The 1950 census questions are listed here, so you can plan your search strategies. I’m excited about some potential answers I might find.
That April release date is just around the corner. So this blog post and my next newsletter coming out on February 4 can help.
1950 US Census Research Strategies
The National Archives and Records Administration will release digitized images of the 1950 census on April 1. Ancestry and FamilySearch will then begin indexing these records by name. But what can you find without a name index? The February issue of First Friday Genealogy with Sassy Jane has answers to these questions about access and search strategies.
Subscribe (it’s free) to get your newsletter on February 4th:
In the meantime, we do know exactly what was asked in this census. Let’s take a look.
1950 Census Questions
The 1950 census population questionnaire asked fewer questions than its predecessor; the full population was asked only 20 questions. As in 1940, a 5 percent sample was asked an additional slate of questions. Enumerators asked the following 1950 census questions:
- Name of street, avenue or road where the household is located
- Home or apartment number
- Serial number of dwelling unit
- Is this house on a farm (or ranch)?
- If no, is this house on a place of three or more acres?
- Corresponding agriculture questionnaire number
- Relationship to head
- How old was this person on his last birthday?
- Is this person now married, widowed, divorced, separated, or never married?
- Enumerators were to enter “Mar” for married, “Wd” for widowed, “D” for divorced, “Sep” for separated, or “Nev” for never married
- What State or country was the person born in?
- If foreign born, is the person naturalized?
1950 census research questionnaire, page 1. Click to download. (US Census Bureau)
For persons 14 years of age and over
- What was this person doing most of last week – working, keeping house, or something else?
- Enumerators were to record “Wk” for working, “H” for keeping house, “U” for unable to work, or “Ot” for other
- If the person was “keeping house” or “something else” in question 15, did the person do any work at all last week, not counting work around the house? (Including work-for-pay, in his own business, working on a farm or unpaid family work)
- If the person answered “no” to question 16, was he looking for work?
- If the person answered “no” to question 17, even if he didn’t work last week, does he have a job or business?
- If the person was working, how many hours did he or she work in the last week?
- What kind of work does the person do?
- What kind of business or industry is the person in?
- Class of worker the person is.
- Enumerators were to mark “P” for private employment, “G” for government employment, “O” for own business, or “NP” for working without pay
1950 census questions, page 2. Click to download. (US Census Bureau)
Supplemental Questions (for a 5 percent sample of the population)
For all ages
- Was the person living in the same house a year ago?
- If no to question 21, was the person living on a farm a year ago?
- If no to question 21, was the person living in the same county a year ago?
- If no to question 23…
- What county (or nearest place) was he living in a year ago?
- What state or foreign country was he living in a year ago?
- What country were the person’s mother and father born in?
- What is the highest grade of school that the person has attended?
- Enumerators were to mark “0” for no school; “K” for kindergarten; “S1” through “S12” depending on the last year of elementary or secondary school attended; “C1” through “C4” depending on the last year of undergraduate college education attended; or “C5” for any graduate or professional school.
- Did the person finish this grade?
- Has the person attended school since February 1st?
- Enumerators could check a box for “yes” or “no” for those under thirty; for those over thirty, they were to check a box for “30 or over.”
For persons 14 years and older
- If the person is looking for work, how many weeks has he been looking for work?
- Last year, how many weeks did this person not work at all, not counting work around the house?
- Last year, how much money did the person earn working as an employee for wages or salary?
- Last year, how much money did the person earn working at his own business, professional occupation, or farm?
- Last year, how much money did the person receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (aside from earnings)?
- If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did his relatives in this household earn working for wages or salary?
- If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did the person earn working at his own business, professional occupation, or farm?
- If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did the person receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (aside from earnings)?
- If male: did he ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces during…
- World War II
- World War I
- Any other time, including present service
- To enumerator: if the person worked in the last year, is there any entry in columns 20a, 20b, or 20c?
- If yes, skip to question 36; if no, make entries for questions 35a, 35b, and 35c.
- What kind of work does this person doe in his job?
- What kind or business or industry does this person work in?
- Class of worker
- If ever married, has this person been married before?
- If married, widowed, divorced, or separated, how many years since this event occurred?
- If female and ever married, how many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?
1950 Census and the Trumans
By the way, that’s President Harry Truman, his wife Bess and daughter Margaret answering the census taker’s questions in Key West in 1950 above. And they made the newsreels, too.