1950 Census Substitute: What To Use Until its Release Date

The 1950 federal U.S. census will not be released to the public until April 2022. Are you as excited about that as I am? This census will provide volumes of new information about our families and their lives.

An enumerator interviews President Truman and the First Family for the 1950 Census. Image from www.census.gov.

An enumerator interviews President Truman and the First Family for the 1950 Census. Image from www.census.gov.

Answers to Your Questions about the 1950 Census

Here are answers to four of the common questions we receive about the 1950 census:

What will I be able to learn from the 1950 census?

With each decade the federal government has asked more detailed questions. The information collected has expanded our understanding of the families, their backgrounds, and their lifestyle.

Here’s what the front page of the 1950 Census of Population and Housing form looked like:

1950 census form page 1

As you can see there is a wealth of information that will be of interest to family historians. 20 questions were asked of everyone. The detailed questions at the bottom of the form were asked of 5% of the population. 

The back side of the form may not be as familiar to you, but it too collected a vast amount of fascinating data about housing:

1950 census form page 2

Let’s take a closer look at one of the rows:

1950 census up close

1950 census instructions population schedule

Instructions regarding the front and back of the Population and Housing Schedule Form P1

As you can see the back side of the form is focused on housing. Here you’ll find answers to questions about:

  • Type of Living Quarters
  • Type of Structure
  • Whether a business was run from the house
  • The condition of the building
  • If there are any inhabitants who may be somewhere else at the time the census was taken
  • How many rooms
  • Type of water, toilet and shower / bath facilities
  • Kitchen and cooking facilities
  • Occupancy
  • Financial and rental arrangements

Additional questions were not asked of all, but rather were asked on a rotating basis. These centered around additional features of the home such as radio, television, cooking fuel, refrigeration, electricity and the year the home was built.

Are enumerator instructions available for the 1950 census?

The instructions issued to enumerators can provide you with further insight into the records themselves. It can also clarify the meaning of marks and numbers you may find on the documents.

And yes, the US Census Bureau has indeed published the instructions for the 1950 census on their website here. According to their site:

“During the 1950 census, approximately 143,000 enumerators canvassed households in the United States, territories of Alaska and Hawaii, American Samoa, the Canal Zone, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and some of the smaller island territories. The U.S. Census Bureau also enumerated Americans living abroad for the first time in 1950. Provisions were made to count members of the armed forces, crews of vessels, and employees of the United States government living in foreign countries, along with any members of their families also abroad.”

1950 census manual

Also on that web page you’ll find instructions for the following years: 1790, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940.

Can I request individual census entry look-ups?

Yes, you may apply to receive copies of individual census entries from 1950-2010 for yourself or immediate relatives. It’s not cheap—it’s $65 per person, per census year. (Check the website for current pricing.) But if you’re having research trouble you think would be answered by a census entry, it might be worth it. Click here to learn buy lithium medication online more about the “Age Search Service” offered through the Census Bureau.

Is there a 1950 census substitute database?

Yes, Ancestry has one. You might find it a little gimmicky, because it’s just taken from their city directory collection from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. But it’s a good starting point to target your U.S. ancestors living during that time period. The annual listings in city directories can help you track families from year to year.

More 1950 Census Resources

Your 1950s family history may appear in other records as well, and I’ve got some tips to help you in your search:

The 1950 Census for Genealogy

Watch my video All About the 1950 Census

FamilySearch Indexing in Another Language: A Call to Arms

According to an article on the FamilySearch blog, 90% of all indexed records on FamilySearch are those for English-speaking countries. While this is super exciting for me and my family tree, many of my friends are unable to trace their family histories past their great-grandparents. Why? Because the records in their native country have been digitized, but not indexed.FamilySearch indexing international records

FamilySearch Indexing in These Easy Steps

I have been indexing at FamilySearch for years and you can join me! Just follow these simple steps:

  • Go to www.familysearch.org.
  • Sign-in and click on Indexing and choose Overview fromFamilySearch indexing icon the pull-down menu.
  • Click on Get Started, which will direct you to the Get Started page. You will need to download the indexing program directly to your device.
  • From your desktop, open the FamilySearch Indexing program by clicking on the icon.
  • Sign-in again and click Download Batch at the top left corner.
  • Choose a project to work on.

If you feel you need some further instruction, watch these helpful videos below:

FamilySearch Indexing: How to Start

FamilySearch Indexing Training: Video 1

FamilySearch Indexing in Another Language

FamilySearch indexing French records

Training for French Language

FamilySearch is looking for three kinds of people:

  • Fluent, native speakers of non-English languages living in their native county or in an English-speaking country.
  • People who have extensive training in a non-English language.
  • English speakers who are willing to learn how to index specific types of non-English records.

I know what you are thinking…you hardly passed French 101 in high school! But, you can do it.

There was recently a very successful Italian indexing training initiative in the U.S. It more than doubled the worldwide number of individuals working on Italian records. You can be a part of the growing need for French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese record sets.

Training guides and videos have been created for the French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian languages. As we accomplish the work for these places, FamilySearch will add more languages. The videos and guides will help volunteers to learn how to index specific types of records. Click here to learn about this language learning initiative and to get started.

What Else Can You Do for FamilySearch Indexing?

If you have friends or family who are fluent in another language, ask them to join you. Share this post with your friends on Twitter and Facebook to get the word out. Does your teen need some service hours for graduation, Girl/Boy Scouts, or other organization? This is a unique service project that even teens can do and that will be meaningful to many.Facebook_Logo

We would love to hear your stories of successes in indexing. Leave a comment below or post to our Genealogy Gems Facebook page.

More Gems on Indexing

Volunteer Gem: He Indexed Milwaukee Journal Obituaries Himself!

Want to Help Index De-Classified CIA Records?

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Might these collections include your ancestors? And does the Google search tip we’ve added at the bottom help you out?

This week: Kansas newspapers, WWI records for the U.S. and Canada and a unique collection of mid-1800s Shaker photographs.

KANSAS NEWSPAPERS. Subscribers to Newspapers.com can search a newly enlarged database of Kansas newspapers. It “currently has more than 190 papers from almost 90 Kansas cities for a total of 4.3 million pages.” One paper dates to 1840, 20 years before statehood.

SHAKER PHOTOGRAPHS. The Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon (New York) “has launched a newly digitized online catalog of historic photography as a part of its ongoing effort to make available online a full catalog of its collections,” says this press report. Photos include “scenes of Shaker villages from the mid-late 19th Century, as well as a collection of stereograph images from this early period.”

CANADA WWI MILITARY RECORDS. Ancestry recently posted a new collection ofmore than 17,000 historical military records (featuring more than 470,000 images) revealing the First World War military experiences of many Canadian soldiers. The Canada, Imperial War Service Gratuities, 1919-1921  collection contains records of Canadians who fought and served in the British Imperial services.” Note: the above link goes to Ancestry.com but the database is also available on Ancestry.ca.

U.S. WWI PHOTOGRAPHS. The National Archives (U.S.) has a newly digitized collection online: American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-1918. According to the site, “This series contains photographs obtained from the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Federal and State government agencies, as well as private sources, such as the American Red Cross and the Central News and Photo Service. The photos depict the unity of the nation and how overwhelming the war effort was, including pictures of public gatherings, peace demonstrations, parades, and activities of libraries, hospitals and first aid stations.”

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Google tip of the week: Some databases are hosted on multiple genealogy websites.  For example, The New England Historical and Genealogical Society has been receiving a lot of new databases from FamilySearch. Ancestry has recently posted several databases from JewishGen, which also hosts them on their site. One site may have the search tools you prefer;  another may be more convenient because you can attach records to your tree on that site. Use Google’s site search tool to see if the database is on a particular site. Enter the keywords in quotes, then the word “site:” immediately followed by the URL without the www. (There is no space between site: and the website address.) A search for the Canadian database above in Ancestry.ca looks like this: “Imperial War Service Gratuities” site:Ancestry.ca. This tip is brought to you by the newly-revised 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, which has an entire chapter on site searching and resurrecting old websites.

 

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