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genealogy NOTES

U.S. Census Schedules for


Americans Living Overseas
1900 to 1930
By CONSTANCE POTTER
I
n population censuses each person is to be enumerated
at his or her “usual place of abode,” the place where the
person lives and sleeps most of the time. The usual place
of abode can be a home, hotel, apartment building, train,
car, closet, or even a cardboard shed. This assumes that the
person is living in a state, territory, or possession of the
United States. But what about people living overseas either
in the military or working as federal civilian employees?1
Census Schedules before 1900
The 1830 and 1840 censuses published separate population counts for people living
overseas, which were limited to the crews of naval vessels at sea. No documentation,
however, has been found that explains how the counts were obtained.2 The few number
of citizens living abroad for an extended time and the difficulty of communications
back and forth made taking an overseas census impractical.3
The 1850 census is the first time the instructions to the enumerators had rules
pertaining to people abroad or at sea:

The assistants in all seaports will apply at the proper office for lists of all persons
on a voyage at sea, and register all citizens of the United States who have not
been registered as belonging to some family.4

An 1850 census report stated that “American residents abroad should be ascertained
through the State Department” but did not indicate whether any overseas counts were
made or include in any tabulations.5
The 1860 census appears not to have included information of Americans living
abroad or on ships at sea. Instructions to assistant marshals in 1870 and enumerators
in 1880, however, indicated that “seafaring men are to be reported at their land homes,
no matter how long they may have been absent, if they are supposed to be still alive.”6

Americans Overseas, 1830 to 19307


Census Total,
year U.S. population abroad
1830 5,318
1840 6,100
1900 91,219
1910 55,608
1920 117,238
1930 89,453
Opposite: The mess rooms at Santa Cristina Barracks, Matanzas, Cuba, undated. Federal population censuses
attempted to enumerate U.S. military and civilian personnel stationed abroad, especially after 1900.

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1900 Census
The 91,219 people reported living abroad in 1900
included U.S. military personnel at military and naval
stations abroad and their dependents, including officers’
servants; federal civilian employees at military and naval
stations abroad and their dependants; and U.S. naval per-
sonnel, federal civilian employees, and officers’ servants
on naval vessels. The bureau counted principally citizens
living in the Philippines as well as Cuba, Guam, Puerto
Rico, and Tutuila (American Samoa).8
Americans abroad or at sea were enumerated on
Schedule 1, Population, Military and Naval Population.
Left: 1900 census schedule for Troop E, Seventh U.S.
Cavalry. This form is arranged by troop, then by rank,
and then alphabetically by last name. The captain
and first and second lieutenants note only that they
are “absent on D.S. [duty station] at Iuemados [or
Inemados] Cuba”; however, they do not appear to
be noted anywhere else on the census. Right: In the
1900 census, the population schedules come after
the corresponding military and naval population
schedules. In this schedule for Humacoa, Puerto Rico,
George Robinson’s name is crossed out as head of
the household as he is supposed to be reported with
his troops; however, his name does not appear on the
military and naval population census.
Above and below: Overseas military dependents,
federal civilian employees attached to military units
abroad, and their overseas dependents were listed on
these forms.
Above: 1910 census
1910 Census schedule for Troop C,
Second U.S. Cavalry.
By 1910, the figure of the overseas population dropped In 1910 the War and Navy Departments cooperated This typed form is
to 55,608. Citizens abroad included U.S. military person- with the Census Bureau in enumerating Americans liv- arranged by troop,
ing abroad. “Living abroad” was defined in the 1910 then by rank, then
nel at military and naval stations and their dependents,
alphabetically by last
including officers’ servants; federal civilian employees at census reports as living “beyond the limits of the United name.
military and naval stations and their dependants; and States proper and outside the outlying possessions in-
U.S. naval personnel, federal civilian employees, and of- cluding Puerto Rico and the Alaskan and Hawaiian
ficers’ servants on naval vessels. territories.”9
1920 Census
The 1920 census was the first to use a form specifically
for citizens living abroad, which included U.S. military
personnel at military and naval stations abroad and their
dependents living with them; U.S. naval personnel on na-
val vessels abroad or in American waters, but not on fixed
stations; and people living abroad in the service of the
American Red Cross or in the U.S. consular service and
their dependents, including servants, living with them.
(Red Cross workers included people working overseas at
the end of World War I.) This form added a column for
Above: 1920 census for “Military and Naval Populations, Etc.,Abroad.” rank and the U.S. address of each person enumerated.
This census enumerates the Office of the Sanitary Engineer for
No records that describe how the forms were distributed,
Haiti at Port au Prince. In this census the men listed as officers
appear with their families and do not appear to be listed elsewhere. collected, or processed have been found.
The 1920 instructions to the enumerators defined a
“citizen abroad” as any citizen of the United States who
is a member of a family living . . . abroad temporarily at
the time of the enumeration. . . . It does not matter how
long the absence abroad is continued, provided the person
intends to return to the United States.10

Left: 1920 census for consular service.This schedule does not indicate
the post, but an online search indicates that Irwin D. Arter was the
vice consul in Nuevitas, Cuba, 1918–1920. It appears that the “place
line shows “Ohio” because that is where Arter was born.
1930 Census

Charles W. Allen, the American vice consul in Ontario, also served


as the census enumerator in 1930. As such he provided the
biographical information about his family at the bottom of the page.
The following is the entry for his wife, Wilhelmina.
“Wilhelmina J. Allen, his wife was born in Pretoria, Transvaal, South
Africa of Dutch parents, and will be 38 years old in June. She
became a citizen of the United States by marriage to Charles W.
Allen, an American citizen, on July 10, 1922. She has no occupation
other than attending to her household duties. She reads, writes,
and speaks English, Dutch, and Afrikaans. She also reads and speaks
German.”

The 1930 census reported 89,453 citizens living abroad. The Census Bureau had a separate form for the crews
These included U.S. military personnel at military and na- of merchant vessels. Special provisions were made for
val stations abroad and their dependents living with them; “the crews of vessels in foreign . . . trade and . . . crews of
U.S. naval personnel on naval vessels abroad or in American sea-going private vessels of all kinds, except yachts, under
waters, but not on fixed stations; and people abroad in the the American flag, even though these crews have homes
service of the American Red Cross or in the U.S. consular on shore.”11 The officers, however, were to be enumerated
service and their dependents living with them. at their homes on land.
Documentation of Americans living overseas is scant,
and frequently all that remains is statistical information
found in the census reports. It is important to remember
that the records of that census may not have survived.
Note that people counted as living abroad were work-
ing for the federal government either in a civilian or mili-
tary capacity, with the exception of American Red Cross
staff in Europe in the 1920 and 1930 censuses. Although
people living overseas were counted in the census, they
were not used for apportionment. There is always the
chance that an American overseas was counted twice;
The crew members of the M.V. Silveroak were all from China and all aliens. Because of the once in the overseas count and again at his or her home
Chinese Exclusion Act, these men could not become United States citizens until the repeal in the United States. P
of the act in 1943.The Clegg Shipowning Company at 44 Beaver Street, New York, NY, owned
the ship in 1930.
Notes
1
This article is based on Americans Overseas in U.S. Censuses
(Bureau of Census Technical Paper 62, 1993) by Karen M. Mills.
This article follows the general outline of the paper but also in-
cludes information from census population schedules. It is avail-
able online at www.census.gov.
2
Ibid., p. 10.
3
Ibid.
4
Ibid.
5
Ibid.
6
Ibid.
7
Ibid., p. 7, table 2.
8
Ibid., p. 11.
9
Ibid., p. 18.
10
Ibid., p. 22.
11
Ibid., p. 26.
Author
The Floridian, out of Savannah, Georgia, was owned by the Strachan Southern Steamship
Company. A note at the bottom of this page from the 1930 census indicates that Ralph C. Constance Potter is a reference archivist specializing in federal records
Balderson and George Marr “state they have been married but have been separated from their of genealogical interest held at the National Archives and Records
wives without divorce, and have no knowledge as to whether the wives are living or dead.” Administration.

To learn more about


• NARA’s genealogy records and how to get started doing genealogy research at the National Archives, go to
www.archives.gov/genealogy/.
• Census records at the National Archives, go to www.archives.gov/genealogy/census/.
• Census in general, see past Prologue articles about past U.S. censuses, go to www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/, click
on Genealogy Notes.

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