition, the size of your ancestor’s ED reflects how many people lived within it, with geographically smaller EDs having a greater population than in larger EDs. In this map, the shaded area—the city of Lima, Ohio—has ED numbers 2-21 through 2-56, while EDs surrounding the city cover large swaths of land.
 
Most surviving ED maps are at the National Archives and Records Administration. On Family­Search.org, you can browse a collection of these maps from the censuses taken between 1910 and 1940, organized by state and county.
 
Click the small ED map image below to open a larger image in a new browser window.
 
 
 
From the December 2015 Family Tree Magazine 

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