So, I was on a mission to find a simplified, interactive way to introduce my kids to censuses, which includes teaching them WHAT a census is and WHY we have them. Fortunately, there is a great children's book that helped me to do so. It's called Tricking the Tallyman by Jacqueline Davies and illustrated by S. D. Schindler. The story takes takes places in Vermont in 1790, during the nation's very first census. The story follows the experiences of Phineas Bump, the census-taker, as he attempts to collect an accurate tally of the town of Tunbridge. First, the villagers hide people because they think it will mean more taxes and conscription. Then, on his second try, they inflate numbers because they hear it will be more government representation. When the villagers realize it will bring both more taxes and representation, they cooperate with Phineas and he does get an accurate count in the end. There is a lot of mischief going on in this book, which makes it fun for kids, plus the illustrations are very educational in teaching kids about what people wore and about the types of homes in which they lived back then.
I made two worksheets for kids who want to 'play census.' One is geared towards older children who can read and write independently, but it is still a simplified version of a census form. The other form is much simpler still, and is meant to be used by kids who are not yet reading independently. An adult or older sibling will still have to help a young child out, but the pictures above the columns (for house number, adult men, adult women, boy children, and girl children) will help the child better visualize what he/she is counting. There is even a place for them to do some simple adding of their tally marks. (Click on each image to open the PDFs.)
Once they understand what a census is and how it was accomplished, THEN you can start showing kids actual census schedules on which their ancestors are recorded and talking with them about all the helpful information that we can learn from those records.
©2016 Emily Kowalski Schroeder