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Census Records

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NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day.  This is the 13th in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

This is our second look, in detail, at the Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, that was used in most of the United States.  This post will focus on Items 1-6 that provided “Household Information.”

Item 1 was for “Street, avenue, or road.” The enumerator wrote lengthwise (sideways) in this column the name of the street, avenue, court, place, alley, or road.  If there was no street name, the enumerator was to write in the blank “Notes” section in the middle of the page “the location of the house in such a way that someone else will be able to find it.”

 

If the street had a name but no house numbers, the enumerator was to write the name of the street and give location by direction from its intersection with another street, such as “Douglas Avenue, west of Sherman.” When the enumerator went from one street to another, he or she was to draw a horizontal line to indicate the end of the enumerator’s work on the first street and the beginning of the enumerator’s work on the next street.  Remember that an enumerator might work on a particular street several times during the enumeration due to the instruction to go around a complete block before beginning the next block, as described in the prior post, 1950 Census:  Field Enumeration Procedures.

 

Items 2 through 6, described below, were only written on the line for the head of household of each dwelling unit.

 

Item 2 was for “House (and apartment) number.” The enumerator was to write the house number (street address) if it had one.  If it had more than dwelling unit, the apartment number or location were to be given, such as “Apt.  1” or “3rd floor rear.”  If there was a second house behind the first house at the same address, it was to be indicated as “rear of ___” whatever number the “front” house had.  If there was no house number the enumerator was to describe its location in such a way that someone else would be able to find it, such as “1st house on right after fire house.”

 

Item 3 was for “Serial number of dwelling unit.” This was a sequential count of the number of dwelling units visited by the enumerator.  The enumerator was to “number the dwelling units in your ED in the order in which you first visit them” even if it was necessary to return to the dwelling unit at a later time to obtain needed information.  Serial numbers were to be assigned to all dwelling units, whether occupied by residents, nonresidents, or vacant.

 

Lodging houses, hotels, and similar places usually contained multiple dwelling units.  The enumerator was instructed that “Each group occupying separate living quarters that meet the definition of a dwelling unit should be assigned a separate serial number” while “roomers who rent sleeping quarters only should be listed with the members of the household’s family.”  A dwelling unit was defined as “a group of rooms or a single room, occupied or intended for occupancy as separate living quarters, by a family or other group of persons living together or by a person living alone.”  We will return to this subject in a future post but, in general, quarters that did “not have separate cooking equipment” or a separate entrance from the landlord’s quarters were to be enumerated as part of the landlord’s household.

 

Item 4 was for the yes or no question:  “Is this house on a farm (or ranch)?”  In urban areas, the enumerator was to supply the answer himself or herself by observation.  In rural areas, the enumerator was to let the respondent answer the question.  Some farms might contain two or more houses, and it was fine if the respondents at each house gave different answers.  For example, Mr.  Anderson owned and lived on his farm and would answer “yes” that he lived on a farm.  Mr.  Anderson had a second house with a small yard on his property that he rented to Mr.  Brown who worked in the nearby city.  Mr.  Brown would undoubtedly say “no” he did not live on a farm.  Those who answered “yes” to the farm question would also be required to answer questions on the Form A1, Agricultural Questionnaire, which is not extant.  For institutions, summer camps, and tourist camps, “no” was always the correct answer for this question even if there were some agricultural operations present.

 

Item 5, “Is this house on a place of three or more acres?” was to be answered if the response to Item 4 was “no” and skipped if Item 4 was “yes.”  Urban areas sometimes had places of three or more acres that were “not thought of as farms” but would still be required to answer the questions on Form A1, Agricultural Questionnaire.  Likewise, if our hypothetical Mr.  Brown, mentioned above, answered “No” to item 4 but rented three or more acres, he would answer the Form A1, Agricultural Questionnaire, concerning his rented acreage.

 

Item 6, “Agricultural Questionnaire Number” was written by the enumerator.  Unfortunately, these questionnaires are not extant and therefore will not be part of the release of the 1950 census.  Numbers were assigned sequentially.  If two (or more) dwelling units on the property each required a Form A1, Agricultural Questionnaire, the same number was to be indicated for both.  In rural areas, “if some other enumerator is required to fill out the Agricultural Questionnaire” then the enumerator was to write “Other ED” in item 6.  This situation occurred if the person in charge of the farm lived in a different Enumeration District (ED) than the farm.  In urban areas, enumerators were not trained in taking the Form A1 so they were issued Form A2, Special Agricultural Questionnaire, for those places that were farms, had three or more acres, or specialized agricultural operations.  Answers on the Form A2 would determine if there were agricultural operations that required a Form A1.  The urban enumerator was instructed: “If there are agricultural operations, someone will be sent to each place to fill the Agricultural Questionnaire at a later date (Form A1).  You simply tell the respondent that you have not been trained in filling the Agricultural Questionnaire and that someone who has been trained will call at a later date.”

 

Although Items 1-6 were six simple questions, they certainly require a lot of explanation!  In the next blog post, we will look at Items 7-14, questions for all persons.

 

Adapted from Urban and Rural Enumerator's Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 29-31, 68, and 102.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day.  This is the 12th in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

In this post we take our first look, in detail, of the P1, Population and Housing Schedule, that was used in most of the United States.  Each enumerator had to fill in the “heading” section at the top of the page with information common to all people on the page.

Heading section, Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

 

“Item a” was for the state, territory (such as Alaska or Hawaii), or District (such as the District of Columbia).

"Item a" - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

 

“Item b” was for the “County” or its equivalent, such as Parish (Louisiana); Independent City (Baltimore, various cities in Virginia, and probably others); District (such as in Alaska); or Municipality (Puerto Rico).  If the “independent city” was not part of a county, the enumerator was to write city after it, such as Baltimore City (Maryland) or Fairfax City (Virginia) that would distinguish it from like-named “county-level” jurisdictions in the same state.

"Item b" - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

“Item c” was for the next political level, which the Bureau preferred to call “minor civil division.”  The enumerator was to write in the name of the incorporated place or township.  The enumerator was to specify the appropriate term, such as Willoughby Village or Willoughby Township (Ohio) to avoid confusion over multiple types of civil divisions with the same name.

"Item c" - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

“Item d” was for the assigned Enumeration District (ED) Number.  As with the 1930 and 1940 censuses, the ED number was a two-part number consisting of a prefix and a suffix.  The prefix was for the county or its equivalent.  These numbers were assigned sequentially to match the alphabetical order of the counties (or equivalent) with independent cities (usually) following numerically and alphabetically after the last county.  The suffix was for a specified area within the county or equivalent that could be enumerated within two weeks in cities or within four weeks in rural areas.

"Item d" - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

 

Thus, Autauga County, which was alphabetically the first county in Alabama, had a prefix of 1, and Precinct 1, Prattville, consisted of several EDs numbered 1-1 to 1-12, some of which would be further specified in “Item c” as Prattmont town, Prattville City, or simply Precinct 1, Prattville, as appropriate.

Selected enumeration district descriptions, Autauga County, Alabama.Selected Enumeration Districts (ED) of Autauga County, Alabama (NAID 200336336).

 

“Item e” was for “Hotel, large rooming house, institution, military installation, etc.”  The enumerator was to write in the full name of the establishment.  In the space provided for “type” of institution, the enumerator was to “enter the kind of place” such as hotel, WMCA, Army camp, and so forth.  The enumerator instructions provided more than a full page worth of examples of correctional and penal institutions, mental institutions, homes for the aged and needy, homes and hospitals for the chronically ill or handicapped, and other special types of living quarters such as nurses’ homes; convents and monasteries; dormitories or similar lodging for workers, college students, and students below college level; crews on inland vessels; military installations; general hospitals; residential clubs and large lodging houses; hotels, missions, and flophouses; YMCA, YWCA, and the like; and summer camps, tent camps, trailer camps, and similar tourist lodgings.  For each of these places, the enumerator was to also enter the line numbers used on that schedule for persons enumerated at those places.  Thus, this item would only to apply to persons on specified lines on the sheet, not necessarily the entire page.

"Item e" - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

 

“Item f” was for the date the enumerator started to write individuals’ information on this sheet.  This indicates the date the enumerator visited the households on this page, but remember that the information was supposed to be accurate as of the official census day, April 1, not the date the enumerator visited the household.  It is possible that an enumerator began a sheet on one day and continued writing on it the next, so look for any annotations that suggest that was the case.

"Item f" - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

 

“Item g” was for the enumerator’s signature. The instructions were very clear:  “The enumerator must sign his name in the space provided in the heading when he fills the heading of the schedule.”  There were many women enumerators, so “he” and “his” in the instructions were intended to include “she” and “her.”

"Item g" - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

 

“Item h” was “Checked by.”  The enumerator’s Crew Leader was to “sign his name here on completed schedules that he has reviewed” as well as indicate the date of that review.

"Item h" - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

 

In the box for “Sheet Number” the enumerator was to number the sheets of the Form P1 serially (in order) beginning with “1” (one).  However, sheets for persons enumerated out of order were to be on sheets beginning with the number “71.”  Therefore, if a person is on a sheet numbered 71 or higher, the researcher will know that person was enumerated out of order for some reason that may be indicated on those sheets, or deduced from header information.

Box for Sheet Number - Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, 1950 Census, USA

 

In future weeks, we'll take a look at the rest of the Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule.

 

Adapted from Urban and Rural Enumerator's Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 27-29.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census.  This is the 11th in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

During the 1950 census, the Bureau of the Census gave special attention given to infants.  For each infant born in January, February, or March 1950, who was listed on the Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, the enumerator was required to take the additional step of filling out Form P3, Infant Card.  Although most of the information on the Infant Card could be copied from the population schedule, the enumerator had to ask the family for additional information, such as actual place of birth, name of hospital, type of attendant, and maiden name of mother.

 

Advertising image for 1950 Census from [Folder 13] Advertising Campaign for the 1950 United States Census, 17th Decennial Census (National Archives Identifier 195980247).

 

Form P3, Infant Card, measured 8 inches by 10.5 inches. Three million cards were printed in green ink on buff colored paper.  Blank Infant Cards were distributed to census enumerators in the Portfolio that contained their enumeration district description, maps, blank forms, instructions, and other needed supplies.  Enumerators in certain U.S. territories and possessions also filled out Infant Cards that were substantially the same as the P3, Infant Card, but were numbered differently:  P84, Alaska; P89, Hawaii; P95, Puerto Rico; and P99, Virgin Islands.  This is an image of the Form P3:

 

Form P3, Infant Card, from [Folder 12] Form P3, Infant Card, 1950 Census of Population and Housing, 17th Decennial Census, 1950 (National Archives Identifier 195980246).

 

The Infant Cards served as the basis for studying the “undercount” of babies in two ways.  The cards were to be matched by the National Office of Vital Statistics to birth registrations to determine (1) how many enumerated infants were not registered at birth and, conversely, (2) how many infants registered at birth were not enumerated in the 1950 census. Sadly, many infants born during January to March 1950 could not be enumerated on the census because they died before the official census day of April 1, 1950.  In 1950, nationwide infant mortality was 29.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, with white infant mortality at 26.8 per thousand and Black infant mortality substantially higher at 43.9 per thousand.

 

After the census was completed, each Infant Card was removed from the Portfolio for its enumeration district and then grouped by state and finally by county or large city.  Occupation and industry entries for the fathers were coded (tabulated) for statistical tabulation purposes “before the National Office of Vital Statistics matched the cards against the birth registration records.” In addition to the Infant Cards, some data was obtained from a special mail inquiry “to parents of infants for a sample of birth records for which no matching census record could at first be found.” Possible reasons for missing of infants in the census were also obtained through the same mail inquiry. The Bureau then proceeded to study the data. As the Bureau stated:

 

“The Infant Enumeration Study was undertaken to provide information that might lead to better enumeration of young children in future censuses and to provide a basis for estimating the extent of error in 1950. Although it was necessary to restrict the study to infants born in the first three months of 1950, some of the patterns of differential completeness of enumeration by urban-rural residence, etc., may be applicable to older infants.”  1950 Infant Enumeration Study, p. 1.

 

The full study is available online and is worth reading.  Here are the highlights from the introduction (page 1):

 

  • About 96.4 percent of infants born in the first three months of 1950 were enumerated in the 1950 Census. This figure includes 1.3 percent for whom birth records indicated that the infants were born in the period but were enumerated as born before 1950. This figure excludes infants whose birth records indicated that they were illegitimate or were born in a State other than the State of usual residence of the mother.
  • Taking into account illegitimate infants and infants born in a State that was not the usual residence of the mother, 95.1 percent of infants born in the first three months of 1950 were enumerated in the 1950 census.
  • The North Central Region had the highest percentage of infants enumerated (97.8 percent) and the South the lowest (94.7 percent).
  • Ohio and Connecticut led with 98.3 percent and New Mexico was last with 91.0 percent. Thirty-four of the States had percentages of 95.0 or better.
  • Enumeration of infants varied slightly by where they lived: urban (96.8 percent), rural nonfarm (96.7 percent), and rural farm (94.7 percent).
  • White infants (97.1 percent) were more completely enumerated than nonwhite infants (91.4 percent).
  • There was no evidence of any real difference in the enumeration of boys and girls.
  • By month of birth, there was slightly less complete enumeration of babies born in January than those born in February or March.
  • By order of birth, there was less complete enumeration at the extremes. "First child" and tenth-or-higher order babies were less completely enumerated than the intermediate birth orders. These comparisons may reflect unsettled living arrangements among some recent parents of a first child and among some very large families.
  • Infants of mothers under 25 years old tended to be less completely enumerated than infants of older mothers.
  • Infants of mothers who had completed less than 7 years of grade school were more likely to be missed than infants of mothers with more education.
  • Infants with fathers who were in the armed forces were relatively more often missed than were infants with civilian fathers.
  • About 82 percent of the 16,045 cases in which infants were classified as definitely or probably missed in the census, the parents were also missed.  Of these:

o   20 percent of the families of missed infants were absent from home or moved during the enumeration period.

o   55 percent of the missed infants were not counted because the enumerators overlooked some obscure dwellings, failed to enumerate all dwelling units in a structure, or listed some occupied dwelling units as “vacant.”

o   8 percent resulted from failure of relatives or nonrelatives to report the parents and the infant who were staying with them, probably because the enumerator did not ask specifically about people who were living temporarily in the dwelling unit.

  • In the 18 percent of cases where the parents were enumerated but the infant was missed, the reasons given for the oversight included:

o   A neighbor gave incomplete information.

o   The family did not think infants were to be reported or forgot.

o   The infant died between April l and the time of the census enumeration.

o  The child was born before April 1 but was not enumerated because the enumeration occurred before April 1 in an enumeration district used for training enumerators. (1950 Infant Enumeration Study, p. 8). 

 

Form P3, Infant Cards, will not be part of the release of the 1950 census.  These cards are not extant.  They are not part of the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The writer has not researched the details. However, the Infant Cards were undoubtedly deemed to be temporary records that were not worthy of permanent retention because they (1) duplicated state birth records kept by state vital records agencies and (2) largely duplicated data already included in the permanent record in microfilm publication T628, Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950, that contained the population side of the Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule.  The Bureau of the Census microfilmed the 1950 census population schedules in 1952 prior to disposal of the original paper schedules.  The Bureau's microfilm was then accessioned by the National Archives.

 

While the Infant Cards are an interesting aspect of the 1950 census, it is worthwhile noting that Infant Cards were not a new or innovative feature of U.S. census taking.  The Bureau of the Census had, in fact, also required enumerators to complete Infant Cards in conjunction with the 1940 census for infants under 4 months old.  The Bureau estimated that the count of children under one year old may have been less complete in 1940 (despite the Infant Cards) than in 1930 (when there were no Infant Cards).  1950 Infant Enumeration Study, 1950, p. 3. Infant Cards for 1940 are also not extant.

 

Overall, the Bureau estimated that the net under-enumeration of the population of all ages in the 1950 census was fairly low - just 1.4 percent.  1950 Infant Enumeration Study, p. 3.

 

Bibliography:

 

Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Procedural Studies of the 1950 Census No. 1:  Infant Enumeration Study (Washington, DC: 1953).

 

Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Procedural Studies of the 1950 Census No. 2:  The 1950 Censuses—How They Were Taken (Washington, DC: 1955), pages 20, 27, 28, 85, 87, 93, 190, 199, 211, 220.

 

Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.  “Status of the 1950 Census Program in the United States." A special report to the Fourth Session of the Committee on the 1950 Census of the Americas, Inter-American Statistical Institute, Washington, DC, June 11-15, 1951.

 

Centers for Disease Control:  Table 11, Infant mortality rates, by race: United States, selected years, 1950-2015.

 

National Research Council Committee on National Statistics, Vital Statistics:  Summary of a Workshop (Washington, DC: 2009), Appendix B:  The U.S. Vital Statistics System: A National Perspective.  In 1950, the National Office of Vital Statistics was part of the Federal Security Administration; its functions are currently under the umbrella of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census.  This is the tenth in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

Every 10 years, the Bureau of the Census needs to do two things.  (1) Take as complete a census as possible.  (2)  Remind the people in the United States what a census is and why they must—and need to—participate.

 

We, as genealogists, think about the census constantly.  We know what it is.  We look forward to participating.  We know that it is important for family history research and hope that our descendants will look us up in 72 years!  Most U.S. residents, however, need a reminder.

 

How do you do this?  You reach people where they get their news.  Today, people are online.  In the 1950s, radio and newspapers were the most important ways to reach educated persons and opinion leaders.  Over 53.8 million newspapers were printed on weekdays and 46.6 million on Sunday.  The Bureau wrote generic press releases that its district supervisors could send to local newspapers.  It drafted statements that local government officials could likewise send to newspapers.

 

Indeed, an entire “public service announcement” (PSA) packet was crafted by the Advertising Council (often called the Ad Council), a nonprofit organization that produces, distributes, and promotes PSAs on behalf of nonprofit, nongovernment, and U.S. governmental organizations. Besides explanations of what the census was all about, this packet included advertisements promoting the census. Let’s take a look!

 

Why should you participate?  Your kids and young multicultural Wladyslaw Jones will have a better future because of the information collected:

 

Your Cute Baby!

Wladyslaw Jones

 

What do you do when the census taker comes? There were four suggestions listed here:

 

Confidentiality of the information is a top concern for many people. Several advertisements assured people their information was secure:

 

Farmers were told about the agricultural census. (Sorry, agricultural schedules are not extant!)

 

Finally, don't be a joker!  Be prepared - and answer directly and honestly. The enumerator has a big job to do in a short amount of time!

 

Want to see more?  Check out the entire PSA packet online.  It is [Folder 13] Advertising Campaign for the 1950 United States Census, 17th Decennial Census (National Archives Identifier 195980247) in the series Narrative Histories, Committee Minutes, and Procedural Manuals Primarily Relating to  the 17th Decennial Census (NAID 5634057) in Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the ninth in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

Enumerators were instructed to enumerate each person at his or her “usual place of residence.”  That is normally a simple concept.  It’s the place the person considers to be home or would name in reply to the question, “Where do you live?” “As a rule it is the place where the person usually sleeps.”  Thus, the enumerator was to count members of the household who were:

 

  • Living at home
  • Temporarily absent “on vacation, visiting, or on business.”
  • In a hospital but expected to return in a short period of time.
  • New-born babies who had not yet left the hospital.
  • Students attending a school below the college level who resided in another place.
  • Live-in domestic or other employees who slept in the same dwelling unit.
  • Boarders or lodgers who regularly slept in the same dwelling unit.
  • Military servicemen stationed in the vicinity who lived and slept off post. (Those on post would be enumerated on post.)

 

Consistent with the rules above, the enumerator was not to enumerate:

 

  • Temporary visitors to the household who had a usual place of residence elsewhere.
  • Citizens of foreign countries visiting or traveling in the U.S. (vacationers) and persons living on the premises of an Embassy, Ministry, Legation, Chancellory, or Consulate.  (All other foreigners were enumerated.)
  • Students or children living or boarding away from home while attending “some regular school below the college level ... and having a usual place of residence elsewhere from which they will be reported.”
  • College and university students living away from home. (They would be enumerated in the Enumeration District where they lived while attending school). Likewise, student nurses would be enumerated as residents of the hospital, nurses’ home, or other place in which they lived while receiving their training.
  • Persons who ate meals with the household “but usually lodge or sleep elsewhere.”
  • Domestic employees or other persons employed by the household but who did not sleep in the same dwelling unit.
  • Former members of the household who resided in correctional or penal institutions; homes for the aged, needy, chronically ill, and handicapped; nurses’ homes; convents and monasteries; and similar places.  (They would be enumerated at their institution.)
  • Officers and crews of ships and persons living in lighthouses. (The Bureau made special arrangements with the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and U.S.-flag merchant vessels in foreign, coastwise, intercoastal, and Great Lakes trade, to enumerate crews of their vessels.)
  • Persons working abroad for the U.S. Government (who would be enumerated under special procedures).
  • Household members absent on military service. 

 

Of course there are always complications:

 

  • Persons who slept most of the week (four nights or more) in one locality to be near their workplace but spent weekends and other nonwork periods with family in another locality were to be enumerated where they slept most of the week.
  • Persons with no fixed place of work, such as traveling salesmen, railroad trainmen, porters, crews on canal barges or river vessels, and so forth, who slept away from the family residence “most of the time” were to be enumerated at their family residence.
  • Persons “with no usual place of residence” were to be enumerated in the Enumeration District where they were at the time of the enumeration.
  • Persons who moved into the Enumeration District (ED) after April 1, 1950, for permanent residence were to be enumerated unless the enumerator learned that they had “already been enumerated in the ED from which they came.”

 

The Bureau gave these rules and explanations for “usual place of residence” to the enumerators so that there was a uniform and systematic approach to common enumeration problems.  These rules helped reduce the twin problems of either undercounting or double-counting certain populations.

 

Adapted from Urban and Rural Enumerator's Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 22-27.

Card files are yesteryear’s version of databases and spreadsheets – and they were everywhere. Think of grandmother’s recipe card boxes, library card catalogs, and the executive’s “Rolodex” of important phone numbers. Federal agencies created hundreds of card files that are now in the National Archives as cards or on microfilm, including First Lady Bess Truman’s recipe file with Washington Cream Pie:

 

Image: Bess Wallace Truman’s “Recipe Washington Cream Pie” (NAID 139308685).

 

Early computers used “punch cards” for their data feed.  In the photo detail below, women “punch card operators” were compiling data from the original 1940 census schedules onto punch cards that would then be “run” through computer tabulation equipment to obtain compiled statistical data for subsequent published reports.

Image:  Detail from “Card Punch Operators working on agricultural cards. Population and housing cards carried 45 columns. All other cards carried 80 columns.” Local Identifier 29-C-1B-41. NAID 6200858.  From series: “Photographs Documenting the Sixteenth Decennial Census, 1940-1941” (NAID 513293).

 

After the compilation of data from the 1950 census was completed, the Census Bureau’s Geography Division decided it would be useful to have a card file with basic 1950 census population information that would serve as a quick reference file.  They probably received enough questions from other parts of the Census Bureau to make it worthwhile to compile this reference source, and likely used it often themselves.  During the 20th century, the Geography Division determined the boundaries of enumeration districts based on the political boundaries of counties, towns, townships, villages, and other “Minor Civil Divisions” (MCDs), as well as changes in population since the previous census.  After the 1950 census was over, they would start planning for the 1960 census.

 

The Geography Division’s Card File of Population Data Relating to the 17th Census, 1950 (NAID 2990400) contains one card for each state except that the following are grouped together on a single card: (1) the New England States; (2) Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; (3) Kentucky and Tennessee; and (4) Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  There are summary cards for the United States and for U.S. Territories. The cards answer these basic questions about each state’s population in 1950:

 

  • How many counties did the state have (or parishes in Louisiana)?
  • How many Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs) did the state have in the 1950 census?  MCDs were townships, towns, villages, and other units of local government.
  • What was the state’s total population in millions?
  • How many cities with over 250,000 population did the state have, and what was their population total in millions?
  • How many cities with between 50,000 and 250,000 population did the state have, and what was their population total in millions?

 

For example, the card for Ohio, shown below, indicates the state had 88 counties with 1,447 Minor Civil Divisions. Its 1950 population was 7.9 million. It had 6 cities with over 250,000 people each whose total population was 2.6 million. In addition, it had 8 cities with between 25,000 and 250,000 people each whose total population was .7 million (700,000).

Image:  Ohio Population, 1950 (NAID 195936142).

 

Today, U.S. population statistics for 1950 and other years can easily be found online, although the speed with which information is retrieved may depend on our search terms, preferred search engine, and other factors. This record series reminds us of the important part that card files played in records storage and retrieval before the computer era.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the eighth in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

It is impossible to conduct a national census in just one day.  The 1950 census enumeration districts were designed to enable the enumerator to finish the count within two weeks in urban areas and within 30 days in rural areas.  However, for statistical purposes, it’s important that the data refer to a specific fixed date—the official census day.  In 1950, the official census day was April 1, 1950.  Enumerators were instructed:

 

Census date.—The Census must count all persons living in the United States on April 1, 1950, and must count them where they usually live.  All persons who were living on that date should be included and babies born after that date should be excluded.  (Paragraph 68, Urban and Rural Enumerator’s Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, page 22.)

 

Image:  A homeowner takes a break from cutting the grass to be interviewed for the 1950 census.  Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau

Image:  A homeowner takes a break from cutting the grass to be interviewed for the 1950 census.  Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau, online at https://www.census.gov/history/www/faqs/demographic_faqs/what_day_was_the_census_taken_each_decade.html

 

Every U.S. census has had an “official census day” that has varied over time:

 

1790:  August 2  (1st Monday)

1800:  August 4  (1st Monday)

1810:  August 6  (1st Monday)

1820:  August 7  (1st Monday)

1830:  June 1

1840:  June 1

1850:  June 1

1860:  June 1

1870:  June 1

1880:  June 1

1890:  June 2  (June 1 was a Sunday)

1900:  June 1

1910:  April 15

1920:  January 1

1930:  April 1

1940:  April 1

1950:  April 1

1960:  April 1

1970:  April 1

1980:  April 1

1990:  April 1

2000:  April 1

2010:  April 1

2020:  April 1

 

It’s likely that the earliest censuses may have been conducted without strict regard for the “census day” since U.S. Marshals and their assistants were given nine months to complete the task in 1790-1800, and six months in 1810-1820.  In 1820, the marshals were even given an extension to September 1, 1821!

 

The switch from the first Monday in August to June 1 for 1830-1900 resulted from President John Quincy Adams’s suggestion to Congress that the census start earlier than August.  June 1, 1890, was a Sunday, so the official date was moved to Monday, June 2. The switch to April 15 was made in 1910 because the director of Bureau of the Census felt that part of the urban population would be away from home in June on summer vacations.

 

The date change to January 1 for the 1920 census was requested by the Department of Agriculture that believed that all harvests would be completed and information would still be fresh in farmers’ minds.  Also, it argued that more people would be at home in January than in April. However, the likely dreadful state of snow-covered roads in northern rural areas probably made it abundantly clear that January was a terrible time to try to conduct a census.  Thus, the census moved back to springtime with April 1 as the official census day from 1930 to the present.

Locating people in historical U.S. census records (1790-1940) is easier than ever due to national indexing on popular commercial genealogy websites – something that did not exist two decades ago. Before 1990 it was necessary to consult indexes in books or on microfilm for specific states, and to actually physically be at an archives, library, or other facility that had census microfilm. However, there are still times when people can be elusive in census records. Here are a few reasons; please comment with experiences you’ve had.

 

1. The person’s surname was recorded as a phonetic variation that sounds similar to the expected spelling due to the pronunciation or accent of the speaker, such as Weston for Westurn, Hefford for Hayford, Brechtel for Prechtel, Stephenson for Stevenson, or McAlley for McCullar.

 

2. The person’s name is not spelled as expected because the U.S.-born enumerator had trouble understanding the person’s non-English name due to the speaker’s language and native accent, such as Chimel for Siml, a Bohemian name, or Brechtel for Prechtel, a German name. One humorous example is “Cheese Bologna” for Narciso Bailoni, an immigrant from Italy (Austria), as shown below in the 1920 census:

Image:  Household of Cheese Bologna, Ward 4, Mount Carmel Borough, Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania, ED 103, Sheet 1A, Line 31, NARA Microfilm Publication T625, Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, Roll 1612.

 

3. The person’s middle name, nickname, or initials were recorded instead of his or her first name.

 

4. The person’s name is hard to decipher because the enumerator’s handwriting was poor or sloppy.

 

5. The creator of the index on which you are relying did understand the handwriting so the person’s name is not indexed correctly.

 

6. The enumerator was literate and spelled common names correctly, but lacked enough education to spell unusual names correctly.

 

7. The person’s mother remarried and the enumerator listed the woman’s children from her prior marriage(s) by their stepfather’s surname instead of their father’s surname.

 

8. The person was temporarily away from his or her family at the time of the enumeration. The person’s family may not have mentioned this person to the enumerator because they assumed he or she would be reported somewhere else—but wasn’t.

 

9. The person is not living where expected and/or not living in the expected household. If he or she is living with nonrelatives, the person’s name and other personal information might be misreported.

 

10. The person’s surname was mistakenly recorded as being the same surname as the unrelated family listed above them on the census page.

 

11. The person’s surname and first name were reversed by the enumerator.

 

12. The person changed their name in adulthood, was given a new name upon adoption as a child, or otherwise was known and enumerated by a different name than expected.

 

13. The person gave a pseudonym to the enumerator. For examples, see Census Fun Fact #2 – Fictional Names:  Just Call Me Another Time.

 

14. The person was missed by the enumerator because he or she was traveling for an extended period of time, had no fixed address, or was living in frontier areas where governmental institutions were sparse.

 

15. The formerly enslaved person switched surnames in the post-Civil War period and was enumerated under different surnames in 1870, 1880, and 1900.

 

16. The person was missed by the enumerator even though someone was presumably at home. As one example, in 1930, a census enumerator in Boston found and enumerated the non-Jewish family that lived at a Jewish school, where the husband/father was the janitor. In 1940, the census enumerator walked past the school, apparently assuming that no one lived at the school, so that same family was not enumerated.

 

17. Before 1900, Native Americans who were living freely with their tribes in areas outside of effective Federal Government control were not enumerated. (Those who lived on Indian Reservations were enumerated. Beginning in 1860, some Native Americans living among the general population were also enumerated.)

 

18. The person was born after the official census day – or died before official census day.

 

19. The person was enumerated on the 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, or 1940 census, but the page on which he or she was enumerated on was mistakenly not microfilmed by the Bureau of the Census before the original paper census records were destroyed. One example of a missing page is Sheet 11A, ED 3-38, Florence, Burlington County, New Jersey.  It should be on NARA Microfilm Publication T626, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Roll 1318, but is not.

 

20. The person was missed or not enumerated for unknown reasons.

 

Thus, there are a multitude of ways that a person might have been “missed” or misreported in U.S. census records. Have you found one of these situations in your own research?  Or one not mentioned above?

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the seventh in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

The Census Bureau developed special procedures to address the problem of enumerating transients:  persons without a fixed address and those temporarily away from home.  Without a systematic approach, these persons would either be over-enumerated (counted twice) or under-enumerated (not counted at all). These were the “T-Night” canvasses (“T” for transient) on Tuesday, April 11, 1950, and Thursday, April 13, 1950.

Image:  1940 Census--"Enumeration, One Day was Devoted to the Enumeration of Trailer Camps and Other Places Inhabited by Transients" (National Archives Identifier 6200777).

 

Tuesday, April 11, 1950, was the date for “an intensive drive to cover in a single night the occupants of certain places usually devoted to transients” such as hotels, YMCAs, and tourist courts or camps (campgrounds).  YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) facilities provided safe and affordable lodging to young men moving to cities from rural areas, with more than 100,000 rooms nationally by 1940.  Enumerators were to be stationed at these facilities from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday evening and again from 7 a.m. to 12 noon the next day.

 

T-Night procedure featured the use of Individual Census Report Forms (ICRs) that were to be completed by each person themselves, in contrast to the standard procedure of the enumerator recording information on the population schedule during an interview with a household member.  ICRs were used to avoid unnecessary invasion of privacy or interference with personal and business activities that would result if people were interviewed in hallways or their rooms or were delayed from checking out of hotels and similar places.

 

The area Crew Leader or someone he designated to be the “enumerator in charge” supervised the T-Night enumeration.  The T-Night supervisor consulted hotel and YMCA management to determine the number of ICRs needed, room number designations, and which guests were expected to check out the next day.  Enumerators assigned to T-Night worked from the hotel lobby. They could ask guests passing through the lobby if they had completed their ICRs, telephone guests on the house phone to request they pick up or return forms, review forms as they were returned, and seek clarifications when necessary.

American Hotel Association letter to member hotels, December 29, 1949, about the 1950 censusLetter from T. Harry Gowman, President, American Hotel Association, December 29, 1949, to member hotels, concerning the forthcoming 1950 census. From Supplement to the Enumerator's Reference Manual, 1950 Census, page 14.

 

T-Night ended on Wednesday, April 12, 1950, at 12 noon, but follow up efforts to “clean up” the enumeration of a hotel could continue until Friday, April 14, 1950, at 5 p.m.  If a hotel guest left without completing an ICR, the enumerator would fill out an ICR based on the hotel register information, including name, address, race, and gender, and indicate “REG” (for “register”) on the ICR.

 

Due to the self-enumeration procedure, the Bureau warned enumerators not to “relax and wait for results.”  Instead, it was that the enumerators “take affirmative action throughout the procedure, to insure maximum results. The larger the volume of returns from transients, the better will be the quality of the census.  Although we wish maximum returns, these must be obtained with due regard to the common courtesies extended to guests and management....”

 

Thursday, April 13, was the date for a similar effort at missions and flophouses.  T-Night enumerators assigned to these facilities were to “station themselves at the main entrance or the lobby of the place” and were to directly interview guests and any resident staff and employees.  The information collected was recorded on the regular Form P-1 population schedule.

 

Adapted from Supplement to the Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 10-14, and Crew Leader’s Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 26-37.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the sixth in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

The Bureau of the Census developed “field enumeration procedures” to make sure the 1950 census would be as complete a count as possible. Systematic coverage of each Enumeration District (ED) was essential.

 

Each enumerator was ordinarily assigned one ED and given a portfolio containing all needed supplies. It included a written description of the ED as well as a map showing its boundaries.  An enumerators whose ED adjoined an unincorporated place would receive either two maps or one map and an aerial photograph.  One of these would show the complete ED and the other would show on a larger scale where the ED adjoined an unincorporated area.  An unincorporated area was a community having no legal boundaries; in other words, a named geographic place without a governing body separate from the surrounding area.

 

In cities and towns having blocks (areas bounded on all sides by streets), the enumerator was to canvas one block or square at a time, and one just one side of the road at a time: no crisscrossing the street!  If the blocks were numbered on the ED map, the enumerator was to work in the order indicated by those numbers. The enumerator was to begin each block at a corner and proceed clockwise around the block until returning back to the beginning point. If the block included courts, alleys, dead-end streets, or passageways, and so forth, the enumerator was to check those as well, such as shown in the image below.

1950 census - how to enumerate a complete city block

Image:  Example of how to enumerate a complete city block.

 

Enumerators were admonished to be careful to visit all dwelling units of apartment buildings, including those in the basement.  The crew leaders would furnish a list of all apartment numbers in buildings with 20 or more units, but the enumerator would have to make his or own list for smaller buildings.

 

In towns or villages without distinct blocks, the enumerator was to canvass the population street by street. In some cases, it would be desirable to interrupt the canvass of a principal street in order to enumerate persons living on a side street, but the enumerator was to use his or her judgment on how best to do it. While conducting the census, the enumerator was to draw lines on the ED map to indicate which sides of the road he or she had completed as an aid to keeping track of work completed and work yet undone, as shown below.

1950 Census Field Procedures Example of How to Enumerate When There Are Not Distinct Blocks

Image:  Example of how to mark ED map with locations already enumerated.

 

In rural areas, the enumerator was to begin the enumeration on a major road that intersected the boundary lines of the ED, then enumerate the remainder in a logical manner. The Bureau instructed: “Follow each path and lane” and “Ask who the neighbors are and where they live.”  The neighbors should be asked to point out the locations of houses on the map. In rural areas, the Bureau noted, “there are many places which cannot be seen from any road, and many places of 3 or more acres on which no one lives.”  While canvassing the ED, the rural enumerator was to mark the map with each house’s dwelling number as indicated on the population schedule.

 

All enumerators, whether urban or rural, were to correct the map(s) they received by adding roads not shown on the map, crossing out abandoned or nonexistent roads, correcting erroneous street names, and marking driveways leading to structures not easily visible from the road.  Two examples of these map annotations are shown below.

1950 Census - Example of Map Corrections to be Made by Enumerator on His or Her Map

Image:  Example of how mark corrections on ED map.

 

The maps marked up by enumerators were temporary records intended to help them do their work in a logical manner and demonstrate to their Crew Leaders (supervisors) and to the Bureau of the Census that a complete enumeration had been conducted. The permanent ED maps—created by the Bureau’s Geography Division for planning purposes prior to the enumeration—can be found online in the National Archives Catalog in “Enumeration District and Related Maps, 1880-1950” (National Archives Identifier 821491).

 

These were some of the basic field enumeration procedures followed by the 1950 census enumerators.  In the coming weeks, we’ll look at a few more.

 

Adapted from Urban and Rural Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 2-6.

Government forms usually look boring.  White paper.  Black ink.  Dull.

 

The Census Bureau chose green or blue ink for many 1950 census forms.  Color, but still just one color.

 

However, the Bureau chose two colors for a very important form of the 1950 census:  Form 17Fld-1, Portfolio Control Label.  It’s artistic – as far as forms can be – and almost screams, “I’m important.”  This single oversize sheet measured about 10 1/4 inches by 17 1/2 inches.  The printing was all blue except for a flag-like red-white-blue stripe that was usually on the right 1/3 of the form.  The words “1950 Census of the United States” were printed in blue ink in the white stripe.

1950 Census, Form 17Fld-1, Portfolio Control Label

Image from “[Folder 14] Form 17Fld-1, Portfolio Control Label, 17th Decennial Census, 1949-1950” (NAID 195980248) in series “Narrative Histories, Committee Minutes, and Procedural Manuals Primarily Relating to the 17th Decennial Census” (NAID 5634057), Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census.

 

(Of course, there are always nuances.  When the 1950 census becomes available, researchers will also notice that some Portfolio Control Labels have the red-white-blue stripe on the left side, and some have no stripe as all. It's possible the stripe was cut off of some forms.  No, I don't know why at this time.)

 

This form was likely pasted on the outside of large envelope.  When the enumerator was done querying the people and farms in the enumeration district, he or she placed completed population schedules, agricultural schedules, maps, and other administrative materials inside this envelope and returned them to the Crew Leader.  If the enumerator made the serious mistake of accidentally losing the portfolio, the Portfolio Control Label served as a “postage due” mailing label to the appropriate Census District Office.

 

This label also served as an operational checklist for Field Office verification of completed work and for Washington Office verification of coding and key punch activities for statistical compilations.

 

When the population schedules were microfilmed by the Bureau of the Census in 1952, the Portfolio Control Label was normally the first page of the records for each enumeration district.  Sadly, its beautiful two-color scheme is lost in the black-and-white monochrome microfilm. Fortunately, the full color example shown above survives in the administrative records of the Bureau of the Census.

 

1950 census, microfilmed portfolio control label

Image:  Portfolio Control Label for Enumeration District 65-78, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California, NARA Microfilm Publication T628, Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950.  This image contains no Title 13 restricted data.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the fourth in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

After the enumerators finished collecting information from the people, the Bureau of the Census compiled the data in statistically useful ways and published it in a variety of formats intended to meet the needs of diverse policymakers and other interested persons. This process took significant time and resulted in a myriad of publication “series” as the Bureau called them.  Lists of the statistical publications resulting from 1950 census data are in the Catalog of United States Census Publications, 1950 (and numerous later editions, such as 1951-1955).

 

For example, Series “PC” contained “preliminary and advance figures” from the data. PC-1 through PC-4 were preliminary data subject to correction and revision that would be superseded by final numbers published in later reports. PC-5, PC-6, and PC-7 reported data “based on a special preliminary sample drawn from the complete census.”  Series PC-8 through PC-11 were called “Advance Reports.” PC-8 included a separate report for each state and the District of Columbia. PC-9 was for the United States as a whole. PC-10 included census tract figures for 69 large cities. PC-11 gave final population counts for U.S. territories and possessions.

 

Shown below on the left is PC-11, No. 1, Population of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, April 1, 1950, issued December 5, 1950.  It is a single page that gives summary population numbers for Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico for 1940 and 1950, as well as the percentage changes from 1930 to 1940, 1940, and 1940 to 1950.  At the right is PC-11, No. 2, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950, issued on February 14, 1951, that contains summary information similar to No. 1.

 

PC-11, No. 1PC-11, No. 2

PC-11, No. 1, Population of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, April 1, 1950, issued December 5, 1950

PC-11, No. 1, Population of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, April 1, 1950 (NAID 195980219)

PC-11, No. 2, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950 (NAID 195980220)

 

 

After more data was compiled, a longer 6 page report was issued as PC-11, No. 3, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950.  Issued on January 20, 1952, it contains in six pages of population data individual villages, quarters, islands, towns, cities, court districts, counties, and municipalities in these areas.

 

First page of PC-11, No. 3, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950, issued on January 20, 1952 (NAID 195980221)Image:  First page of PC-11, No. 3, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950 (NAID 195980221).

 

While statistical data can seem boring and provides no information about a specific person, it can help provide context to an individual’s life.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the third in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

The 1950 censuses of population, housing, and agriculture were intended to provide comprehensive, authoritative, and official records of the people, their homes, and their farming activities.  Many uses were made of the compiled data:  

 

  • Congress determined the number of members of the House of Representatives to which each State was entitled.
  • State legislatures established Congressional districts and apportioned representation in state legislative bodies.
  • Cities and towns determined the need for expansion of schools and other public services.
  • Governmental and private agencies analyzed characteristics and location of the labor force, occupational skills, extent of unemployment, sources of new workers, and so forth.
  • Businessmen could decide where and how much of their product they could sell and measure other features of their market.
  • The quantity and quality of our housing supply and numbers and characteristics of low-income families were useful to governmental and private agencies concerned with economic and social problems.
  • Information on land values, farm acreage, farm tenancy, types and quantities of crops, and so forth, was useful for farm organizations, public agencies, and others, and often formed the basis for legislative and administrative programs.
  • Comparing 1950 census data with those of previous censuses would provide information about changes in the characteristics and geographical distribution of our population.
  • The results of the 1950 census would help the Bureau of the Census assure greater accuracy in surveys conducted between decennial census years.

 

Note:  Of the various data collection forms used during the 1950 census, only the population schedules survive - as microfilmed by the Bureau of the Census in 1952. The 1950 agricultural schedules for individual farms are not extant.  Housing information for individual households is also not extant; this information was collected on the reverse (back) side of the population schedule, but that side of the form was not microfilmed in 1952.

 

Adapted from Urban and Rural Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 1-2.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the second in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

The career employees of the Bureau of the Census planned the questions, forms, procedures, enumeration district boundaries, and a myriad of other necessary things for the taking of the 1950 census. However, it took a lot of people – "boots on the ground" – to actually accomplish the counting of the 152.3 million people in the United States plus its territories and possessions.

 

Item, "Technical Training Program - 1950 Census" from "[Folder 2] Flow Charts, 17th Decennial Census, 1950" (NAID 195980236), in series "Narrative Histories, Committee Minutes, and Procedural Manuals Primarily Relating to the 17th Decennial Census" (NAID 5634057).

 

Solid systematic training of field personnel was essential to a successful census, so the Bureau of the Census established a four-step plan to accomplish this critical task. First came the "Chief Instructors School" during December 12-30, 1949, for the 26 chief instructors who would be expert trainers in field operations, population, agriculture, personnel, social statistics, and geography.

 

Next came the "Instructors Schools" from January 9 to March 3, 1950. Classes were held in Washington, DC, to teach 250 instructors; in Saint Louis, Missouri, to teach 100 instructors; and in San Francisco, California, to teach 50 instructors.

 

Third, most of the newly trained instructors fanned out across the country to train 8,300 Crew Leaders at 508 locations from March 8 to 22, 1950. Census district supervisors and assistant supervisors also attended these classes.

 

Finally, the newly-mined Crew Leaders trained 140,000 Enumerators at "not more than 5,000 training locations" from March 27 to 31, 1950, which was just in time to begin the enumeration on the official census day of April 1, 1950!  This, by the way, was about 20,000 more enumerators than were needed for the 1940 census!

 

Enumerator interviewing a family for the census: "Enumeration," 1940 Census (NAID 6200775).

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the first in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

The Bureau of the Census sought to assure that the forms and procedures used during the taking of the 1950 census would accomplish certain tasks, including the following:

 

  • Provide summary statistical data of greatest value to the nation.

 

  • Insure that the traditionally high standards of accuracy and reliability of census were maintained.

 

  • Minimize the burden on the respondents in answering the questions or filling out the forms.

 

  • Minimize the cost of the census to the government and the taxpayer.

 

The Bureau started intensive planning work in 1948. It consulted groups in government, business, farming, labor, and other fields to find out what kind of information was most needed. Then the Bureau focused on the best way to obtain the information by testing many types of forms in different parts of the country, asking the same questions in different ways, and determining the cost and effectiveness of each procedure. The final forms used during the census were the result of this process.

 

--Adapted from Urban and Rural Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, page 1.