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.”
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!