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American Religious Ecologies at AHA 2023

Lincoln Mullen

Our project's poster displayed at the American Historical Association gives an overview of the project.

Our poster for AHA 2023

How we digitize the 1926 census

Lincoln Mullen

A comprehensive case study documents our process for digitizing and transcribing the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies.

A thumbnail of transcribing the 1926 census of religion

How middle was Middletown?

Lincoln Mullen

The city-level data from the Census of Religious Bodies lets us understand how ecologies of religion varied from city to city..

A visualization comparing religious diversity in U.S. cities

Schedule Spotlight: the Dorcas Spiritual Alliance Church

Caroline Greer

This month's spotlight schedule focuses on a small, female-led Spiritualist church in Philadelphia mentioned in our recent visualization.

Schedule for the Dorcas Spiritual Alliance Church located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Latter-day Saints and the 1926 U.S. Census of Religious Bodies

John G. Turner

The Latter-day Saints participated actively in the Census of Religious Bodies, but their schedules were filled out centrally by the office of the Presiding Bishop.

Schedule for the Bannock Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1890 Census.

Schedule Spotlight: the Amana Society

Caroline Greer

This month's spotlight schedule is about the Amana Society, a communal living society with seven villages across Iowa. Here we look into the group's history and development and their communities as they were in 1926, while also examining how the Census Bureau collected data about non-traditional denominations.

The Main Meetinghouse in Amana, Iowa.

Schedule Spotlight: Watervliet Shakers

Caroline Greer

The Watervliet Shakers in Colonie, New York were the site of the first permanent Shaker settlement in the United States. This post explores the community in 1926.

The 1926 Census Schedule for the Watervliet Shakers in Colonie, New York.

The Absence of Muslim Americans in the Religious Bodies Census

John G. Turner

The Census Bureau did not count any mosques or any Muslim communities in the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies. Here, we explore why the absence of Muslim Americans is significant.

A group of Black men and women pose outside of the Moorish Science Temple of America and under a banner. The banner states the name of the temple, and the dates October 15-20, 1928. Below that is written "Prophet Noble Ali. Founder."

Schedule Spotlight: Advent Christian Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Caroline Greer

For Women's History Month, we are spotlighting a congregation that not only had a female pastor but had highly active women church members in their church services and official leadership.

The Census schedule for the Advent Christian Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Two women are featured on the schedule: Mrs. Susie M. Dow, the preacher, and Evalyn B. Dean, the clerk.

How the Religious Bodies Census Changed Its Questions Over Time

Caroline Greer

Through the four different Religious Bodies censuses conducted through the decades of the early twentieth century, the Census Bureau changed the way it asked certain questions and how it approached gathering information. This blog posts discusses changes made to the questions it asked about ministers.

A separate schedule for Ministers sent out by the Bureau in 1916 asking questions such as name, denominational connection, education, salary, and more.

City-Level Data in the Census of Religious Bodies

Lincoln Mullen

The U.S. Census Bureau published aggregated data for U.S. cities. This data can be used to understand how cities varied in the number of religious options they had available, and in the proportion of the city's population that was counted as being the member of a religious body.

A visualization of the proportion of members in a given city.

Schedule Spotlight: Plymouth Brethren I: 122

Caroline Greer

This Plymouth Brethen schedule included a handwritten note located on the back of the document. This note included the name of a woman who owned the house where the congregation met. With some online digging, we learn more about this woman here.

The handwritten note located on the back of the schedule. The note reads in part Hall owned individually by a sister, Lois Bowers, 2nd story above store and dwelling. Opening, gladly, for someone with truth to come and feed the little flock here; also for a work of evangelist, this being a stronghold for Universalists and the Holiness workers.'

American Rescue Workers

Greta Swain and Caroline Greer

The 41 American Rescue Workers schedules included in the 1926 U.S. Census of Religious Bodies all include an extra page detailing the organizations charity work at specific missions. By analyzing the locations and specific type of charity work done we explore how the missions met their constituents' needs. We also note how their work was so important that the organizations included information not asked for on the schedule.

A close-up image of the added sheet for the American Rescue Workers' organizations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The social work list includes lodgings, meals, garments, carfares paid for, positions secured, families supplied with milk, and medical aid.

Schedule Spotlight: Reverend Ida Bedell Manville

Caroline Greer

The schedule for Willow Grove Adventist Church in Mt. Liberty, Ohio listed the pastor as “Mrs. Ida Manville.” Using census records and other online sources, we've found out more about her life and family.

A black and white portrait of Reverend Ida Manville, a white woman. She stands while leaning her arm on a couch and is wearing a dark dress, a light-colored hat, and holding a bag in her hand. Her name is printed on the bottom of the image.

“Negro Baptists” in the U.S. Census of Religious Bodies

John Turner

The 1926 U.S. Census of Religious Bodies added “Negro Baptist” to the denomination list it used, despite it not being a name used by any African American Baptist congregation. Here we explore why this categorization was used.

Schedule from St. John's Baptist Church in Woburn, Massachusetts. The Bureau wrote 'Colored' at the top of the schedule.

Deploying DataScribe to Create a New Dataset for American Religious History

Greta Swain

American Religious Ecologies is using a new transcription module called DataScribe to create datasets from the Census of Religious Bodies.

The Datascribe dashboard when the user first logs in.

Female Pastors in the 1926 Census Schedules

Caroline Greer

A number of female pastors appear in the 1926 U.S. Census of Religious Bodies. This post seeks to explore these women and the questions we can ask and answer about women in the census.

A Schedule from the Lawrence Street Primitive Methodist Church in Lowell, Massachusetts, where Alice Haire pastored.

40,000+ Documents from Religious Bodies Census Digitized Nearly a Century Later

Lincoln Mullen

Today we are releasing the initial version of a website that makes available tens of thousands of documents from the 1926 U.S. Census of Religious Bodies. These documents are freely available to scholars, students, and local historians, who can browse or search for them by location or by religious identification.

A screenshot of the site that hosts the digitized schedules.

Video: From infrastructure to interpretation in the digital history of American religion

Lincoln Mullen

One of the historians on the project offers a behind-the-scenes look at how our team is digitizing, transcribing, visualizing, and interpreting the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies.

Slide from the presentation featuring a census schedule

How the the Religious Bodies Census was first digitized ... in the 1920s

Lincoln Mullen

Once the Census Bureau had gathered the hundreds of thousands of schedules from religious groups, it had to count them up. Markings on the census schedules let us reverse-engineer how the Census Bureau went about literally counting religion.

Photo of the Hebrew-language Census Schedule

What can you learn from a census schedule?

Lincoln Mullen

The Census Bureau spent a great deal of effort in designing the schedules, or forms, that it sent out to hundreds of thousands of congregations for the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies. Those forms were the primary expression of what the Bureau thought religion was: what about it was worth counting, and which groups counted as a religion. What can we learn from these schedules?

Photo of the Hebrew-language Census Schedule

American Jews and the U.S. Census of Religious Bodies

John Turner

The U.S. Census Bureau struggled to decide how to count Jewish Americans, experimenting with several methods of enumerating synagogue membership. Beginning in 1926, the Bureau outsourced the task to the American Jewish Committee, which reported estimates of the entire Jewish population of places rather than the membership of synagoguges and other Jewish organizations.

Photo of the Hebrew-language Census Schedule

Digitization of 230K+ Schedules Has Commenced

Greta Swain

Work is now underway to inventory, digitize, and make freely available online more than 232,000 schedules of the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies, a mostly unused collection housed at the National Archives. These documents contain important information about America’s religious life in the early twentieth century.

Photo of the National Archives

Religion and the U.S. Census

John Turner

For a century, the Census Bureau collected information about religion in the United States. Here is how the Bureau's efforts began with the 1850 decennial census, how it expanded to the Censuses of Religious Bodies, and why the religion censuses eventually came to an end in the middle of the twentieth century.

Census Bureau employees

RRCHNM to Digitize the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies

Lincoln Mullen

The National Endowment for the Humanities has generously supported the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media as it digitizes the most detailed and comprehensive potential dataset for American religious history. Read more about what the project will be doing.

A schedule from the 1926 Census