Category Archives: 1950 U.S. Census

Smoothing the Bumps in the U.S. 1950 Census

Have you delved yet into the United States 1950 Census? It was released just over two months ago. For those who anxiously awaited the 1940 census back in 2012, it was generally a madhouse of companies and volunteers helping to index every last page. Thanks to the help of thousands of volunteers, the project only took about FOUR months to complete. That’s pretty amazing!

Technology has made many advances since 2012, including creating OCR scanning that can be used by COMPUTERS to create an index to the 1950 census.

Now, if you’ve had any experience reading text that used OCR scanning – like historical newspapers – you might have found it a bit difficult to read the pages.

While computers have done a relatively good job indexing the census, it will be a frustrating experience if YOUR family happens to be one of the wrongly read and misindexed surnames, especially if they lived in a city of any size.

Did you know that FamilySearch is partnering with Ancestry to share updates and corrections to the census index?

Although the computer indexing is finished, volunteers are still needed to manually review and make corrections to the index before it is posted online at FamilySearch.

My mother always used to repeat that old adage “Many hands make light work” and it certainly applies to volunteering as much or as little time as you are able.

The more hands (and eyes) that are reviewing family names, ages, places, etc., the faster the project will be done and the more accurate the census index will be.

Want to learn more about making an important contribution to the genealogy world?

FamilySearch is presenting a free webinar tomorrow, 10 June 2022, which can be viewed by anyone anywhere in the world, at 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

To learn more about the project or to ask specific questions, just click on the link above.

See you there!




It’s Almost Here! Are You Ready for the 1950 U.S. Census? Part 2

Yesterday’s post took a quick look at the structure of the 1950 U.S. census, which will be released to the public in a few short weeks on 1 April 2022.

Today, let’s look at how to navigate the census records.

How to Access 1950 U.S. Census Online

From the 14  December 2021 NARA press release:
“Employees from across the agency have worked on digitizing and indexing the records and developing and testing a new, dedicated 1950 Census website.”

Further information:
The new website will include a name search function powered by an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology tool. This is important for genealogists and other researchers who rely on census records for new information about the nation’s past.

The OCR being used to transcribe the handwritten names from the census rolls is about as good as the human eye, said Project Management Director Rodney Payne. Some of the pages are legible, and others are difficult to decipher. So, the National Archives developed a transcription tool to enable users to submit name updates. This will allow other users to find specific names more easily, and it provides an opportunity for the public to help the agency share these records with the world.

Note that I haven’t found any mention of the website URL.

On the plus side, the 1950 census will be “indexed” at least in so far as the OCR correctly identifies the letters in the surname. Another plus is that there is a tool available for readers to submit corrections.

On the down side, there is the chance that so many people will try to access the NARA website on the first day that the site could possibly crash.

Also on the downside, given the difficulty reading some handwriting styles, OCR might make it quite hard to find our families. We’ll see how that goes.

The U.S. National Archives won’t be the only source for accessing the newly released census.

It will be available on FamilySearch and volunteers are being recruited to complete the indexing. Ten years ago, FamilySearch estimated that the indexing project would be complete in 6 months. In actuality, it was done in 4 months!

Consider volunteering for the FamilySearch index project. I participated 10 years ago when the 1940 census was released. You can index as much or as little as you want. Imagine if everyone volunteered just one hour of time. The 1950 census index would be completed in no time – and I tend to believe that, even with human error factored in – humans doing the indexing will do a better job with harder-to-read text than OCR will do.

Ancestry will also have the 1950 census, but I find no mention of exactly when, other than this year and no mention of any indexing done/to be done.

If the census option that you try isn’t indexed, you will need to know the Enumeration District (E.D.) in which your family lived. That means knowing the street address. If you have an address, check out Steve Morse’s website to find out the E.D.

Morse also has several links related to the 1950 census release to help educate the public.

For an historical overview about this census, visit the U.S. Census Bureau.

DearMYRTLE has a YouTube series called CensusGenie, which began early in 2021, which is all about the 1950 census.

There are a number of other videos also on YouTube about the census. Just do a search and scroll through the list.

Marian Wood, author of Climbing My Family Tree, has done a series of posts called Ready for the 1950 Census? She has done a terrific job explaining all kinds of interesting tidbits and nuances of this census.

There is even a public Facebook page with members ready to share resources.

Take advantage of the time between now and 1 April 2022 to educate yourself so you are ready to find your families in 1950!

It’s Almost Here! Are You Ready for the 1950 U.S. Census?

With less than a month to go, have you familiarized yourself with the 1950 U.S. census? The format of each census, from 1790 to 1940, has been in a different format from the previous census. That’s because, while genealogists like to think the census is created just to help with our research, it is actually the government’s way of collecting general data on its citizens. Exactly what the government wants to learn varies with time.

For example, the 1790 census was short and straightforward in its questions for each household:

Name of the head of the family
How many white males over the age of 16?
How many white males under the age of 16?
How many females in the home?
All other free persons

That’s it – short and simple. Each following census asked different combinations of people residing in the home plus questions about literacy, citizenship, occupation, etc.

What will the 1950 census page look like?

In 1950, the census data included many questions, including several for a small sampling, as had been done in 1940:


  1. Name of street, avenue or road where the household is located
  2. Home or apartment number
  3. Serial number of dwelling unit
  4. Is this house on a farm (or ranch)?
  5. If no, is this house on a place of three or more acres?
  6. Corresponding agriculture questionnaire number
  7. Name
  8. Relationship to head
  9. Race
  10. Sex
  11. How old was this person on his last birthday?
  12. Is this person now married, widowed, divorced, separated, or never married?
    • Enumerators were to enter “Mar” for married, “Wd” for widowed, “D” for divorced, “Sep” for separated, or “Nev” for never married
  13. What State or country was the person born in?
  14. If foreign born, is the person naturalized?

For persons 14 years of age and over:15. What was this person doing most of last week – working, keeping house, or something else?

  1. If the person was “keeping house” or “something else” in question 15, did the person do any work at all last week, not counting work around the house? (Including work-for-pay, in his own business, working on a farm or unpaid family work)
  2. If the person answered “no” to question 16, was he looking for work?
  3. If the person answered “no” to question 17, even if he didn’t work last week, does he have a job or business?
  4. If the person was working, how many hours did he or she work in the last week?
    1. What kind of work does the person do?
    2. What kind of business or industry is the person in?
    3. Class of worker the person is.
      • Enumerators were to mark “P” for private employment, “G” for government employment, “O” for own business, or “NP” for working without pay

Supplemental Questions for 5% of the population – For all ages

  1. Was the person living in the same house a year ago?
  2. If no to question 21, was the person living on a farm a year ago?
  3. If no to question 21, was the person living in the same county a year ago?
  4. If no to question 23…
    1. What county (or nearest place) was he living in a year ago?
    2. What state or foreign country was he living in a year ago?
  5. What country were the person’s mother and father born in?
  6. What is the highest grade of school that the person has attended?
    • Enumerators were to mark “0” for no school; “K” for kindergarten; “S1” through “S12” depending on the last year of elementary or secondary school attended; “C1” through “C4” depending on the last year of undergraduate college education attended; or “C5” for any graduate or professional school.
  7. Did the person finish this grade?
  8. Has the person attended school since February 1st?
    • Enumerators could check a box for “yes” or “no” for those under thirty; for those over thirty, they were to check a box for “30 or over.”

For persons 14 years and older

  1. If the person is looking for work, how many weeks has he been looking for work?
  2. Last year, how many weeks did this person not work at all, not counting work around the house?
  3. Last year, how much money did the person earn working as an employee for wages or salary?
  4. Last year, how much money did the person earn working at his own business, professional occupation, or farm?
  5. Last year, how much money did the person receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (aside from earnings)?
  6. If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did his relatives in this household earn working for wages or salary?
  7. If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did the person earn working at his own business, professional occupation, or farm?
  8. If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did the person receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (aside from earnings)?
  9. If male: did he ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces during…
    1. World War II
    2. World War I
    3. Any other time, including present service
  10. To enumerator: if the person worked in the last year, is there any entry in columns 20a, 20b, or 20c?
    • If yes, skip to question 36; if no, make entries for questions 35a, 35b, and 35c.
    1. What kind of work does this person doe in his job?
    2. What kind or business or industry does this person work in?
    3. Class of worker
  11. If ever married, has this person been married before?
  12. If married, widowed, divorced, or separated, how many years since this event occurred?
  13. If female and ever married, how many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?

Tomorrow, Part 2 will share some tips and tricks for navigating the census records.