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The 1900 Federal Census: Where is Carlsbad?

Although not listed as Carlsbad, we can find our early residents in the 1900 census and learn more about them.

When most people think of the federal census, the first thing that comes to mind is its statistical use. How many people are in our country now? Our state? Our city? For many others, those who do genealogy, the census helps with the search for their family history. A third use, which most people may not have considered, is as an excellent resource for historical research. The census can illuminate us on the history of immigrants, women, children, occupations, migration patterns, etc. For local history, the census provides another way to learn more about our community and early residents.

Carlsbad was established in 1887. Ideally, to get the earliest look at those first residents and their lives, we would examine the 1890 census. Sadly, only 6,160 people’s records exist from the almost 63 million enumerated for that census. California is one of the states whose records were lost in the fire. So we’ll take a look at the 1900 census and see what tidbits we can glean about our village and its pioneers.

In the federal censuses for the years 1900-1930, “Carlsbad” was enumerated with either Oceanside or Encinitas. Prior to that, we truly weren’t even on the map! The 1910-1930 censuses differentiate our residents from those of Oceanside and Encinitas with a notation of “Carlsbad Precinct” or “Carlsbad Township”. In the 1900 census, Carlsbad is enumerated in the Encinitas Judicial Township, but without actually naming our town or even our streets. So I have used my knowledge of early residents, as well as the Index of the Great Register of San Diego County, an index of registered voters for the years around 1900, to determine which pages are our census records. However, even that’s a bit of a guess as to where our town ended and Encinitas began because residents may have “lived” in Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas and even San Marcos depending on the record and year. And sometimes, they literally did live in a different area, census to census, record to record. Some early records put the Kellys in San Marcos because their ranches were outside of the main part of town. This brings up the point that although we consider Carlsbad by our current boundaries, for a long time, Carlsbad was just the streets west of the 5 and really just “the Village” area. Our boundaries changed and grew over time.

So for argument’s sake, we’ll look at the first four pages (minus a few people, who I discovered were Encinitas residents) of the enumeration of Encinitas in our examination of Carlsbad residents in 1900. I am including people who may not have “lived” in Carlsbad at the time, but whose residence became part of Carlsbad over the years. With those qualifications, we had a total of 52 households, with 298 individuals. For this census, residents were asked, among other things, how old they were, when and where they were born, where their parents were born, their occupation and their relationship to the head of household. If there were children of school age, they were asked how many months of the past year did they attend school.

With regards to occupation, the census form actually reads: “Occupation, trade or profession of each person TEN YEARS of age and over”. The youngest with a listed occupation in Carlsbad were 14 and 15 years old. They were boys who were “farm laborers” on their parents’ farm. The fourteen year did attend school for three months as well. Of the adults, there were many farmers. There were also merchants, carpenters, servants, farm laborers, two railroad station agents, two cooks, a shoemaker, a stenographer (male), three school teachers, a nurse, a stock raiser, someone who made hair bridles, two people who were “too feeble” to work, two men whose money was “invested in land” and two poultry fanciers. “Fancier” is a fancy term for breeder. For every married head of household who was a male, there was a housewife, but their (unpaid) occupations were not listed. There were aunts, uncles, parents, even cousins, living with the head of household. Like today, there were also many adult children living with their parents.

Most of our immigrants or foreign-born residents in 1900 were from England (fourteen) and Germany (six). We also had one Japanese man, five Mexicans (although one was born to an American father), four British Indians, one Austrian, one New Zealander and one Canadian. We had 35 first generation Americans, and about a dozen who had one parent born in another country. 86 were California born, mostly children. The oldest California born resident was Matthew Kelly, 43 years old. His parents were born on the Isle of Man and in England. The oldest California born resident with one parent born in California was Juanita Amadiato. She was 42.

Though Carlsbad had a younger population then than we do now, there were fifteen people over 60 years of age. Our oldest resident at the time was 90. Our youngest resident wasn’t even named yet, having been born in May and the census enumerator came by on June 5th. So Clinton and Aurelia Culver’s baby was listed as “baby”.

Most of the children who attended school went for 8-9 months. One six year old went for just a month, while the rest went for three to seven months. There were 44 students for the year, divided equally between boys and girls. They ranged in age from five to 17, which is really not too different from today. The most common age of our students was twelve.

One surprising statistic was the number of divorced residents. There were four people who were divorced. Although this number is lower than our own stats today, I was surprised to see any!

This snapshot of Carlsbad in 1900 gives us a small insight to who lived here, where were they from and what did they do? There are certainly more facts that can be extrapolated from this census, such as the average number of children per family, etc. Looking at our community during these early years can help us to understand how Carlsbad developed and its relation to the larger San Diego community. The 1940 Federal Census is going to be released on April 2, 2012. Although, it will take time and many volunteers, yours truly included, to index the census; my biggest question is whether or not Carlsbad will finally be enumerated by itself!

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