Yearly survey asks what census doesn’t

Posted March 27, 2010, at 3:10 p.m.

After last week’s column on the 2010 census and how the mere 10 questions didn’t ask much, in my opinion, a friend called to let me know that she had received a lengthy questionnaire in January. Was that part of the census?

What a good question. And before I could begin searching for the answer, one of our Web readers of Family Ties — under Lifestyle at www.bangordailynews.com — entered what I believe is the answer in a comment on our Web site.

“The Census Bureau does ask all those questions,” wrote Joseph Copsey, “but now it’s on a yearly basis and not just once every 10 years. It’s called the American Community Survey, and response is also required by law when you receive it. Go to census.gov to learn more.”

So I did. I read up on the ACS under American FactFinder on the census.gov site, and learned that the survey covers about 3 million addresses each year. The project began in the 1990s and has covered all 3,141 counties in the United States since 2005.

Questions cover occupation, income, commute time to work, home value, place of birth, school enrollment, plumbing facilities, year structure was built, year householder moved in and other topics.

Personal information is kept private, but the data are compiled into one-, three- and five-year estimates.

It will take me some time to become familiar enough with the databases to use them well, and of course they will be more interesting to us as we have more years to compare to one another.

Here’s the one bit of information I gleaned on March 24:

According to the 2008 ACS for Maine, among women age 15-50, 45 women out of every 1,000 had had a birth in the past 12 months. The margin of error was +/-5.

In urban Maine, the rate was 46 women out of 1,000, margin of error +/-9. In rural Maine, it was 44 per 1,000 women, +/-6.

There are lots of questions I want to check out on the American Community Survey. You may well find topics that interest you at census.gov.

My thanks to Joseph Copsey for directing me to the American Community Survey site.

—•—

I am certainly enjoying “Who Do You Think You Are?” at 8 p.m. Fridays on NBC.

I missed the Sarah Jessica Parker episode, but expected to see the one on her husband, Matthew Broderick, scheduled for March 26.

The March 19 episode on the show host, Lisa Kudrow, was splendid. She visited Belarus and Poland tracing her Jewish great-grandmother, who was killed during the Holocaust.

It was so moving to see her walking through the village where her great-grandmother had lived and was murdered less than 70 years ago.

Kudrow’s father told her of cousin Yuri, who had come to this country in the late 1940s and told the family what had happened.

He thought that Yuri was dead, but Lisa found him in Poland and excitedly visited with him, his son and grandson. When she got home, she connected her dad and Yuri over the Internet so that they could see as well as talk to each other.

On March 12, former Dallas Cowboys player Emmitt Smith followed his slave ancestry to Virginia and then back to Benin, Africa. Like Kudrow’s, Smith’s story had its own tragic moments. I’m sure not everyone could face a search that would likely yield a slave owner among his ancestors.

In Virginia, Smith found one ancestor’s marriage record in one of the county books of “Colored Marriages.” It happened to be Vol. 22, the number Smith wore on his jersey in both college and pro football.

The TV show had the actual research and finding of relatives done for each celebrity profiled, using more resources than most people will ever have.

At the same time, I’m sure that “Who Do You Think You Are?” will be the catalyst for many more people to start looking into their family history.

I plan to keep watching.

—•—

Surely you’d love to drive up to Saint John, New Brunswick, on Wednesday.

The Saint John branch of the New Brunswick Genealogical Society will meet at 7:30 p.m. March 31 at the Lion’s Den, Loch Lomond Villa, Loch Lomond Road, Saint John.

Mary Chisholm will speak on “Where Are the Athletes on Your Family Tree?”

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to familyti@bangordailynews.com.

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