The US 1950 census images will indeed be released by the National Archives on April Fool’s Day, 72 years after that census began. Talk about irony. I just have this feeling I’ll not be able to find everyone and they will all be laughing at me!
Were you planning on searching to find your ancestor or their descendants that day using the traditional vendors? April Fool! Not so fast.
The census is always released without an index. April 1st is the shot at the starting gate for the various vendors to index the records to add to their product offerings for their customers.
If you’d like to see what kinds of questions were asked in that census, and the instructions provided to enumerators, you can view the 1950 census instructions, here.
However, you might, just might, be able to gain a peek into those records on April 1st, assuming you know where your relatives lived at that time, and maybe even if you don’t. There are multiple opportunities and methodologies, so let’s take a look at a few.
Steve Morse’s Census Enumeration District Finder
Steve Morse has created lots of tools for genealogists, but right now, his census enumeration district finder may save your bacon!
Steve’s no-nonsense site provides two levels of detail. The first is at the city level, and then, if you know the house number and street, you can narrow the district further.
For example, my grandmother lived in Chicago at the time, so I entered that information.
I’m only showing a few of the districts in Chicago. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands. The House number and Street fields open up at this point.
I think I know the address where she might have lived, or did when she died 5 years later, so I entered 639 N. Kedzie.
Unfortunately, there are still too many districts, so I went to Google maps to find a cross street.
Fortunately, 639 Kedzie still exists, and the surrounding streets are shown, above. I entered Huron since that is the closest. Then I added Ohio.
I was able to narrow the district to two using Ohio and Huron. Adding Sawyer shows one of those districts, and adding Troy shows the other, so I’m wagering that Kedzie might have been the dividing line.
As a bonus, I located the building where she resided, at least at one point, Did my grandmother live in this building that’s now a church in 1950? We will see in just a couple days now.
MyHeritage is providing 1950 census information on their 1950 Content Hub
If you create your tree on MyHeritage, the 1950 census hints will be provided to you for people in your tree as soon as they are indexed, and you can extract the data directly into that person’s profile.
Ancestry is providing a Census District Finder, but not at the address level. For Chicago, Ancestry is hopeless, at least until the indexing is completed, but for a small town, township or rural area, Ancestry’s maps work pretty well and are interesting.
My maternal grandparents lived in the small town of Silver Lake, Indiana
I entered the location. Ancestry displayed the original census map with a pin in that location. By clicking on that pin, Ancestry displayed the district number, above. I will look in district 43-13 to view the residents of Silver Lake on April 1st.
Be sure to take note of other information on the map. At right, there are special enumeration areas and schedules. Specifically, a Seminary and Hotel, and there’s no detailed map for Winona Lake.
Finding the enumeration district and manually scrolling through the records may allow you to locate your relatives. Of course, if you don’t know where your ancestors were living in 1950, then you’ll need to wait for the indexed records.
As it turns out, your wait may not be that long.
The National Archives says that the census information will be available through a link, here, beginning April 1, and it will be released with a name index created using Amazon web services artificial intelligence.
Woohoo. This will certainly be a first if they can actually pull this off.
Indexed census records using artificial intelligence, meaning OCR, will be released as soon as possible by both Ancestry and MyHeritage.
Of course, validation of OCR records will need to be performed manually for a variety of reasons including poor handwriting, damage to the documents, or other issues. In other words, if you can’t find your family members, look for similar names or search creatively after the indexed census is released.
How much later in April will the vendors release their products? We don’t know. It’s a race to rival any Olympics and we’ll just have to wait and see.
You Can Participate
FamilySearch is launching a massive volunteer indexing effort, here. You can join with other genealogists. FamilySearch provides their records for free, of course, and you can append them to your ancestor on FamilySearch’s big tree.
Why is the 1950 Census Important?
People we know or knew were living in 1950. The census will, hopefully, help us locate our family members and flesh out their lives. For example, I’m not at all sure where my parents were living in 1950.
Anyone born before April 1950 will be recorded in this census. If you’re hunting for descendants of your grandparents, or great-grandparents, knowing where their children were living and who was in the family will provide valuable information as to where to look for other relevant records such as yearbooks, city directories, obituaries, wills and so forth.
If you’d like to DNA test some of those relatives and their descendants, you have to first locate them.
It seems like 70 years isn’t all that long ago, genealogically speaking, so I wasn’t initially terribly excited until I realized I didn’t know where my parents were living and wasn’t sure where my paternal grandparents were living. Furthermore, I want to know what kind of information will be revealed about other family members.
Who Are You Searching For?
Have you made a list of your relatives that would be beneficial to locate in the census?
I’ve created a list, with location and the enumeration district as closely as can be identified for now.
If you’re planning to do this before April 1, I wouldn’t wait much longer. Every genealogist in the country will be accessing those sites on April 1st, and the April Fool’s laugh just might be on all of us if we crash the entire system.
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