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Global Valley

Fall 2013

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-111; Lisa Brooks (Section 01)Karen J. Sanchez-Eppler (Section 02)

Questions about research in this course? Contact Missy Roser.

  • Overview


The goal of this assignment is to track changes in the city of Holyoke over time from before 1900 to the present. Each group will pick a specific city neighborhood designated by an intersection.

High/Cabot St.
Lyman/Bridge St.
Maple/Lyman St.
Pleasant/Lincoln St.

I. Identifying enumeration districts (Historical)
II. Browsing historical census surveys (Historical)
III. Comparing Aggregate Data (Contemporary)

Historical Census Research

I. Identifying enumeration districts
Contemporary census information is gathered according to census tracts, but in the past the geography of data collection has varied quite a bit. Before searching Ancestry Library, you will need to identify the ward and/or enumeration district (ED) for your intersection. Note: These EDs aren't available for Holyoke before 1900 and will likely be different from year to year, so you have to go through these steps for each year.*

  1. Go to to obtain the ED for past censuses.
  2. There is a drop-down menu at the top of the page. Select the year of interest (i.e., 1900).
  3. There is a drop-down menu to the left of the page that allows you to select the state (i.e., Massachusetts).
  4. Now select your city (i.e., Holyoke).
  5. You will now be able to select your street, and then a cross street.
  6. There should be a list of enumeration districts common to your selections. Click on the button for More Details, which should also tell you the ward and boundaries, which will help you locate your street in the digitized census surveys found in Ancestry Library.

*This site doesn't seem to work for 1920. Use the following enumeration districts for 1920:

High/Cabot Street: Ward 6, District 62; Lyman/Bridge Street: Ward 1, District 31; Maple/Lyman Street: Ward 4, District 51; Pleasant/Lincoln Street: Ward 7, District 71

II. Browsing historical census surveys
Having identified the relevant enumeration districts, you'll now need to browse the U.S. Federal Census surveys for each year to see what information is available for your street. You might not find your exact intersection. Rather, you will be looking in generally the same neighborhood from decade to decade. The enumeration districts ensure that you are able to find the same neighborhood.

  1. Go to Ancestry Library. Note: you will need to log in if you are off-campus. See our page for accessing library resources off-campus for more information.
  2. Choose your year for US Census Records in the box at top right.
  3. In the "Browse this collection" menu on the right, select your state, and your county (Hampden).
  4. Holyoke is broken up into multiple wards, and each ward will have multiple enumeration districts (EDs). When you find your ED, click on the link, and that will take you into the digitized census surveys.
  5. You can zoom in order to find your street, which will be displayed along the left side of each census survey. Your street probably won't be on the first sheet, so you will need to browse through the pages using the arrows.
  6. Once you have found your street, take note of the kind of data that was collected. What kinds of questions were asked? How were people categorized? Are there patterns for a given street? Note: The questions will be displayed along the top of the census survey. You can also click on the green Index button in the lower left corner to see the transcription.

Contemporary Census Data

III. Identifying Census Tracts and Comparing Aggregate Data
Your street intersections will fall inside (usually one) census tract. It can be useful to know what tracts are of interest for a given analysis of census data. (Here is a handy reference diagram that shows levels of census geography.) Demographic variables that were measured in the decennial census have changed over time. Race is one example.

Now let’s look at some topics and how they relate to your selected street intersections in Holyoke:

1. Go to Social Explorer
2. Click on "Maps and Tables"
3. Under "Explore US Demography", click on "Start Here"
4. In the upper right hand side of the screen, you will see a search box for "address city town or place": Search for Holyoke, MA—once you get a map view, you can use the zoom tools to see individual streets and get to your intersection
5. In the left-hand menu you will see "Data selection 2010". You can click on this to reveal a menu for changing the census year and browsing the demographic variables (like population and race, etc) that are available for that year.
6. You can change the census year and compare (using tracts) different variables for the same geographies to see how things have changed. There are tract divisions from 1940 through the present