By Angie Georgeff
March has arrived, so your invitation will soon be in the mail. Later this month, every household should receive an invitation to participate in the 24 decennial census of the United States.
Since the first enumeration in 1790, the census has endeavored to count every person living in the country once every 10 years. Mandated by the Constitution, the census is a cornerstone of our democracy. By knowing the population of each state and how it is distributed, lawmakers can fairly apportion legislative representation and funds. This means the census and a complete count are important to everyone.
In Tennessee, for example, state funds for library materials like books, audiobooks and DVDs are allocated by the population of each library’s service area. Because our library’s Official Service Area Population (OSAP) for Fiscal Year 2018/2019 was 17,761, that number determines the portion of available funds we get to spend during this fiscal year.
If Unicoi County’s population increases relative to other counties, our share of available funds may increase. That is one of the reasons I hope we don’t overlook a single person during this year’s count.
Households may respond to the census online, by phone or by mail. Excepting holidays and closures for inclement weather, our public access computers are available every weekday from 10 a.m. until 5:50 p.m., and on Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 2:50 p.m. Staff members are available to help, if you need assistance.
Responses to the 2020 Census are secure and protected by federal law. They can only be used to produce statistics. Your responses are kept confidential and can’t be used against you in any way.
Census records are not made public for 72 years following the count. Since I was born late in a year ending in 2, I was not listed in a census until I was 7 years old. I will be 79 before I am likely to see my own name in census records, but I enjoy searching the historic records for my ancestors.
I have looked at returns from every census from 1790 to 1940. They have helped me trace my ancestry and learn a lot about where and how my forefathers and foremothers lived. The questions have changed from one decade to the next.
If you are curious and would like to explore the census records that are available free through the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL), come to the library at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 12. We’ll talk about the kind of information you can find in historic census records and I will show you how to access and search them online. Reservations are required for this program, so please call the library at 743-6533 to reserve your place.