Genealogy for Economic History

A lot of cool work in economic history comes from data originally collected for other purposes. Recently, a lot of that data was digitized and transcribed by and other genealogical companies for people interested in tracing their ancestors in historical records—including censuses, birth and marriage certificates, death records, voting files, immigration and travel documents, and military records.
For this assignment, find an interesting collection of data on Don’t pick one of the Federal Decennial Censuses ( as these are pretty well known and used. Go off the beaten path. has lots of records from around the world, so feel free to pick something non-US-based if you want. You can get the “card catalog” of data here:
Please write one page. Include a link to the collection on
1. Describe the collection you are interested in: Who is in it, who collected it, what is it, where, how big, why, when, etc.
2. Pose a research question you could answer with this collection. We’ve read a lot of papers asking questions (What is the return to education? What was the effect of X invention? Did X cause inequality or mobility to rise or fall?) and now you have the chance to ask your own. The question could come first or it could be prompted by whatever variables are included in the collection you find on Be specific as to how the Ancestry collection you’re looking at could be used: what variables or observations would you construct from the collection.
3. To really carry out the research, you would probably need other data. For example, if you are interested in looking at the effects of state divorce laws on marriage patterns, you would likely need to connect the marriage data (and geographic information) available on and with data on divorce laws in each state from another source. Be clear about what kinds of other sources you’d need, but you don’t have to locate them specifically. Use the collection as a jumping off point.

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