In past censuses researchers had no way knowing who in the household was the informant -- the person providing the information to census takers. And while it may have been the head of household or another adult, it might also have been a child (if an adult was not present) or someone who was visiting. In some cases, when a family was absent from the home, a neighbor may have provided the information or even the enumerator himself, based on his own personal knowledge of the family.
Happily, that has changed. The soon-to-be-released 1940 U.S. Federal Census was the first to identify the informant in every household. Knowing who provided the information can help researchers better evaluate the responses and have some measure of confidence, perhaps, in the informant's own personal information.
Help us improve this frequently asked questions area. Please send us feedback or additional questions.