Background and Purpose

The Census Project is an effort to bring together in one place all Census data about Vashon-Maury Island (VMI).  This endeavor was made possible through funding from King County 4-Culture and the contribution of hours of volunteer labor.  The Census Project will always be a changing, dynamic, interactive site – relying on its users to add to, correct and improve the information for the benefit of all.

VMI is unique in that it always has been and will continue to be a well-defined geographic place – an island surrounded by water.  That means, unlike most other areas, the boundaries of what is included in Census data have always remained the same.  Additionally, unlike other locations, VMI is under no governmental jurisdiction other than county government.  The Island has always been an unincorporated area and will probably continue to be so into the foreseeable future.   This means that a look at VMI Census information through history is a way to catch a glimpse of changes within a fixed area – how population centers have shifted, how descriptors have altered, how occupations and industries have fluxed, and how basic demographics such as gender, marital status and race have changed.

For early information about VMI residents, before 1950, the results of The Census Project will provide an opportunity for anyone to examine detailed information about the individuals who lived here, tracing generations through time.

Both Federal Census information (recorded every ten years) and Washington Territorial Census data (most of which involves documentation undertaken prior to Washington becoming a state) are included in this Project.  The first Census noting individuals on VMI was conducted in 1870.  Unfortunately, this information was not coded by location, and therefore, it is not possible to determine from the King County Census listings who is living on the Island.  This fact makes the 1879 Washington Territorial Census the first record where Island residents can specifically be identified.  There were 100 people included in that document.  The last Census summarized on this site was conducted in 2010, and included 10,624 Islanders.


The Census Project Site Specifics

The Census Project is divided into four primary parts: Census data 1870-1940, Census data 1950-2010, research and presentations, and charts and graphs.  The two sections containing Census data include explanatory notes and a link to a downloadable Excel spreadsheet for each specific Census year.  The section containing the years 1870 through 1940 provides detailed information on individuals.  Downloading the spreadsheet will allow the user to perform a search through the database by individual name, race, gender occupation or a number of other subjects.

The section covering the 1950 through 2010 Census years provides summary information for each of these Vashon-Maury Island Decennial Censuses.  Information on individuals is released by the Census Bureau 72 years after the conduct of any Census, and therefore, at this time, such data are only available through 1940.  The downloadable Excel spreadsheets for these later Census years offer summary information on a variety of characteristics.  Much of this information is divided into two geographic areas (Census Tracts) so that it is possible to look at those who lived on the north or the south ends of the Island.  A map showing the street dividing lines for these Census Tracts is also included in this section of the site.

The Research and Presentations section of The Census Project offers analysis and summary tables that have been prepared based on Census information.  Papers include a comparison of Islander characteristics through the years and a look at one first settlement family through generations of Census data.  It is expected that the content in this section will increase as researchers, both those attached to The Census Project and other site users, explore and analyze the information provided here.

The Charts and Graphs section of this site is devoted to analytical information illustrative of the data.  A graph indicating population change through the years is provided, and it is expected this part of the site will also expand as new material becomes available.


Expected Growth of the Census Project Site

The information included on The Census Project tables for individual years will continually change as new, more detailed information comes to light, users offer corrections to what is presented, and additional research is prepared and posted to share with others.  Because the early Census data, 1870-1940, has relied on reading sometimes faint images of Census Enumerator Notes, it is possible that some of what is presented is inaccurate; e.g., the spelling of names.  The researchers involved with The Census Project are inviting users to offer corrections based on knowledge of individuals or other information which can improve accuracy.  Additionally, it is hoped that users will conduct their own research and analyses of the information on this site and summarize their findings in papers which can be posted. 

We ask that any corrections, comments or suggestions be submitted to Alice Larson, The Census Project primary contact through the link offered on this site: alarson@vashonhistory.com .  If you, as a site user, would like to submit a research paper for publication as part of The Census Project, please forward a copy of your document through this link.  All papers will be reviewed by the researchers coordinating this site prior to inclusion.  Please, when submitting comments or papers, include your name and contact information so that follow-up might be conducted if necessary.

We will collect corrections and comments we receive and make changes to the material on the site on a monthly basis, or less frequently depending on the volume received.  That means that the tables on The Census Project may be altered over time.  To help users know if tables have changed, each downloadable spreadsheet will be dated both in the name of the file and on the top of the table. 

It is the hope of those involved in The Census Project that the information offered here will be useful to a wide range of people as they consider the people who have populated this Island we call home.

Prepared April 26, 2014