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

Will Your Descendants Want, and Expect this from You?

If you’ve ever watched the television show Forensic Files now on HLN, you’ve probably seen forensic anthropologists create a bust of clay from skeletal remains. The time-consuming process provides a way to visualize what the person may have looked like. It’s a tedious task, with a keen understanding of anatomy intertwining with artistic skill.

One episode stands out in my memory. A woman’s remains were found months if not years after her demise. A bust was created and photographs were taken to be distributed as a sort of mug shot. “Do you know this woman” was posted in the newspaper along with the photo, and sure enough a good friend of the woman identified her immediately.

Lisa Louise Cooke with Maureen Taylor (right), the Photo Detective.

So why talk about this on a genealogy blog? Well, in the most recent episode of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast (#119) published this week, Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective, and I discuss the future of technology and genealogy, which lead to a conversation on 3D printing. Maureen described how she had a bust of herself printed 3D (which I’m sure her long-into-the-future descendants will appreciate! You can see it on the episode show notes page.) and that got me to thinking about the work of the forensic anthropologists. Shortly after our conversation, Maureen sent me a link on Facebook called History’s Mysteries posted by the carrier company UPS.

The UPS Compass webpage features a video documenting the efforts of the Maritime Heritage National Marine Sanctuaries, with the help of UPS, to identify the remains of two sailors from the USS Monitor that sank in 1862 during a storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras. Sure enough, they had clay busts created from the skeletal remains in an effort to make the identification.

(Click the link above to watch the video. Then put your genealogy skills to work and see if you can help them identify the two sailors.)

What role did UPS play? They had the task of transporting the busts from the lab to the unveiling at the military ceremony. Any disruption of the soft clay would dent and alter the bust. I couldn’t help but wonder if 3D printing could have made the task of moving and distributing copies of the busts easier. It’s a fascinating technology. And who knows, perhaps 3D busts of ancestors will be as common place as our old photos are today. Do you think your descendants will want, perhaps even expect, to have 3D printings of you? Share your thoughts on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page.

3dYou can learn more about 3D printing here in the article called A New Industrial Revolution: The Brave New World of 3D Printing.

 

 

 

Help! My Email Doesn’t Fit in Viewer Window

screen resolution settingRecently I heard from Carol in St. Louis, Missouri, who was frustrated that she couldn’t read my entire email newsletter. “Would love to know what you are saying,” she says. But my newsletter email doesn’t fit in her email window. “I don’t want to toggle to the right to see the end of each line and then have to toggle back.”

The good news I shared with Carol is that she could fix this problem–and so can anyone else who has trouble with emails not fitting in their viewers.

Email sizing is related to your computer’s screen resolution setting, and a variety of other variables. It’s different for everyone. 98% of our readers see the email perfectly fitted to their screen.

As you can see in the screen shot here, the email Carol forwarded me appears neatly and completely in my email window in my browser. (I’m on a PC using Firefox.) In cases where it doesn’t come through to your email account that way, we provide a link at the top of the email that you can simply click to view the email on a new web browser tab fitted to the page.

sign up newsletterWant to receive our free email newsletter? Just sign up in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this webpage or on the Genealogy Gems home page. It’s free, we don’t share your email address with anyone else, and you get a free e-book of Google tips for genealogy just for signing up.

Returning Orphaned Heirlooms to the Family

custom_text_present_14586Recently my Premium Podcast included a letter from Pat, who was looking for advice on how to return lost or orphaned heirlooms to a family. Ancestry.com had a few family trees posted. Pat didn’t know “whom to contact to get the materials to the most interested, closest family members.” This was my advice–and here’s the inspirational report back.

My advice:

I would first focus on the tree where the tree owner is most closely related to the folks mentioned in the memorabilia. I would probably make copies (depending on what the items are) and offer to all. If I didn’t get a confirmed answer from the first choice in a reasonable time I would offer to my second choice. I would ask the recipient to allow me to pass their contact info on to any others who get around to responding after the fact since it’s everyone’s “family”.

Pat’s response:

“I finally took up the challenge, determined to find a family and offer up the material I had recovered. This material contained old (labeled!) photos, school records, dance cards and letters home to Mom and Dad and seemed potentially quite precious.

It proved difficult to determine which family seemed to have the closest connection, so I decided to offer the material to the person whose Ancestry.com tree contained the most (valid) sources. Fortunately, the tree owner was quick to respond, eager to receive the materials I had to offer. I sent them off and the tree owner is delighted as she is the granddaughter to the original party and believes herself to be the only living descendant of that person!

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistIt feels just right to get those materials back “home”!  I encourage other listeners to do the same.  It produces a great sense of genealogical balance.  So many others have done blessedly wonderful things for me in my research, making it easy to pay it forward just a little bit.

Thank you for the encouragement and the advice. I have loved both podcasts for a number of years now–you are consistently wonderful!”

Thanks, Pat, both for the compliment and for the inspiring message! I love hearing these kinds of stories.

AncestryDNA Results Improving for Jewish and Hispanic Ancestry

dna_magnifying_glass_300_wht_8959Ancestry.com has improved the ability of AncestryDNA to find good matches for Jewish, Hispanic and other ancestries that maybe weren’t so precise before. Here’s the lowdown, quoted liberally from Ancestry.com’s press release:

The problem: Predicting genetic relatives among customers of Jewish and Hispanic descent and some other groups. “In DNA matching, we are looking for pieces of DNA that appear identical between individuals,” says the release. “For genealogy research we’re interested in DNA that’s identical because we’re both descended from a recent common ancestor. We call this identical by descent (IBD). This is what helps us to make new discoveries in finding new relatives, new ancestors, and collaborating on our research.”

“However, we also find pieces of DNA that are identical for another reason. At one extreme we find pieces of DNA that are identical because it is essential for human survival. At the other, we find pieces of DNA that are identical because two people are of the same ethnicity. We call these segments identical by state (IBS) because the piece of DNA is identical for a reason other than a recent common ancestor. This, we have found, often happens in individuals of Jewish descent.”

“The challenge in DNA matching is to tease apart which segments are IBD, and which ones are IBS….Most Jewish customers find that we predict them to be related to nearly every other Jewish customer in the database….Detecting which cousin matches were real and which ones were bogus has always been a challenge for these populations.”

First step toward a solution: “By studying patterns of matches across our more than half a million AncestryDNA customers, we found that in certain places of the genome, thousands of people were being estimated to share DNA with one another–likely a hallmark of a common ethnicity. Our scientific advancements… have allowed us to effectively “pan for gold” in our matches–by throwing out matches that appear to only be IBS, and keeping those that are IBD.”

“While the problem was more pronounced in customers of Jewish and some Hispanic descents, we observed this problem across all ethnic groups.  So, all customers will see increased accuracy of their DNA matches, and significantly fewer ‘false’ matches.”

AncestryDNA results with better matches found by this method “will be available in the coming months,” says the release. They plan to email existing customers when results are ready.

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