On April 1, 1950, some 150,000 census workers, armed with pencils and thick pads of census schedules, set out to visit every residence in the country. They canvassed neighborhoods on foot or by car. Their goal was to enumerate every person in the country, and that meant some would need dogsleds, canoes, and even rowboats to reach out-of-the-way citizens. It took about a month for census workers (called enumerators) to finish the tally, then additional time for the government to tabulate the results. After completing the census, federal law mandated a 72-year restriction on the records to protect individual privacy. On April 1, 2022, the 1950 U.S. Census will be released to the public, providing a snapshot of history and new insights for genealogical research.
The first decennial census took place in 1790, and the population was nearly 4 million. By the time the 1950 Census rolled around, the population ballooned to more than 151 million. The Framers of the Constitution wanted population, not wealth, to be the basis for sharing political power, and censuses helped apportion Congressional seats. Over the years, it became evident that gathering additional data while enumerating citizens was useful. It could help community leaders allocate funding for transportation, education, health care, and more. Each census has asked slightly different questions. The 1940 standard census forms had lines for 40 persons. In 1950, this was reduced to 30 lines, allowing enumerators space to take notes on additional sample questions answered by every fifth person.
To prepare for the 1950 Census, the government created detailed aerial maps to identify every dwelling. In January 1950, the call went out for census workers. Requirements included a high school education and the ability to fill out complex census schedules with efficiency and courtesy. Applicants needed to be between 21 and 65 years old, and veterans received preference. Census workers interviewed about 30 families each day, enumerating about 1,110 persons in total. They earned 7 cents for each line of information filled out – or about $8 a day. At the time, the average family income was $3,300. Each interview took about 10 minutes, and the job sometimes presented challenges. One census worker reported being hit over the head with a frying pan when the interviewee didn’t like her questions. Others reported being bitten by dogs or chased by a swarm of bees. One census worker climbed a 60-foot flagpole to enumerate an ex-paratrooper trying to set a new world record as a flagpole sitter. Sometimes residents hid from census workers or slammed the door in their face. This behavior was illegal and could result in a fine or jail time.
The 1950 U.S. Census will provide insights into the post-WWII boom era, including the baby boom, the housing boom, and booming suburbs. Census schedules will also show segregated neighborhoods and separate and “inherently unequal” circumstances that led to the Civil Rights Movement. Using new, proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) handwriting recognition technology, Ancestry® announced that it will deliver a searchable index of the 1950 Census faster than ever before. Volunteers will evaluate census extraction records to ensure accurate results. We anticipate the 1950 U.S. Census will be fully indexed and available to search online this summer. To learn more about the 1950 U.S. Census, search Newspapers.com™ today!