Over Count of Chinese in the Census: Part 2

In an earlier and lengthy post on this blog about how to use the newly released 1940 Census to search for Chinese immigrants, about halfway through the entry under the heading, "Some Strange Findings" I noted that I had found a few instances of a serious over-count of the number of Chinese in a few communities where I was searching for some other purpose.

As noted in that earlier post, the Census uses classification codes for recording information during face to face visits to households.  Thus, in recording the race of the respondent, a code of C2 stood for Colored and C4 for Chinese.  However, I found several instances where the count given for Chinese did not seem valid.  Checking the original census record sheets online, I discovered that the codes had been accidentally reversed, and C2's got counted as Chinese and C4's as Colored, thus inflating the number of Chinese.  

Recently, while on a search for a different reason, I found yet another example in the 1940 Census for Perry County, Alabama.  As shown below, there were about 40 names, none of which "appear" to be Chinese, a suspicion confirmed by examination of the actual online record sheets that revealed they were all African American or in the term used in 1940, Colored.

This problem did not begin with the 1940 Census as I also recently found the same error had occurred in a much earlier census.  The 1910 Census listing for Summerville, Georgia, shown below indicated there were 21 Chinese (only labelled as C on this summary table, but the names in the list do not 'appear' to be Chinese. An online check of the actual record sheets confirmed that none of the 21 were Chinese but were Colored.

I did not check samples from the 1920 or 1930 census, but given that this over count of Chinese occurred in some locales for 1910 and 1940, it is reasonable to assume that the same error may have occurred in those intervening Censuses, and possibly even in some prior to 1910.   I only found the tip of the iceberg, but the exact size of the unseen part of the iceberg remains to be determined. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I recently have been tracing my ancestry and I came across a confusing discrepancy. In a 1930's census for Birmingham, AL
    my ancestors are listed as negro. In a 1940's census for Birmingham, AL, the same ancestors and everyone in the neighborhood for about 3 pages were listed as "2/" or "/2" with "C" written over it (I presumed it was as a correction to Chinese). Then 2 pages earlier, on the same census, some people in the neighborhood are listed as "Negro" or "White". I wondered why they chose to list those 3 pages worth of people as Chinese and the others as Negro or White.

    I know my ancestors had some different features from most black people of that time (long hair) and at first glance they seem to have Monolids, but they were not Chinese (well, as far as I know).

    I was informed this was because they were mixed with Native American. I've been trying to speculate if the enumerator just assumed they were Chinese because of their features or if it was indeed just an error or just pure laziness. I don't know what to make of this, but based on this blog post it looks like it was just an error.

    I'm glad I came across this page. Helped me answer some questions. Thanks for sharing!




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