Black and white photo of woman in hat writing on paper and answers from second woman. White text on red background reading 1950 census release.
Genealogy Research

What You Need to Know Before the 1950 Census Release

Are you ready for the 1950 census release? Learn what you can do now to prep your genealogy research for the April 2022 release!

Census records are the backbone of genealogy and family history research. Who doesn’t get a thrill when you find an ancestor listed in one of the early census records?

As expected, the release of a new census record collection is eagerly anticipated by researchers.

In 2022, genealogy researchers are especially fortunate to experience the release of two important census record collections! The 1921 Census of England and Wales was released in January 2022 by FindMyPast.

Now researchers are eagerly awaiting the release of the 1950 U.S. census coming in April 2022. The release of these two census records enable researchers to discover the stories of their ancestors on both sides of the Atlantic.

Black and white photo from 1950's of adults and children with elderly woman holding birthday cake. White lettering on red background underneath reading "Are you ready?  1950 census"
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A Brief History of Census Records

With the signing of the 1790 Census Act on March 1, 1790 , the U.S. began the undertaking of counting the country’s population. The country’s first census day was 2 August 1790 with subsequent censuses taken every 10 years.

From 1790 – 1840, only the head of households were named with all other household members represented as tick marks or numbers in various age range columns. Researchers may get frustrated when trying to find an ancestor who was “just a tic mark”, but with a little math and the support of other documents, your non-head of household ancestors can be found in those early census records.

Learn more about those pre-1850 census records in How to Make Sense of Those Tick Marks on Pre-1850 Census Records.

From 1850 through 1940 (currently the last census record available to the public), all household individuals were listed. Seeing entire household members named makes finding one’s ancestors much easier.

With subsequent years, more information about the individuals and the household was requested for the census. This additional information gives genealogy researchers and historians a unique insight into the lives of past generations.

1860 Census, Mecklenburg County, VA
1860 Census, Mecklenburg County, VA (Source: )

Learn more about the 1850 – 1940 census records in How to Make Genealogy Sense of Online Census Records – 1850-1940.

Bookmark – the U. S. Census Bureau’s website – for your future reference. Their website is a great resource to learn more about the history of each census enumeration, see the exact questions asked by the census takers and see the instructions provided to the census taker.

When Will the 1950 Census Be Released?

U.S. census records are released 72 years after a census was taken.

So…..the answer to the question on every researcher’s mind: The 1950 census will be released 1 April 2022 by the National Archives.

Will the 1950 Census Be Searchable by Index?

Yes, there will be a searchable index released. The initial accuracy of that index will not be 100%.

The National Archives (NARA) will be releasing a digitized version of the 1950 census. Ancestry will create an initial searchable index using artificial intelligence and handwriting recognition technology. Volunteers will have the opportunity to review index for accuracy. With the 1940 census release, volunteers actually created the searchable index.

I’ll be passing along volunteering information here at Are You My Cousin? , so keep an eye out!

Who will you looking for in the 1950 census?

What Questions Were Asked On The 1950 Census?

The questions asked for the 1950 census are not that different from the questions asked on the 1940 census. With only 20 questions asked, the 1950 census is a bit shorter. Additional questions were asked of 6 people on the “sample” per page while only 2 per page were asked additional information in the 1940 census.

The usual information for name, age, birthday, marriage status, etc is recorded. Information on work and occupation are are asked of every individual over the age of 14.

📝 Fun Fact! 📝

The 1950 Census required the work of over 140,000 people to make it happen!

Every genealogy researcher will be hoping their ancestor(s) is one of the 6 samples on each page that have a bit more information asked. Questions such as was the person living in the same house the previous year, and was the person living in the same county a year previously.

Blank copy of the 1950 census record
1950 Census, P1 Form

Find the full list of questions asked of the population in 1950 on the National Archives site.

Form P8, Indian Reservation Schedule

For Native Americans living on reservations in 1950, they were enumerated in Form P8, the Indian Reservation Schedule.

Native Americans not living on a reservation were enumerated with the general population.

Self Enumeration Experiment

Interestingly, in 1950, the census bureau experimented for the first time with self enumeration. In certain enumeration districts in Michigan and Ohio, individuals filled out the census form themselves. For a full list of the counties/districts in these states head over to the NARA site.

Here’s another fun fact: The 1950 census was the last census where enumerators visited each household.

The 1950 Census and Post-War America

When the 1950 census was taken, America looked much different than on the 1940 census.

America and the world had been through World War II. Many lives had been lost, and many lives disrupted. Around the world, many families had been separated with many settling in America.

War brides found themselves moving and starting families in a new country. The release of the 1950 census allows researchers to find their war bride ancestor for the first time. For those from the UK, the 1921 Census of England and Wales allows researchers to then find that ancestor as a young woman in her parent’s home.

At the end of the second world war, the Baby Boomer generation began. Coming out of the Great Depression and then the second world war, America was hopeful for a brighter future and prosperity. The first of the baby boomers make their appearance in the 1950 census.

Technology between the 1940 and 1950 census records grew tremendously. Medical advances included the first flu vaccine and the mass production of penicillin for medical treatment in the military. After the war, the general population gained access to it as well.

Radar technology was advanced during the war, and electronic computers were developed. Interestingly, the first modern computer coders were women! Learn more from The History Channel’s article “When Computer Coding Was a ‘Woman’s’ Job”.

Obviously, the world was a fast changing place in the 1940’s, and we can see the evidence in the 1950 census.

As you search the 1950 census for your ancestors, remember to take in everything the census is telling you. Don’t “grab” your ancestor and quickly move on to your next one. Take the time to understand your ancestor in the time, place and family he/she is recorded.

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