US Federal government released the ages, incomes, addresses, ancestry, and a trove of other facts about the 150.7 million people counted in the 1950 census at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, exactly 72 years after enumerators began knocking on the doors of some 46 million American houses and apartments.
Those millions of census forms, meticulously filled out by hand in ink, were uploaded online by the National Archives and Records Administration, which had kept them private until now due to a legal requirement.
The data, which can be searched by name and address, provide an intimate view at a nation on the verge of modernization — a peep into the lives of parents and grandparents for the casual observer, but a once-in-a-decade goldmine of secrets for historians and genealogists.
The National Archives made information of the 1940 census available in 2012, which was the last time such data was made public. Since 1952, when the Census Bureau turned over all the data it had gathered since the first census in 1790 to the National Archives, the government has set a 72-year embargo on the dissemination of census records.
Not just census forms, but also counts of Native Americans counted on distinct Indian Reservation Schedules are included in the searchable data being published.
Of course, the general contours of the 1950 census findings have long been known, representing a spurt of economic and population increase in a nation brimming with hope following WWII triumph.
In barely a decade, the United States had increased by about 15%, with New York accounting for roughly one out of every ten inhabitants. Nevada was the least populated state, with only 160,000 citizens.
In April of that year, almost 140,000 census takers, or enumerators, spread out throughout the country for what would be the final thorough house-to-house canvass; the following census, in 1960, was mostly done by mail.
Only the front side of the census forms is included in the rolls. The reverse, which contained responses to a slew of questions regarding the state of the places where respondents resided, was lost.
The pictures provided on Friday are digital versions of microfilm documents scanned with advanced optical character recognition software to find and translate handwritten names and addresses into searchable text. Errors are bound to occur, and the National Archives is encouraging individuals who see the forms to report them.
“When conducting family history, the census is such a crucial basic body of information,” she added. “You may look into what was going on in the area at the time, how much money the family made, and where someone was born.”
Mr. Menashes stated that the new records will give him his first glimpse of his parents, who were young children in 1950 in New York City. “It’s intriguing to me, first and foremost, to know their addresses,” he remarked.
“The archives in New York contain this great photography of streetscapes from the 1940s and 1950s. It’s incredible to be able to link an address to a physical location.”
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