Headline of 1920 U.S. Census Form

I was working in a local archive the other day, looking for some information about the original owner of a historic property. My search for information led me to the census records, which I accessed via an internet database. I had some extra time, so I thought I would see if I could find some information about my grandfather’s family, which none of the relatives seems to know much about.

With a few clicks of the mouse, I had accessed the 1920 U. S. Census records and found my grandfather’s name. His entire family was listed: father, mother, older brother and sister, and then my grandfather, age seven. The census told me where they had been born, their occupations, and where they lived.  Finding this information was pretty exciting, and I look forward to delving deeper when I have time.

What struck me most as I read, however, was the way this document seemed to freeze time. Here, captured in this census record, my grandfather wasn’t the old man who had come to my birthday parties or taken me to visit veterans at the local V. A. hospital. Here, for all time, my grandfather is a seven-year-old boy, whose world consists of his mother, father, brother, sister and the street where he grew up. All the hopes and dreams, ups and downs, and mistakes and successes of his life are yet to be. At this moment in time, his life path remains to be decided. Here, Grandpa is not yet grandpa; he is a little boy playing with his toys, running through the warm rain on a summer day, going to school, and wondering what his future holds.

My grandfather passed away over twenty years ago, having lived a long, full life. In this document, though, he is seven forever.