Saturday, May 28, 2022

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your 1950 U.S. Census Finds

I visited to find out the theme for today's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun and discovered that meme host Randy Seaver is in the hospital anxiously awaiting open-heart surgery on Monday.  Not only is it a very survivable surgery these days, it was even decades ago, when my maternal grandfather had the procedure.  He had an excellent recovery and lived about another 20+ years after his surgery.  So I have faith that Randy will do the same.  And while he is unable to create new Saturday Night Genealogy Fun posts for us, I will go back and catch up on several that I missed when I was under the weather.  "Your 1950 U.S. Census Finds" is from April 5, 2022.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music here), is:

1.  The 1950 United States census was released by the U.S. National Archives on Friday, 1 April 2022.  

2.  Did you make a list of your census targets and try to find them in the 1950 census?  How did your plans pay off — did you find everyone, or just some of them?

3.  Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook post.  Be sure to leave a link with your answers in a comment.

Here's mine:

I did make a list of my many 1950 census targets (dozens of people), and I did try to find them within the first couple of days after the census was released online.  I struck out — I didn't find a single person.  I admit that I had not collected addresses, so I was relying on the rudimentary name index that was created by the National Archives.

But that was okay — I didn't expect to find them with the very basic name index, because most of the people I was looking for were in large cities, such as New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx), Los Angeles, and Chicago.  And even though I had been looking forward to the 1950 census release pretty much since the 1940 census was released, I had decided I wasn't in a hurry.  I waited a couple of weeks to see how the Ancestry AI indexing would go.

Well, actually I waited almost a month and then tried NARA again.  On April 26 I looked for the older sister of a friend of mine — and found her!  Granted, she had an extremely uncommon given name, and I knew she should be in Wyoming (not a lot of people!), so it wasn't as difficult as it could have been.

The next opportunity I had time to sit down and poke around was May 5.  The AI had been going gangbusters apparently, because searching on Ancestry I was able to find my maternal grandparents (with my mother and the older of my two uncles), my paternal grandparents (with my father), my father's paternal half-sisters, my boyfriend's mother and her mother (separate households), the friend herself (from the previous paragraph) in Wyoming, another friend's mother, and one friend himself, all within the space of an hour and a half.

Then I got distracted and didn't search again until May 16, when I found six somewhat distant cousins, siblings from one family.  Why did I look for them next?  I was actually searching for my great-great-grandfather's second wife (he missed the 1950 census by two years, having died in 1948).  His second wife was his niece; I have been told this kind of marraige was not uncommon among Jews in Eastern Europe, when the man was older and needed someone to take care of him.  It was in no way supposed to be a "romantic" marriage; the wife was more like a nurse.  I even have another marriage like that in my family.

Anyway, I remembered that Ethel had died in 1952 and decided I wanted to find her.  I couldn't, but it occurred to me that she might have been living with one of her children, so I started looking for all of them.  I found them — but not Ethel.  So she is missing so far.

Also missing is my (half) first cousin, who was my mother's best friend growing up in Miami.  She is my father's (half) niece, from his oldest half-sister, who was my paternal grandmother's first child.  My cousin was born in 1941, so she absolutely should be in the 1950 census.  I just looked and couldn't find her, her mother, or her stepfather (her mother married her third husband in 1946).  I don't know if this is a failure of the index or if my aunt and cousin were missed in the census.  Guess I need to call my cousin!

These images are my two most important finds in the 1950 census so far.  My father and all of his immediate family were completely missed in the 1940 census, so I really did want to find them in 1950.  I had been hoping to show the census to my father, but he died in 2019.

My mother didn't appear in the 1940 census because she was born in November 1940.  She died in 1995, not even close to the release of the 1950 census.  But because she missed the 1940 census by just a few months, I am glad I found her in 1950.

And you know that age-old discussion of how accurate you should take the information in the census to be?  It's important to remember that it's second-hand information and you should always verify it, not only because the person talking to the census taker might have gotten some of the facts wrong accidentally, but also because sometimes people just didn't tell the truth.  The latter is the case with the reported marital status of my paternal grandparents, listed as Bertram L. and Ann Sellers.  My grandparents were never married, because my grandfather didn't divorce his first wife, whom he married in 1923, until 1952 or so, after he left my grandmother to run off with another woman.  That woman insisted on seeing his divorce papers to make sure she wasn't running around with a married man (as she told me, "I was a good Christian girl").  As far as I know, my grandmother was a good Christian girl also, but I've gotten the impression that my grandfather may have been a smooth talker.  (My grandmother knew she wasn't married to him, because she acknowledged that in a letter to a lawyer several years later.)


  1. You've been really busy looking for everyone in 1950. I only had my parents, maternal grandparents and paternal grandmother. All were exactly where I expected to find them.

    1. I'm glad everyone was where you wanted them to be! I do whole family research, so I look for all my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Plus I research extended family and share with them, giving me even more to keep track of.

  2. Glad you finally got around to look in the 1950 census. I didn't find anyone the first try either, but did make a list with addresses which helped me locate them by browsing. I'm patient about some others that need to wait for a good index.

    1. I am sure that for some people I will eventually need to find an address and look via the ED method. But I'm not there yet. :)

    2. I accidentally deleted your comment on my post. If you want to do it again, I'll be more careful. Note to self, don't accept comments from a phone. The buttons are too small and close together.

    3. Whoopsie! I agree, I hate doint stuff that like on a phone. Way too small space to work with.

  3. Enjoyed your post! For a good number of NYC ancestors I found in the 1950 Census, the enumerator said (in notes section) that info was provided by a neighbor or by the super of that apartment building. Even outside NYC, clearly neighbors were asked about neighbors because first name of a great uncle was complete wrong, yet other names in HH were correct!

    1. I love it when the census enumerator gives more information than the form calls for! And at least your family was recognizable.


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