The 1950 Census of the United States of America is the 17th census taken of the nation’s population. These censuses occur every ten years and are an essential tool for family history.
There were 20 questions asked on the 1950 Census for all persons, thus it was shorter than the 1940 census. Six people on each sheet were also asked additional questions, found at the bottom of each page (Nos 21-33c). If you find a name on a line labeled “Sample,” be sure to examine the additional materials.
Typically, the 1950 Census gives us the following information about an individual:
Relationship to the head of household
Age in years and months
Place of birth
Schooling or occupation
Who they were living with
Residence location, with full address
The 1950 Census of the United States of America is the 17th census taken of the nation’s population. These censuses occur every ten years and are an essential tool for family history. The federal census has occurred without disruption since 1790 and the records are made available to the public after 72 years. The next US census, the 1960, will be released in 2032. With the exception of the 1890 census, which was destroyed in almost its entirety, all federal population schedules are now available on Findmypast.
The 1950 Census varies slightly from all previous censuses taken in the United States. It is good practice to be aware of these variations and to understand how you can best take advantage of the information found within.
The 1950 Census counted 150,216,110 people in total. Of those, 134,478,390 were considered “white,” born in the United States and 15,737,745 were considered “nonwhite.” There were 10,095,370 total people of foreign birth enumerated. (Detailed Characteristics: Table 94 – Single Years of Age, By Color, Nativity, and Sex, for the United States, Urban and Rural: 1950.” Page 1-165, United States Summary, Volume 2, Characteristics of the Population. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/1953/dec/population-vol-02.html ).
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds a microfilm copy of the original paper publication census schedules. This microfilm was created in 1952 using black and white microfilm photography. The original paper records were destroyed by the Census Bureau in 1961-1963 after determining they were no longer needed. NARA has provided the best possible digital gray-scale images from the microfilm to the public at large, as of April 1, 2022. When released, they are public domain and available to interested parties around the world, but everyone obtains the same images; there are no other copies and no opportunity to obtain a higher quality image.
At times, you will encounter duplicate images and retake sections from the original microfilm process.
The following questions were asked during the enumeration process:
Questions for all persons
Name of street, avenue, or road
House and apartment number
Serial number of dwelling unit
Is this house on a farm or ranch?
Is this house on a place of three or more acres?
Agricultural Questionnaire Number
Relationship to head of household
Age on last birthday
Marital status: Married (Mar), Widowed (Wd), Divorced (D), or Separated (Sep)
State or country of birth
Naturalization status if foreign born (Yes, No, or AP for born abroad of American parents)
Questions for persons fourteen years of age and over
Was this person working (Wk), unable to work (U), keeping house (H), or doing something else (Ot) most of last week
If H or Ot in item 15: Did this person do any work at all last week?
If No in item 16: Was this person looking for work?
If No in item 17: Even though he didn’t work last week, does he have a job or business?
If Wk in item 15 or Yes in item 16: How many hours did he work last week?
a. Occupation b. Industry in which person worked c. Class of worker: Private employer (P), government (G), in his or her own business (O), or without pay on family farm or business (NP)
Questions for persons on sample lines (six per sheet)
Was he living in this same house a year ago?
Was he living on a farm a year ago?
Was he living in this same county a year ago?
If No in item 23: What county (24a) and state or foreign country (24b) was he living in a year ago?
What country were his father and mother born in?
What is the highest grade of school that he has attended?
Did he finish this grade?
Has he attended school at any time since February 1st? (Yes, No, or age 30 or over)
Questions for persons on sample lines fourteen years of age and over (six per sheet)
If Yes in item 17: How many weeks has he been looking for work?
Last year (1949), in how many weeks did this person do any work (excluding work around the home)?
a. Last year (1949), how much money did he earn working as an employee for wages or salary (before taxes and other deductions)? b. Last year (1949), how much money did he earn working in his own business, professional practice, or farm (net income)? c. Last year, how much money did he receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (excluding salary or wages)?
a. Last year (1949), how much money did his relatives in this household earn working for wages or salary (before taxes and other deductions)? b. Last year (1949), how much money did his relatives in this household earn in their own business, professional practice, or farm (net income)? c. Last year, how much money did his relatives in this household receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (excluding salary or wages)?
If male, did he ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces during (33a) World War I, (33b) World War II, or (33c) any other time including present service? (Yes/No).
Questions for person on the last sample line if fourteen years of age and over (one per sheet)
To enumerator: If person worked last year (1 or more weeks in item 30): Is there any entry in items 20a, 20b, and 20c? If Yes, skip to item 36. If No, make entries in items 35a, 35b, and 35c.
a. What kind of work did this person do in his last (previous) job? b. What kind of business or industry did he work in (in previous job)? c. Class of worker (in previous job): Private employer (P), government (G), in his or her own business (O), or without pay on family farm or business (NP).
If ever married (Mar, Wd, D, or Sep in item 12): Has this person been married more than once? (Yes/No).
How many years since this person was (last) married, widowed, divorced, or separated?
If female and ever married (Mar, Wd, D, or Sep in item 12): How many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?
This is the last year in which the population was counted through the process of a visiting enumerator with a large multi-family form. This typical form, the P1 form, is what most of the population was recorded on. There are several other types of forms in the 1950 Census collection:
P1: multi-family form. Variations of this form were used in select areas:
Other forms included in the 1950 Census are:
P82: Alaska census form
P87: Hawaii census form
P80: American Samoa census form
P85: Guam census form
P91: Panama Canal Zone census form
P93: Puerto Rico census form
P97: U.S. Virgin Islands census form
P2: Individual Census Report: used for military personnel living in barrack-style facilities on U.S. soil, travelers found in hotels, YMCA’s and campgrounds, and possibly other situations. This information was typically copied onto the P1 form.
P4: Crews of Vessels Report: used for crew members of U.S.-flag commercial and military vessels in U.S. and territorial ports. This information was typically copied onto the P1 form.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that approximately 4.1% of the population was not represented in the enumeration.
Specific nights were scheduled to conduct enumerations of persons in hotels, campgrounds, YMCAs, and other places frequented by travelers and transients. College students were enumerated where they lived while attending school, rather than in their family homes. Otherwise, the date of the census was April 1, 1950 and individuals were asked to report their status as of that date, representing the “typical” scenario in which they lived.
Military personnel who slept off-post were counted where they slept, versus where they were stationed.
Enumerator’s were instructed to number the sheets (pages) of the census form in order beginning with “1” (one). Nearly all Enumeration Districts could be completed on fewer than 70 pages. However, the persons enumerated out of order were counted on sheets beginning with number “71” (seventy-one). Therefore, if a person is on sheet 71 or higher, they were enumerated out of order for some reason that may or may not be indicated.
Any “skipped” page numbers under 71 were not needed and not used. Thus, it is possible to find a large gap in sheet numbers depending on the size of the population in the individual Enumeration District.
Infant Cards were used to record babies born in January, February and March, 1950 and were recorded by the Enumerators. These were deemed temporary records and were destroyed by the Bureau of the Census.
Similar to other census years, there were “special” schedules completed in the 1950 Census. These include an Agricultural, Irrigation and Drainage schedule. These were deemed temporary records and were destroyed by the Bureau of the Census. However, statistical data can be found on the Census Bureau website at: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/decade/decennial-publications.1950.html.
Enumeration Districts were created and utilized for every piece of land under the auspices of the United States government. Utilize these districts to identify where in the census your family was located, or where they lived in 1950. You can then navigate to that specific enumeration district and read through the census returns. Digital copies of the enumeration district maps are available on Findmypast through the 1950 US Census Image Browse, using the search above.
The maps show the boundaries and numbers of the 1950 Census enumeration districts, which were created to help administer and control the data collection process. You may also find wards, precincts, townships, incorporated areas, unincorporated areas, census supervisor districts and congressional districts on these maps.
Each base map was obtained locally and include postal route maps, general land office maps, soil survey maps, and maps produced by city, county and state government offices, as well as commercial printers. Census officials then drew the boundaries and numbers on these maps. There is no consistency in the maps across the country and can and should be utilized by researchers for the wide range of possible information that may be found within.
There are also written descriptions of each enumeration district, available on the National Archives and Records Administration website, via their card catalog, as part of Record Group 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007, series “Enumeration District Descriptions, 1850-1950”.
For best results, copy and paste the link below and then type in the search box: “1950 + the county + the state” such as, “1950 King Washington” and then hit enter.
You can also narrow down the search results by including a town name.
Information on most overseas personnel was collected for informational purposes only and was not retained.
The Census Bureau entered into cooperative agreements with the U.S. Departments of Defense and State and the U.S. Maritime Association, to provide information on personnel and dependents under their authority.
Microfilm records exist for the following locations:
Panama Canal Zone
Virgin Islands of the United States
Paper records (only) exist for the following locations:
Canton [Kanton] Island
Name and rank of select U.S. Military personnel overseas are included in the Census Bureaus’ administrative records relating to the 1950 census but were not made available with this collection. Please refer to the National Archives and Records Administration for more information (NAID 205683289).
Most Native Americans living on Indian Reservations were enumerated on both the standard form P1 and on Form P8, Indian Reservation Schedule.
Those living in Alaska, Oklahoma, or not on a reservation were enumerated on the standard P1 form only.
It will be necessary to locate the enumeration district of interest to find the 1950 Census form for an individual or family group.
Identify the location in which the family was residing as specifically as possible. Sources for this type of information include previous censuses, such as the 1940 US Census, city directories, family records, vital records, land and property records, deeds and mortgages, and so forth.
Utilize the collection of enumeration district maps to search for the state then county you are interested in. Examine the image of the map to find the correct enumeration district. Make note of this district number.
You can then search by state, county, and enumeration district number to find the relevant images, then scroll through those images to find the individual or family you are looking for.
Alternatively, you can search by Enumeration District Description, which allows you to search for keywords across the collection. Unique place names will be easily found using this tool, such as "Enumclaw" or "Sequim." By utilizing the enumeration description search box, search results will include maps, description pages, and population schedules.
If you already know the Enumeration District or the NARA roll number, you can simply enter that information into the search box to direct you to the appropriate images.