These polls, conducted from 2002-2010, asked over 1,500 AMERICAN EXPERIENCE viewers about their families' stories, time at school, work, and favorite activities.


What's in a Name?

Back when Ulysses was a teenager, the 1840 census counted 12.7 million people. But only a handful -- about 107,000 people -- were listed as "foreigners." Soon, huge waves of immigrants would change this picture, coming from other nations to make America their home.

When did your family first come to America?
6% in your generation


8% in your parents' generation


16% in your grandparents' generation


68% before your grandparents' generation



Where did your family live before they came to the United States?
2% Africa


4% Asia


73% Europe


4% Central or South America


15% Someplace Else



School Days

When Ulysses S. Grant was young, not all kids went to school. Those who went spent an average of 25 hours there every week. Tell us about your time at school, and describe your favorite subject.

How many hours per week do you think you spend at school (including after-school stuff)?

74% :more than 30 hours

25% :fewer than 30 hours

What level of formal education do you expect to finish?

12th grade (high school diploma or G.E.D.): 19%

College, graduate school, or professional school: 80%



Back in the 19th century, kids as young as seven or eight worked to help support their families. The children of slaves were expected to work as soon as they were able. Ulysses Grant hated working in his father's tannery -- it was really stinky, messy, awful work. Do you work, doing chores or working for pay? Describe what you do and what you think of it.

How many hours per week do you spend doing chores or working for pay?
38% fewer than 10 hours


15% 10-20 hours


7% 20-30 hours


9% 30-40 hours


28% more than 40 hours


What kind of work do you do most often?
26% indoor chores, like cooking or cleaning


15% outdoor chores, like yardwork


11% work in a store or restaurant


7% work for your parents at their job


9% work at a business you started yourself


30% another type of work


Horsing Around

In Ulysses' time, kids did some of the same fun things they do today: sports, music, reading, playing with toys. Of course, many of their toys and activities were different. After all, plastics, computers, and television hadn't been invented yet!

Rank a list of fun activities from your favorite to least favorite, and tell us what you like to do for fun.

1: reading
2: sports
3: computers
4: art
5: spending time with friends
6: music/dance/theater
7: watching TV
8: something else


Gaze into the Crystal Ball...

Back in Ulysses' time, some kids left home before their late teens. Some went to work in factories. Others worked on ships. Still others stayed home, especially the kids who did farming and other agricultural work -- including slaves, who had no choice about where they'd live.

How old do you think you'll be when you start living apart from your family?
Under 18: 12%
18-22: 71%
22 or older: 16%


What do you think you'll be doing when you move out?
Getting a job: 36%
Going to school: 54%
Doing something else: 9%

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

Share Your Story

Do you admire Ulysses S. Grant? Or perhaps Robert E. Lee? Tell us who is your favorite and why.

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH