What census years asked women about childbirth?

Near the turn of the twentieth century, in an attempt to gather statistics on infant mortality, and lacking a comprehensive registration of births and deaths to gather such data, the U.S. Census Bureau began asking women questions (often referred to as fertility questions) about the number of children born and the number still living. The questions applied to births and deaths as of the enumeration date, which in some areas may have differed from the date on which the census taker arrived. Fertility questions were first asked in 1890 and continued through 1910; by the 1920s and 1930s, birth and death registration was largely in place, but in 1940 the question was asked again, on a limited basis.

Following are the questions asked, to whom the questions applied, and the census year the questions were asked, in parentheses.

Knowing how many children a mother had and how many were living at a given point in time can help researchers in putting family groups together and accounting for those that might be missing. The information may also help determine the total number of children born to a woman in her lifetime, through all marriages. In addition, it may help distinguish between a woman's own children and those of her husband, born of a previous marriage, overall, allowing researchers to build a more complete picture of female ancestors living during that time period.

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