U.P. 1910 Census Data Available on CD

Data from the 1910 census of the Upper Peninsula is now available on a searchable CD, with information listed by county, political subdivision, ethnic group and occupation. The project was 26 years in the making. About two dozen NMU students assisted with counting and other tasks over that period and Russ Magnaghi (History) compiled the data. The CD was released by the NMU Center for U.P. Studies.

While conducting research for other publications on topics related to U.P. ethnic groups, Magnaghi came up with the idea of going through the 1910 federal census of the region and listing the population of the immigrants and their occupations.

“Why the 1910 census?” he wrote in his introduction on the CD. “This census was the high-water mark for immigrant population in the Upper Peninsula. After that date, people left for the auto industry in southern Michigan and the natural resources of the region were on the decline, which caused more people to leave.”

Russell Olds, a recent NMU graduate (pictured with Magnaghi above last summer), was one of the students who assisted with the project. He recalls spending much time sitting in front of a microfilm machine.

“We would count—for example, ‘one Finnish miner, copper mine’—and write the information on index cards,” said Olds. “If you lost where you were, you had to start over again and if you didn’t know where you left off, the data might be inaccurate. We had to be very careful. It was easier to have two people on this task so one could write and one could keep staring at the microfilm. We gave the cards to Russ and he would put the charts together. Eventually it was converted to a pdf file. It was painstaking, but well worth it. I feel honored to be a member of the team that was able to capstone this project; I can only imagine how satisfied Russ feels that it’s completed after all these years.”

Olds said the CD would have been an invaluable resource for his own research on his Finnish heritage. He calls it a huge timesaver for history students and others doing ethnographic studies.

“The real value is that others don’t have to sit in front of microfilm; we’ve done it for them. This could save weeks or even months for analyzing even one ethic group in a county. The data is certainly about ethnicities, but it also puts U.P. history in perspective from an occupational standpoint. As an example, I never knew there were private blacksmiths up here. I figured maybe at the mines, but there were others in business for themselves. And lots of people didn’t have jobs when they moved here, which is also reflected in the statistics.”

Copies are available for $10 from the Center for U.P. Studies. The NMU Archives also has a copy.


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Updated: March 25, 2010

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