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 14th in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.


This is our third 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 at Items 7 to 14, “Questions for all Persons.”


Item 7 was for “Name” and included two questions:  “What is the name of the head of household?” and “What are the names of all other persons who live here?”  The enumerator was further instructed to list people in this order:  (1) the head; (2) his wife; (3) unmarried sons and daughters in order of age; (4) married (or widowed, separated, or divorced) sons and daughters and their families; (5) other relatives; and (6) other persons, such as lodgers roomers, maids or hired hands who live in, and their relatives.”  Persons who were temporarily absent were to be included and visitors who had a usual place of residence elsewhere were to be excluded.  Enumerators were reminded them to include “all children, even the very youngest.”


Names were to be written as “Last name, first name and middle name or initial.”  People who went by a first initial, such as “P. Robert Brown” were to be written as “Brown, P. Robert” not “Brown, Robert P.” When the last name of the person was the same as that of the household member enumerated on the preceding line, the surname was not to be recorded.  Instead, a long dash was to be inserted.   Thus, Mr. Brown’s wife, would be entered as “_____, Sarah” not “Brown, Sarah.” Newborn infants who had not been given a name were to be recorded as “_____, Infant.”


Item 8 was for “Relationship.” The enumerator was instructed to “enter relationship of person to head of the household, such as head, wife, daughter, grandson, mother-in-law, lodger, lodger’s wife, maid, hired hand, parent,” and so forth.  If two or more persons who were not related by blood, marriage, or adoption shared one dwelling unit (such as unrelated people sharing an apartment or house), the enumerator was to write “Head” for one and “Partner” for the other(s). Consistent with commercial and business use of the word in the 1950s, “partner” signified a monetary relationship; use of the word was not intended to imply a physical or intimate relationship.



Item 9 was for “Race” with standard abbreviations such as “W” for white, “Neg” for Negro (Black), “Ind” for American Indian, “Jap” for Japanese, “Chi” for Chinese, and “Fil” for Filipino.  Designations of all other races were to be written out in full.  The enumerator was instructed:  “Assume that the race of related persons living in the household is the same as the race of your respondent, unless you learn otherwise.”  However, the enumerator was always to ask the race of unrelated persons, such as lodgers, hired hands, maids, employees, and so forth, since they could not be assumed to have the same race as the head.  Of course there were special instructions:


  • Mexicans were to be reported as white (“W”) unless there were “definitely of Indian or other nonwhite race.”
  • Black/Indian:  Persons “of mixed Indian and Negro blood should be returned as a Negro, unless the Indian blood very definitely predominates and he is accepted in the community as an Indian.”
  • American Indian:  Persons were to be reported as American Indian (Ind) if “of mixed white and Indian blood if enrolled on an Indian Agency or Reservation roll” or if not so enrolled, “if the proportion of Indian blood is one-fourth or more, or if they are regarded as Indians in the community where they live.”
  • Special communities:  The enumerator was to “Report persons of mixed white, Negro, and Indian ancestry living in certain communities in the Eastern United States in terms of the name by which they are locally known.  The communities in question are of long standing and are locally recognized by special names, such as “Croatan,” “Jackson White,” “We-sort,” etc.  Persons of mixed Indian and Negro ancestry and mulattoes not living in such communities should be returned as “Negro.” When in doubt, describe the situation in a footnote.”
  • Mixed parentage:  “Report race of nonwhite parent for persons of mixed white and nonwhite races.  Mixtures of nonwhite races should be reported according to the race of the father” except as noted above for Black/Indian or special communities.
  • Asiatic Indians.  Persons “originating in Indian should be reported as “Asiatic Indians.”


Item 10 was for “Sex” with “M” for male and “F” for female. The enumerator was to record an individual’s gender based on the name (Item 7) and relationship (Item 8) for persons not present at the interview.  The enumerator was to ask questions if he or she was uncertain what to record, particularly in cases where “the name may be common to both sexes” such as Leslie, Jean, or Francis (Frances).


Item 11 was for age, with the question:  “How old was he [she] on his [her] last birthday?”  For children under one year of age, the enumerator was to write in the child’s birth month.  If a respondent gave an approximate answer, such as “around 60,” the enumerator was to “Try to get it as accurate as possible” and seek a more precise answer, such as nearer to age 58 or 59 or possibly 61 or 62.  If the age was not known, the enumerator was to “enter an estimate as the last resort, and footnote it as an estimate.”  An entry of “21 plus” was not acceptable.


Item 12 was for marital status, with the question:  “Is he [she] now married, widowed, divorced, separated, or never married?” Standard abbreviations were to be used:  “M” for married, “Wd” for widowed, “D” for divorced, “Sep” for separated, and “Nev” for never married.  “Nev” was to be recorded if a person’s only marriage had been annulled.  The enumerator was instructed to accept a respondent’s statement that he or she was separated, but if the respondent questioned the meaning of “separated” then the enumerator was to explain that “the term refers only to those married persons who have a legal separation or who have parted because of marital discord.”  Persons whose spouses were temporarily away in the armed forces or due to employment elsewhere were to be reported as married. Persons who stated they had a common law marriage were to be reported as married.


Item 13 was for birthplace, with the question:  “What State (or foreign country) was he [she] born in?” The enumerator was permitted to abbreviate the name of the state in which he or she was enumerating, but all other State names were to be written in full.  Three details to note:

  • “District of Columbia” was to be recorded for persons born in Washington, DC.
  • If the person’s state of birth was unknown, the enumerator was to enter, “U.S.”
  • Interestingly, if a person “was born in a hospital or elsewhere outside of the State in which his family was living at the time he was born,” the enumerator was to “enter the State in which his family was living—not the State in which the hospital was located.” This is a quirk that persons living on state-border areas particularly need to take note of!


If the person was born outside the United States, the enumerator was to write the name of the foreign country or U.S. Territory or possession according to 1950 international boundaries.  Five important details to note:


  • It was acceptable to report the name of the province, city, town, or village for persons whose country of birth (under 1950 boundaries) was not definitely known.
  • “At sea” was to be indicated for those persons born at sea.
  • “Northern Ireland” and “Irish Free State” were to be specified. The enumerator was instructed that Northern Ireland contained the counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh, and that all other counties were in the Irish Free State.
  • Persons born in Canada were to be specified as “Canada-French” if they spoke French before entry into the United States” and “Canada-other” for all other Canadians.
  • “Great Britain” was not to be reported. Instead, England, Scotland, Wales, and so forth, were to be specified.

Item 14 was for naturalization status of persons born outside of the United States, with the question:  “Is he [she] naturalized?” Standard answers were “Y” for yes, “N” for no, or “AP” for born abroad or at sea of American parents.


  • “Yes” was the correct answer if the person had become an American citizen either by (1) taking out final (second) naturalization papers or (2) through the naturalization of either parent when the person was a minor.
  • “No” was the correct answer if the person had only made a declaration of intention to become a citizen (first papers).
  • Women:  Before September 22, 1922, a foreign-born woman became a naturalized American citizen when her husband was naturalized, or if she married an American citizen.  On and after September 22, 1922, a woman had to take out papers in her own name to become naturalized.
  • Foreign-born child:  The naturalization status of a foreign-born child under 18 years old was be reported “No” unless the parents were citizens or were naturalized.
  • Born abroad:  A foreign-born person or a person born at sea was an American citizen at birth (a) if his father was an American citizen who had resided in the United States before the time of the child’s birth or (b) if the person was born after May 24, 1934, and if either parent was an American citizen who had resided in the United States before the time of the child’s birth.


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 15-20c, questions for all persons age 14 or more.


Adapted from Form P1, 1950 Census of Population and Housing, and  Urban and Rural Enumerator's Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 33-36.