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I encountered the following situation in a 1930 census of a household of a family I am researching: In addition to mother (head) and daughter, there is a roomer, and three girls with the same last name (ages 15, 13, and 11) shown as boarders.

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What are the definitions of the two terms? (My guess is that this was a foster household for the three girls.) What is the definition of the term "lodger" relative to the preceding? Would these terms be used consistently across all censuses?

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Any dictionary would have given you the answer between which ever two term you are really asking about. –  Tom Wetmore Nov 6 '12 at 9:53
    
The question mentions "roomer" and "lodger". The record mentions "roomer" and "boarder". –  Tom Wetmore Nov 6 '12 at 9:57
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Actually, I mention all three terms, because I believe I had seen them all in various censuses. While I agree with @TomWetmore that a dictionary might have a number of definitions for each term, I was looking for something definitive about the terms as used by census takers. –  Gene Golovchinsky Nov 6 '12 at 16:16
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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In general, a roomer meant someone whho rented a room but that did not include meals. A boarder paid for "room and board" (i.e. meals).

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Did foster children have payments made on their behalf during the depression? I am wondering where the money would come from if they were required to pay. –  Gene Golovchinsky Nov 6 '12 at 16:18
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There's no definition of the terms in The 1930 Census Enumerator's Instructions, so the dictionary definitions would seem to apply -- a lodger rents accommodation while a boarder pays for accommodation and meals.

The only slightly relevant statement is:

A boarder or lodger should be included with the members of the family with which he lodges; but a persons who boards in one place and lodges or rooms at another should be returned as a member of the family at the place where he lodges or rooms.

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