Happy Census April Fool’s Day – aka – Where the Heck Are My Parents???

What did we expect anyway – combining those two events? That’s just an invitation to fate to mess with our heads.

Nevertheless, like the drunken fly willfully walking into the spider web like an addict, at 12:01 AM, I suddenly “remembered” that the 1950 census was released and just had to go and try it out instead of going to bed. Well, I told myself it was “before” going to bed but it was actually instead. Let’s just say I saw the sunrise from the far side instead of the near side and woke up a few hours later with my phone on my chest and my last piece of chocolate melted to me. We should have had a party. I think I have a genealogy hangover.

Yes, we addicts did put quite a load on the National Archives (NARA) system causing errors, but it didn’t go down entirely. Somebody in NARA-land heaved a huge sigh of relief. Never underestimate the tenacity or craziness of genealogists who were OF COURSE willing to stay up all night.

I wondered if NARA would actually be able to pull off the massive AI census index project – but they did. Hats off to their team! What an incredible gift – even if it is April Fool’s Day and my well-hidden ancestors are still laughing at my expense.

You can access the NARA census, here, and I provided a prep article here that shows you how to find enumeration districts which you will probably need.

Found

I found the family members that I knew the location where they were living AND they weren’t living in large cities.

For example, my maternal grandparents were living at 107 East Main in Silver Lake, Indiana. That’s a very small town, so even though the AI didn’t record my grandparents, or brother who was living with them, I just paged through those records because I knew they were living in Silver Lake, and there was only one enumeration district. Easy peasy.

What was interesting to me was that my grandfather, who was the Lake Township Trustee had worked 72 hours the previous week, and my grandmother had worked 25 as a secretary.

The confusing part is that he was the trustee, and I don’t think she worked for the township. The enumerator mixed them up, apparently. So, was it her that worked 72 hours?

But, where was my mother? Back to that in a minute.

On the other side of my family, my paternal grandfather was living in Harlan County, Kentucky in a relatively remote location, up on Black Mountain. I half expected him NOT to be enumerated at all because he was a bootlegger, but lo and behold, there he is listed as a ”farmer.” Well, I guess that’s sort of farming.

The interesting thing about this record is that they have a boarder living with them, 22-year-old James Holcomb.

Their daughter, Evelyn had a child two years later, in 1952, reportedly with one Jake or Jack Halcomb, but that situation was always pretty hush-hush. I suspect that Jake Halcomb was actually James Holcomb, which makes a lot of sense. Her older sister was married to a William Halcomb, so I wonder if these men were brothers. Another mystery to solve.

Missing

My paternal grandmother, Ollie Bolton Robbins is missing. She lived in Chicago which had hundreds if not thousands of census enumeration districts. I checked the address given when she died in 1955, and where my father was reportedly living at that time, all to no avail. They were not living there in 1950.

My father is also missing. He had married Ellen Copack in 1949 in Chicago but I’ve been unable to obtain the actual marriage application from the Cook County Clerk’s office which would have (hopefully) contained the addresses of the bride and groom. By 1952, they were living in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I checked both locations using the census name search but there were just too many entries to peruse them all. I need to be able to hunt at the vendors for William with a spouse of Ellen plus age information.

He was like a leaf in a windstorm, blowing from place to place, so who knows where he was in 1950.

My mother is also missing, and that’s a whole other story for another article. A chapter of her life I didn’t know much about is slowly unfolding, and not very easily either.

Let’s just say I expected to find her living with her parents and my half-brother, but she’s not there. I used a surname search in Chicago, Illinois where she had previously lived, in Fort Wayne, Indiana where she later lived, and in Florida where she was for about a year in 1949 through early 1950. At least, I think she was there in early 1950. Regardless, I can’t find her either with just a name search so I’ll have to wait until I can combine that search with age and other defining factors.

Patience is not my strong suit! I’m signing up for the new MyHeritage Census Helper to let them do the heavy lifting for me when their indexing is ready.

MyHeritage Census Helper

MyHeritage is offering their new Census Helper tool for free, just in time for the 1950 census. You can read about it, here.

All you have to do is upload your tree and MyHeritage prepares a list of people based on your tree information who are likely to be found in the 1950 census.

By clicking on the orange “Research” button, MyHeritage finds other records that are available now and will help to focus the 1950 census search.

I need to add some additional records for both my mother and father so that MyHeritage “knows” where to potentially look for them in 1950 when their indexed census records become available.

Of course, you can order a DNA test while you’re there, or upload your DNA file from another vendor, here, which is also free.

Juicy Finds!

It has been fun to watch social media today as people search for and find their relatives in the 1950 census.

One person discovered that their mother had a child they never knew existed. Of course, that begs the question of what happened to that child, and why the researcher had never heard of them. So many possibilities.

Another person discovered quite valuable information that required me to draw a chart to understand. It answered a WHOLE LOT of questions about situations only whispered about in that family.

A third person discovered that their father was divorced, and he had not yet married their mother. Of course, now that requires more research.

So many people receive unexpected close DNA relatives and the 1950 census information may well provide hints and clues that might at least provide breadcrumbs to those answers. In some cases, the answers are right there, in black and white. I keep expecting a half-sibling match, or their children or even grandchildren perhaps, but so far…I’m still waiting.

Are you in every database? You don’t want to miss any matches and you never know where that much-needed match might test. You can upload your DNA file to both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA in addition to GEDmatch. I wrote free step-by-step upload/download instructions for all the vendors, here.

The discovery that really touched my heart, though, was the person who discovered that their father WAS the census enumerator. His handwriting reached out to say hello some 72 years later.

What a perfect April Fool’s Day.

What have you discovered?

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14 thoughts on “Happy Census April Fool’s Day – aka – Where the Heck Are My Parents???

  1. I wasn’t impressed with the MyHeritage tool as included all my cousins who hadn’t even been born by 1950. Made for a very long list.

  2. You did a lot more than I did. Using your suggestion for Steve Morse, I had looked up the enumeration number for our house. Finding my parent’s old neighborhood where I grew up and they lived for over 50 years was great fun and easy since I had the map number.

    The enumerator had gone thru once and marked some as “not at home” and then gone back and filled in the data on later pages. A bit confusing but since I knew where the neighbors lived, easy to figure out.

    Thanks for all your help – happy hunting

    • Marci,
      Like you I recognized several for our neighborhood. Unfortunately, I had a coupld “no one at home see sheet 73”. Our family was rural so only 3 ED at the Morse website. These districts only went to sheet 35. Where would I find sheet 73? Thanks for any help!

      • I had the same problem with my Dad’s family. There was no page 72. I did however find them on a different page near the end of their district with all the kids listed. At least the census taker didn’t misspell any of their names, like they did with several cousins.

  3. Silly Roberta! Where did you think he got his corn from! 🙂 There was way more corn grown in “them thar hills” than pigs could eat!

    Susan (across the state line in Wise Co., VA)

  4. Thanks so much for the information on how to access the 1950 Census!

    In 1950, our family moved from Providence, Rhode Island to Barrington, Rhode Island. I wasn’t sure where to look first for us in the 1950 census. I would have been either 3 or 4 years old at the time of the census, depending on the date of the enumerator’s visit.

    With the aid of your information and Steve Morse’s Enumeration District info, I started with our last known address in Providence, and quickly found our family in Providence, my parents aged 28 and 26; me, 3; my sister, 2; and my brother, less than 1. We were living in the same house as my mother’s 2nd cousin on our McNeil side. (closer than it sounds, really)

    Most exciting was discovering the identity of two people I had previously known very little about. I had only seen them in beloved old photographs and heard about them when my mother reminisced about our time in Providence. Through the census, I saw information about neighboring families that enabled me to identify the young woman, Dotty, who was our babysitter, and the child, Patsy, whose cookie I infamously dropped!

    Dotty was the daughter of my mother’s 2nd cousin, and lived in the same house as we did but on a different floor. Patsy was the 3 year old daughter of neighbors who lived in the “back house” on the lot where we lived in the “front house”.

    It made my day to discover this!

    Kathy McHale

  5. Thankfully my Grandparents, Great grandparents & many other relatives on my Mom’s side lived in the same rural area for years. It didn’t take much effort to find the on the National Archives site. However the census taker made a few errors concerning my grandparents. My Grandfather’s occupation was listed as “other”, he was a coal miner. The main issue was on the next page where my Grandma & children were listed. Grandma was listed as “head” of house & her 9 year old son was listed as “wife”! My Grandma never worked outside the home & she was also listed as “other” on the occupation. I’m still searching for relatives on my Dad’s side, but I did find him & his family where I expected them to be living.

  6. My family is easy because they lived in the same town where I live. Big city relatives will just have to wait. I transcribed about 10 sheets and NARA says they’ll be uploaded within 24 hours; we’ll see. I shared information with all my immediate relatives, but only my 92 year old mother responded. I also shared her grandparents’ sheets with a third cousin, but I have no idea when she’ll actually read the email. In other words, I am the only one who cares. I prepared a “list” of people alive in 1950 that I want to find. As a retired person who spends each day exactly as I please, I finally have an addictive something to use to motivate myself. Spend 15 minutes cleaning this room, and you can transcribe one census sheet. Hooray!

  7. I used the National Archives website to play around this morning. I found my Great-grandmother, both sets of my grandparents & whatever family members that were still living with them. I also found my parents – this is the first census that I make an appearance! My older sister was 2 and I was 1. We all lived in a small town so it was sort of easy for me to determine which district the various parts of town were in and where I thought we all lived at that time! Fun!

  8. April Fool’s to me too! Disappointed to not find my dad. His parents were not home and information provided by a neighbor. They must have not known the family well because all info incorrect. My 20 year old aunt was listed as 10. (I’ll have to tell her she can subtract 10 years from her age! She’s 92 now.) My dad was attending a boarding school, but I couldn’t find the school on the census. The only information I found on the subject was for 1990, and indicted minor children were to be listed with their parents.I assume the neighbor just didn’t know my dad existed.Is there any reason the boarding school wouldn’t be on the census?

  9. Experienced an issue with the ED maps. North of San Fernando, CA is Sylmar. I looked it up on the maps and ED 66-2 on the map is the area where my family lived in 1950. In the archives I enter 66-2 and it comes up “no records found” However the drop down menu on Steve Morse’s site lists 66-2a and 66-2b. On his site you need to select the state and then the two digit code for city / county area and then go to the drop down menu. It will give the correct options. Some of the ED’s have a thru f options. The maps alone may not find the ED number you are looking for.

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