Does SERIAL capture the order of enumeration?

I’m working with full count historical census files (1900-1940), and am trying to establish the order in which households were enumerated.

For smaller samples, the combination of LINE, PAGENO, REEL, and MICROSEQ gives the order of enumeration, but they aren’t available for the full census count. Can I use SERIAL for the same purpose? I.e. do sequential SERIAL values indicate that households were sequentially enumerated?


Yes, to a limited extent. But since the concept of an enumeration page break isn’t present in the SERIAL value, you wouldn’t really be able to say if the households were sequential for certain. For example, the household with serial 100 may represent the last household enumerated in a given geographic area, and saying that the household with serial 101 was enumerated “after” household 100 wouldn’t really be accurate. You could get around this issue by only considering sequences of enumeration within an enumeration district, but this isn’t a perfect solution as pages within an enumeration district are not necessarily ordered sequentially.

The LINE, PAGENO, REEL, and MICROSEQ variables are available on the restricted versions of these full count files. Please send an email to to request a license for this data, including a brief description of your project

Thanks! That’s exactly what I thought.