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My family members found in the census records were quite often recorded as working on “own account.”  Not being familiar with the terminologies and abbreviations that enumerators were instructed to use,  I assumed it meant instead of paying the wages directly to the worker, the monies earned were placed on an account…like how we use reloadable debit cards today.  Needless to say, my assumption was incorrect.

The University of Minnesota posted the 1920 Census Enumerator Instructions on their website.  This excerpt states:

“179. Working on own account.-A person who has a gainful occupation and is neither an employer nor a salary or wage worker, is considered to be working on his own account. Such persons are the independent workers. They neither pay nor receive salaries or regular wages. Examples of this class are: Farmers and the owners of small establishments who do not employ helpers; professional men who work for fees and employ no helpers; and, generally speaking, hucksters, peddlers, newsboys, bootblacks, etc.”

Perhaps the 21st Century equivalent of this definition/explanation would be a freelance or seasonal worker?  I’m glad I can move forward with more clarity now.