When the 1950 Census becomes available on a NARA website on April 1, 2022, there will be a name search function powered by an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology tool. Granted, it will be imperfect on opening day – but that just means that all of us will have the opportunity to make it better through a transcription tool that will also be available. Exciting times! Read more about it at 1950 Census Release Will Offer Enhanced Digital Access, Public Collaboration Opportunity, a December 14, 2021 press release.
An 1890 Census Fragment for Alaska is Rediscovered and Digitized
The National Archives recently digitized a previously unappreciated fragment of the 1890 census that contains information about 13 families in Alaska. This piece of the (mostly) destroyed 1890 census has essentially been “hiding in plain sight” since the National Archives published the Preliminary Inventory for Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census, in 1964. You can read more about it in “An 1890 Census Fragment for Alaska is Rediscovered.” Digital images are in the National Archives Catalog as “Logbook of Frank Lowell, Special Agent, Alaska District No. 2, 1890 Census” (National Archives Identifier 202288465).
Census Enumeration District Maps for 1940 and 1950 are Online
NARA Cartographic Records staff member Amanda Pritchard brings you up to speed in “Census Enumeration District Maps for 1940 and 1950 Available Digitally in Our Catalog.”
1810 Census for Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
In 1810, Salem, Massachusetts, was the 9th largest city in the United States, with 12,613 people. New York City was first with 96,373, and nearby Boston was fourth with 33,787.
From 1790 to 1870, U.S. Marshals and their assistants conducted the census. Preliminary Inventory 161, Records of the Bureau of the Census, on page 94, states: “Under the provisions of the decennial census acts, 1790-1820, the population schedules were to be deposited with the district court clerks, ‘who were to receive and carefully preserve the same.’ … A resolution of May 28, 1830 (4 Stat. 430), directed the clerks of the district courts to forward the population schedules for the first four censuses to the Secretary of State. … It is known that the 1790 schedules for Rhode Island were forwarded to Washington on June 22, 1830, as a result of the May 28 resolution. Presumably other extant population schedules, 1790-1820, were forwarded at about the same time, but no documentation of such action has been found.”
The Bureau of the Census bound the extant 1810 census schedules into volumes sometime between 1902 and 1934, but the volume that included Essex County lacked the town of Salem. Decades later these same records were microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M252, Third Census of the United States, 1810, which can be found digitally on popular genealogy websites. It’s likely that many people looking through the 1810 census schedules for Essex County have wondered why Salem was omitted. The answer finally came to light this year.
For unknown reasons, the 1810 census schedules for Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, became aliened (separated) from Federal custody. Somehow, they eventually came into the custody of the Peabody Essex Museum Library in Salem, Massachusetts. A National Archives staff member noticed a reference to these records on Instagram in February 2021, which set NARA’s Permanent Records Capture team on a mission to return these important records to federal custody. Read more about it here: “Instagram Post Leads to Recovery of 1810 Census Rolls.”
Digital images of the 1810 census for Salem can be viewed in the National Archives Catalog at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205601220.
Federal Records that Help Identify Former Slaves and Slave Owners
I gave a presentation with this title during the 2018 NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair which is online. I’ve now added the “June 2019” version of the handout for that presentation to my “Research Guides” page on this website. This handout highlights of federal agencies or major records series that are useful; it is certainly not exhaustive.
In addition, it is good to remember that most documentation of enslavement will be found in property, estate, tax, and other records created primarily at the county level, not in federal records.
It’s No Joke, There’s Just One Year to the Opening of the 1950 Census
No April fool’s joke here. It really is just one year – 365 days – to the digital opening of the 1950 U.S. federal population census on April 1, 2022, 72 years after the official 1950 census day.
Keep up with 1950 census news and information. Here are some recent blog posts you may have missed:
Preparing for the 1950 Census by Archivist of the United States David Ferriero.
Counting Down Until the Release of the 1950 Census! by NARA Digitization Director Denise Henderson
Countdown to the 1950 Census from NARA Catalog staff
1950 Census: The Official Census Day – April 1, 1950
1950 Census: T-Nights, April 11 and 13, 1950
1950 Census: Field Enumeration Procedures
1950 Census: The Beautiful Portfolio Control Label
1950 Census: The Answer Is … a Lot of Numbers and Publications
Register at the History Hub and follow the “Census Records” community. We’re aiming to publish one 1950 census blog post a week to opening day.
Yes, Research is Often Difficult
Yup, you already knew that. Check out “Twenty Reasons You May Have Trouble Finding an Ancestor in the Census” on the History Hub. Undoubtedly, there probably other reasons that ancestors are hidden in census records besides these, which focus on reasons pertaining to the 1850-1940 censuses.
The 1950 Census Training Timetable
Successful accomplishment of a project requires a plan. If that project involves other people, they need to be trained to do the task correctly the first time. No do-overs, please!
The Bureau of the Census needed to hire and train 140,000 enumerators (all temporary workers) to count 152.3 million people during the course of the 1950 census. A four-month training plan was devised beginning with “Chief Instructors” who taught “Instructors” who taught “Crew Leaders” who then taught the Enumerators. The time schedule was tight for a reason. If you train people too far in advance of when before they need the information, they will forget important details. Adapted from 1950 Census: It Took More Than 148,000 People to Make it Happen!
Counting Down to the Opening of the 1950 Census!
The “countdown clock” to the right shows you how many days remain until the digital opening of the 1950 census on 1 April 2022. It will be here faster than you think! Time to get ready!
Therefore, I’ve started writing about the 1950 census on the History Hub website with the first installment today: “1950 Census: How the Census Forms and Procedures Were Developed.”
The Ubiquitous Card File
The National Archives recently digitized the Card File of Population Data Relating to the 17th Census, 1950 (National Archives Identifier 2990400). While this card set is mundane and may not be extraordinarily useful, it serves as a good reminder that BCE – “before the computer era” – people, businesses, and government alike used “card files” as a data management tools for quick storage and retrieval of important, useful, or frequently accessed information as discussed in my recent blog post, Census Fun Fact #5 – The Geography Division’s Quick Reference Card File of 1950 Census Population Data. Check it out.
P.S.: The 1950 population census will become available to researchers on April 1, 2022.