April 1 was a big day. And it wasn’t just for those folks who love pranks. You may have caught glimpses of people celebrating the 1950 Census. Admittedly, a 72-year-old census release seems an unlikely thing to celebrate, but for genealogists, researchers, historians, and archivists, the release is a treasure trove of historical data. Most notably, these data illustrate life in the burgeoning post World War II communities and the start of what would become the Baby Boomer generation. Unlike headlines of the era which provides a snapshot of daily life, the Census provides a broader view.
Here’s what you need to know:
- The 1950 Census is available to search on the following websites: Archives.gov, FamilySerach.org, and Ancestry.com. Notably, the National Archives and Records Administration is making a bulk download of the full dataset available to researchers.
- At Archives.gov, you will be able to search the 1950 census by name and location via an index developed by Amazon Web Service’s artificial intelligence/optical character reader (AWS AI/OCR), a first for census indexing. NOTE: This OCR technology is not expected to be 100% accurate. You can also locate persons by identifying their enumeration district.
- The 1950 Census marks the last one that was enumerated from door-to-door. In 1950, mail-in forms were tested in parts of Michigan and Ohio, the results from which were viewed as accurate and efficient.
- Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the 1950 Census form. More sample questions were asked than in 1940, and there are additional questions at the bottom of each page. Only 6 persons out of the 30 on each page were selected to answer the additional questions.
- Locally, it is important to note that residents of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, appear for the first time in the 1950 Census, given their “Secret City” was erected between 1940 and 1950.
If you have additional questions about the 1950 Census or need assistance searching its pages, please know that archivists and librarians at the East Tennessee History Center are ready to help. Make plans to visit the past today!
Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library. She writes a Wednesday feature for KnoxTNToday.com.