The U.S. Census Bureau has kicked off its media blitz for the 2020 Census, and you’ll no doubt be seeing and hearing a lot on the internet, TV, radio and in print about the effort to completely count the nation’s population.
Q. What is the 2020 Census?
A. The census is a count of everyone living in the United States and its territories on April 1, 2020. A complete national census is done every 10 years. This will be the 24th census since the first one in 1790. Through wars, economic depressions and other turmoil, the count has never been missed or delayed.
Q. Why is the census done?
A. It is required by the U.S. Constitution, to determine how many representatives each state should have in Congress, and is also used to determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal taxes are distributed among the states. The number of members in the U.S. House of Representatives was increased to 435 in 1911 and then capped at that number in 1929. That means states that are growing quickly, like North Carolina and Texas, get additional seats at the expense of those that are growing more slowly or not at all. North Carolina is expected to gain a 14th congressional seat based on the 2020 Census.
Q. How else is census data used?
A. The census produces the country’s most complete tally of the population, and the data is available to anyone to use. It’s the basis for government and private studies and research, including other government surveys. Businesses use it for marketing and deciding where to locate retail outlets or other facilities. State and local governments use the data for all sorts of purposes, including how to draw districts for elected officials.
Q. Will anyone other than the U.S. Census Bureau have access to my data?
A. No. The Census Bureau releases only statistics, not individual results.
Q. Is census information shared with immigration authorities?
A. No. The rules against releasing census data to government agencies extend to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Q. Will my data become public someday?
A. Yes, after 72 years, individual census forms are made public. This is a treasure trove of information for historians and for people tracing their genealogy. Until then, it remains confidential. In 2022, the 1950 census forms will go the National Archives, where they will be made available to the public.
Q. Who fills out a census form?
A. One person per household completes the form. A household includes everyone who occupies a house, apartment, mobile home or room as their usual place of residence on April 1, whether they’re related to each other or not. A friend living in a room over the garage would be included in the household. A daughter away at college would not. People who live in “group quarters,” such as military barracks, prisons, shelters, group homes, dorms or nursing homes, are counted by an administrator for those quarters. Efforts are made to count people in transitory situations, such as living in hotels or campgrounds or homeless outdoors.
Q. How will I get a census form?
A. This will be the first time everyone will be invited to answer the census via the internet. The forms will be available online starting March 12, and every household will receive a letter in the mail about this time inviting them to fill it out online or by phone.
Q. What if I don’t have access to the Internet or don’t want to fill it out online?
A. About 20% of households in areas with low internet access will also receive a paper census form with this initial mailing. Other households that don’t respond online or by telephone will get reminders in the mail, and those that haven’t responded by early April will be mailed a paper questionnaire as well.
Q. What if I don’t fill out a form at all?
A. If a household still hasn’t filled out the form online, by phone or by mail by the end of April, the Census Bureau will send someone — a census employee known as an enumerator — to knock on the door and take the census in person. It is illegal to willfully not be counted by the census, punishable by a fine of up to $100 (giving false information on a census form can result in a fine of up to $500). But the Census Bureau hasn’t sought to have anyone prosecuted since the 1960s, according to John Thompson, a former census director. Thompson says the bureau believes it’s better to persuade people to participate in the census, by showing them how having everyone counted helps their communities get their fair share of federal dollars for transportation, education and health care. Enumerators will make several attempts to find someone at home if a household hasn’t responded.
Q. How does the census know where to send the forms?
A. Last year, the Census Bureau put together a master address list, derived from various sources, including where the U.S. Postal Service delivers mail but also local government records. The bureau has traditionally walked every street in the country to verify the list and look for homes that might be missing. This time, 70% of that verification work was done by satellite images, with 30% still done in the field. Creating a current and accurate address list can be a challenge in places where people have been displaced by natural disasters, or where new households are being established, such as new subdivisions.
Q. Are there long and short census forms, as in the past?
A. No. There’s just one form, and it will be limited to basic demographic information about the people living in each household. Detailed questions on subjects such as housing, commuting or income are now done through annual Census Bureau surveys.
Q. Will there be a citizenship question?
A. No. The Trump administration sought to include a citizenship question on the decennial census for the first time since 1950. But several state and local governments and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit, arguing the question would undermine the accuracy of the census by discouraging both legal and unauthorized immigrants from filling out the forms. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the rationale for the question appeared to have been “contrived,” but left open the possibility that the administration could provide adequate justification. A week later, the administration said the forms would not include a question about citizenship.
Q. Do you have to be a citizen to be counted?
A. No. The Constitution requires the government to count people living in the U.S. at the time of the census, not citizens. People visiting the country for a short time, on business or vacation, won’t be counted, but foreign students or workers who are living here for an extended time are counted. By the same token, American citizens living abroad for an extended time are not counted, with the exception of deployed military and federal employees.
Q. When will the census data be available?
A. The Census Bureau is required to deliver the state population numbers to the president and Congress in December. By March 31, 2021, it will deliver the detailed data, down to individual census blocks, to the states, which will use the information to redraw legislative districts.
WINSTON-SALEM — Learmond “Buddy” Hayes didn’t quite know what to think.
He’d always been curious about his lineage — “I watched ‘Roots’ in the ’70s like everybody else” — and a diabetes diagnosis gave a dormant interest more urgency
So he started to do a little research. He learned details about a grandfather killed in an auto crash, in the ’20s, when they were rare.
That nugget prompted more digging; he sent a DNA sample off to be tested.
And that helped lead to something really remarkable.
Hayes learned about an ancestor who fought as a “free man of color” in the Revolutionary War, and received an invitation to become the first African American member of Winston-Salem’s chapter Sons of the American Revolution.
But first he had to do a little more research.
“I thought it was like one of those Civil War things, and I wasn’t sure that was the kind of organization I wanted to deal with,” he said. “Then I found out what they were about.”
The Sons of the American Revolution, simply put, is an organization by and for history buffs who can trace direct lineage to a patriot who fought in (or supported in some way) the War for Independence.
“Every member is required to prove that their grandfather marched into battle, their grandmother secretly spied on the location and troop strengths or helped feed her son’s army,” said Fred Learned, a senior vice president of the N.C. Sons of the American Revolution and charter member of the Bethabara chapter in Winston-Salem. “If you can prove your grandparents gave a horse or a hog, or gave (patriots) a coat or a blanket, that qualifies you for membership.”
Which is easier said than done.
Proving lineage two or three generations back can be difficult enough. Eight or nine can be darn near impossible without a lot of persistence and no small amount of luck.
“I have one ancestor listed only as a slave woman,” Hayes said. “Nothing else.”
Hayes has spent time digging through records in courthouses Down East, in Bladen, Cumberland and New Brunswick counties in particular, in an area where he spent time growing up.
These days, with the help of DNA testing and the considerable reach (and consolidation) of information on the internet, research can be faster.
Anyhow, his search drew him to a distant cousin from Wilmington named Kevin Graham. “I was born in Wilmington, so it wasn’t far-fetched,” Hayes said. “But I hadn’t heard the name Graham in the family before.”
And that’s when he found the big discovery.
Graham, a genealogy buff himself, had already done a great deal of legwork. The paper trail led to a man named John Blanks Sr. of Bladen County.
According to the research, Blanks Sr. fought as a captain in the Craven County Regiment of a North Carolina militia authorized in 1775 by the provincial Congress.
The regiment fought in the Battle of Moore’s Creek, at New Bern and other places near the border with South Carolina.
“I find it extraordinary that, whenever I go home, the same fields where I was running around, hunting and fishing when I was young, could have been the same fields where they fought and camped,” Hayes said. “Some of those battles were right there and I never knew it.”
As exciting as the news was, some things about John Blanks Sr. remain a mystery to Hayes.
In particular, he’s curious about terminology.
“In some documents he’s listed as white or mulatto or other, which wasn’t uncommon,” he said. “I’m trying to determine how he became a ‘free person of color.’
“It could be that he emigrated from Africa to Europe and then came to America. Or maybe he was the son of a sailor.”
What’s not in doubt is Blanks’ status as an American veteran of the Revolutionary War. A pension check issued in 1784 — Hayes keeps a copy in his records — to him by the state of North Carolina proves it.
Black soldiers fought as patriots, but their role isn’t mentioned often. The Sons of the American Revolution has compiled a list of 80 or so from Eastern N.C., but documentation can be difficult to locate.
Guilford County’s Nathanael Greene Chapter does not have any African-American members. “As a chapter, we are always looking for eligible applicants and will gladly receive them regardless of race, religion or ethnicity,” said Josh Myers, chapter president, by email.
When Hayes learned about one of his ancestors, he was both surprised and pleased.
“I knew about Crispus Attucks,” he said, referring to a black man killed during the Boston Massacre, the first casualty of the Revolution, “but not much else. I didn’t realize African Americans fought for the United States.”
The next step — joining the Sons of the American Revolution — got easier once Hayes realized that the group’s mission was simply to honor those who’d fought for America’s independence from England.
Nothing divisive about that; and no hidden agendas.
He’s scheduled to be formally inducted at a luncheon later this week, and he’ll be the first African American member in the local chapter.
“It took all kinds of people to struggle for independence,” Learned said. “We’re very pleased.”
So is Hayes. He’s planning on taking two of his young nephews so they, too, can take pride in the family history.
“It’s not for me or anything I’ve done — trust me — but it’s to honor and respect an ancestor who did for all of us,” he said.
Come together: A convergence of great white sharks off the Carolinas’ coast has experts puzzled. Page A2
BEIJING — More offices and stores in Beijing and other parts of China finally reopened Monday after the Lunar New Year break was extended to discourage travel and contain the new coronavirus, but many workers and shoppers appeared to stay home.
Public health authorities are watching closely to see whether the return to business worsens the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 40,000 people globally and killed over 900, with the vast majority of cases in China.
Meanwhile, Mecklenburg County health officials are monitoring four travelers from China who may have been exposed.
The county has no confirmed cases of the virus “at this point,” County Manager Dena Diorio said late last week. “It is our intent not to speak to the media or others about those being monitored or investigated.”
State health officials cited privacy protection for refusing to say how many people are self-monitoring and where they live, including the region of the state.
In Diorio’s statement last Friday, she said: “Although the individuals coming from the most affected province in China are being routed to locations for 14-day quarantine, others coming from China are being assessed at the airport of arrival and are considered to be at medium risk of developing the infection or infecting others. ... However, we want to avoid unwarranted concern. Our area is still considered to have a very low risk for this novel virus.”
Britain, meanwhile, declared the virus a “serious and imminent threat to public health” and said it would forcibly detain infected people if necessary.
France tested scores of children and their parents after five British tourists contracted the virus at a ski resort.
The director-general of the World Health Organization said that the agency is still unable to predict where the outbreak is heading but that he believes there is still an opportunity to contain it.
“In recent days, we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China, like the cases reported in France yesterday and the U.K. today,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “The detection of the small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire, but for now, it’s only a spark.”
Zhang Peng, who works for a livestreaming company in Beijing, went to the office for the first time since the holiday, which was supposed to end on Jan. 30. The company checked employees for fever and handed out masks.
“I thought the situation is fairly good now,” Zhang said. “I went to work by subway today and underwent various checks in the station. And my company did a good job of prevention and control.”
Iris Ke, who works for an advertising company, said she plans to wait until next week to go back to the office.
“We just need to have a little more sense of self-protection,” Ke said.
There were few signs of activity on the streets of Beijing. The capital’s broad avenues were largely free of traffic, and thousands of rental bikes stood in long ranks with hardly a customer. Tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City remained closed, as did schools, and many people worked from home, hoping to avoid crowds.
Those shops and restaurants that did open found few customers.
At the Sanyuanli market in Beijing, the stalls were stocked with pork, mutton, seafood and vegetables and shoppers wore face masks.
“The number of customers here is down a lot, maybe by more than half,” said Liu Ying, who sells walnuts, cashews and other specialties. “But you can see a lot of people calling in orders, so we’re slowly getting busy again.”
The Beijing city government told residential compounds in the capital to close their gates, check visitors for fever and record their identities.
The government also warned people to strictly abide by regulations requiring wearing of masks in public and to avoid group activities.
The mainland death toll rose by 97 to 908 in the 24 hours through midnight Sunday, and 3,062 new cases were reported, government authorities said. That was up 15% from Saturday and broke a string of daily declines that the government had said showed that containment measures were succeeding.
More than 440 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China, including two deaths in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, wearing a mask, visited a community health center in Beijing. He had his temperature taken and expressed thanks to the health workers on behalf of the Communist Party and government.
“We will most definitely win this people’s war,” he said.