IPUMS FAQs: Can you help me locate my relatives?

At IPUMS we try to address every user’s questions and suggestions about our data. It is just one feature that adds value to IPUMS data. Over time, many questions are often repeated. In this blog series, we will be sharing some of these frequently asked questions. Maybe you’ll learn something, or perhaps you’ll just find these interesting. Regardless, we hope you enjoy.

Here’s one of those questions:

Can you help me locate my relatives?

In short, no. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t do it. Public use data is designed precisely to prevent the identification of specific individuals. Variables such as NAMEFRST and NAMELAST exist and are available in samples from 1930 and earlier, but these samples only include 1%, 5%, or 10% of the population. So the chances that your relative can be found in the data are very slim.

For those who are really interested in genealogy resources, our data partners at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch provide specifically designed tools and products.

Story by Jeff R. Bloem
PhD Student, Department of Applied Economics
Graduate Research Assistant, Minnesota Population Center