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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 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.