This ends the lesson. I certify that I have done the best. If I had a chance to do it again I could do it better but as I never shall ask for it I am entirely out of the Road of improvement. --George B. Randlette, enumerator of District 150, 1880 census of Maine, in a note attached to his returns (microfilm page 181 recto)
THE numerous customers of H. T Bonney & Co., Grocers, 456 Washington street, will be happy to learn that they have received another invoice of the Bavarian Co.'s Whiskey.
-- Boston Evening Transcript, 2 May 1862, 2/6
Social history stands at the threshold of tremendous advances. These will become ever more attainable as more and more people gain familiarity with computers and, because of this familiarity, become unwilling (or even unable, at some distant day) to deal with historical records that have not been transferred into media that are accessible electronically. Some optical scanners can already transform printed material into electronic impulses for computer manipulation so it does not seem too farfetched that someday a scanner able to read nineteenth-century handwriting may be unleashed upon manuscript census returns. The possibilities for studies, particularly of internal migration, are unlimited. With sufficient storage capacity and computing power, researchers could eventually link individuals from one household to another in the subsequent census, establishing decadal patterns of net intercensal migration. Historians would also learn, from the computer's failure to create linkages, just how good the nineteenth-century censuses were--or were not. Certainly popula-