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.
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:
As you can see there is a wealth of information that will be of interest to family historians.
The back side of the form may not be as familiar to you, but it too collected a vast amount of fascinating data:
Let’s take a closer look at one of the rows:
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
- 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.”
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.
Your 1950s family history may appear in other records as well, and I’ve got some tips to help you in your search. Click here to learn more!
Looking for enumeration district maps for the U.S. Federal Census? You’re not alone! Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Michelle in Denver,
1940 Census Enumeration District Map, Oklahoma, Wagoner County, http://research.archives.gov/description/5836456
Colorado, wrote in with this question:
“Where can I find individual enumeration district maps? I don’t need a state-wide map showing the divisions between enumeration districts, but a map showing the numbered households within a single enumeration district.”
My answer: How to find Enumeration District Maps
First, here’s a little back story from the National Archives (U.S.) website:
“An enumeration district, as used by the Bureau of the Census, was an area that could be covered by a single enumerator (census taker) in one census period. Enumeration districts varied in size from several city blocks in densely populated urban areas to an entire county in sparsely populated rural areas.
Enumeration district maps show the boundaries and the numbers of the census enumeration districts, which were established to help administer and control data collection. Wards, precincts, incorporated areas, urban unincorporated areas, townships, census supervisors` districts, and congressional districts may also appear on some maps. The content of enumeration district maps vary greatly.
The base maps were obtained locally and include postal route maps, General Land Office maps, soil survey maps, and maps produced by city, county, and state government offices as well as commercial printers. Census officials then drew the enumeration district boundaries and numbers on these base maps.” (Check out the full article here.)
Enumeration district maps are not available in all years and all locations. 1940 is the most accessible. These are available on the National Archives (U.S.) website. (Scroll down to item 3 for instructions on getting to these through the Online Public Access search.) You’ll see that only the enumeration district numbers and street names are marked on the maps. Individual homes are not.
What about enumeration district maps before 1940? Consult Cartographic Records of the Census Bureau for maps in the National Archives.
For censuses before 1900, the government used voting districts as enumeration districts. Find voting district maps in the Library of Congress book, Ward Maps of the United States : A Selective Checklist of Pre-1900 Maps in the Library of Congress. (The links here lead to WorldCat search results for these titles. WorldCat will tell you about libraries that have these books.)
If you just want to find the enumeration district number of an address you already know, go to the Unified Census ED Finder at Steve Morse’s One-Step genealogy website.
Here are a couple more thoughts:
- In cities, there are often two columns of numbers in the census population enumeration (typically on the far left of the page). There’s house number and the number representing the order in which the enumerator visited the house (which has nothing to do with the house number). If you can’t find a relative in once census, pull the address from one census and use it in the Steve Morse database above to pull up the enumeration district for your missing decade.
- Depending on the year you are researching, try to locate a Sanborn fire insurance map for the area. Sanborn maps do include drawings of individual homes and include their house number. Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 47 is all about Sanborn fire maps. On the show notes page I even include a list of links to many Sanborn map collections, organized by state.
Originally published 2009
Republished December 10, 2013
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Episode 10: Deeper into Census Records
We’re going to start off today by continuing our use of U.S. Federal Census Records. Last episode we located relatives in the 1930 census, and today we’re going to push further back in time to follow the census bread crumb trail.
Then in our second segment we’re going to explore some census enumerations that often go overlooked by family historians with Curt Witcher, the Manager of the nationally-recognized Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Curt is a very well-known genealogy lecturer and he has some great tips for tapping in to more obscure census resources. We’ll talk about nonpopulation schedules for the federal census, census substitutes for missing census data (like the 1890 census) and state censuses that may be available, too.
Updates and Links
As I mentioned in the show notes of the last episode, the 1940 census is now available to researchers. Check out those notes for more information. Here are some more updates and links:
- Learn more about nonpopulation schedules and other census records in Ancestry’s online version of The Source.
- The U.S. Census Bureau has online info on state censuses. Learn even more in Ann S. Lainhart’s book State Census Records (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992). A lot of state censuses are now searchable on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
- A few fragments of the 1890 census remain. These are searchable at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.
- The Ancestry database substitute for the 1890 census I mentioned in the show is now supplemented by census substitute databases on Ancestry for just about every state for 1890 and other years. Search for them in the Card Catalog with the search term “1890 census.”
- The National Archives has a portal for census records, too (what’s in them and how to find them).