So you’ll really appreciate the efforts of Bud and Jeri Crow, we want to give you an idea of what they went through to amass the information in First Families of Cliffside. (See related articles from the Daily Courier here and here.)
To begin, they purchased a reel of microfilm containing Rutherford County’s 1910 Federal Census. On the reel the information is grouped by township. Within each township the data are grouped by voting precincts. They focused only on the Cliffside precinct. Each frame for that precinct contains a page from the original book in which the census taker recorded—in 1910, in her own handwriting—details of Cliffside’s 2,118 citizens.
Microfilm is not much good without a “reader” or projector to view the 35mm film. So the Crows bought a reader, set it up in their home, and over the next decade studied and transcribed the film frame by frame. Each frame (or page) of film contains the data for dozens of people.
As you can tell from the sample, it can be a much more difficult process than simply copying what you see, for, in many cases, it’s hard to tell what you’re seeing. Naturally you have to decipher the handwriting, which, with Miss Melton’s fairly readable hand, wasn’t all that difficult. But a major problem was the condition of the film. They were plagued by film scratches, focus problems, the aging of the paper itself, etc.
Nonetheless, the Crows spent hundreds of hours, interspersed with their other research projects and family life, peering at the reader screen—deciphering, interpreting, confirming. Finally, in 1991 they had it all down, in a computer spreadsheet where they could sort, analyze, graph and print the material.
And thus the book.
There is considerably more information in the book about each individual than is included in this online version. The book includes the following additional data fields (which may or may not have been filled in by the enumerator).
- A number representing each house in order of visitation
- A number representing each family in order of visitation
- Number of years of present marriage
- Mother of how many children born
- Number of children living
- Place of birth of a person
- Place of birth of the father of a person
- Place of birth of the mother of a person
- Whether able to speak English; or, if not, the language spoken
- Whether an employer, employee, or working on own account
- If an employee, whether out of work on April 15, 1910
- If an employee, number of weeks out of work during year 1910
- Attended school any time since September 1, 1909
- Owned or rented
- Owned free or mortgaged
- Farm or house
- Number of farm schedule
- Whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy
- Whether blind (both eyes)
- Whether deaf and dumb
The book lists the households by visitation order, whereas this online version is in house number order. With the book, for those households with missing address elements, you can, with some degree of accuracy, place them in proximity to known addresses by following the enumerator’s path of visitation. You might, for example, deduce that you grandpa probably lived in a particular house on a particular street, even though the enumerator didn’t record the full address.
Are the Crows planning a book on the 1920 census? Not likely, they say. The handwriting for the Cliffside precinct that year is practically unreadable.
If you’d like to consult the book, contact your local library, they may have a copy.