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 17th in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.


This is our sixth detailed look at the Form P1, Population and Housing Schedule, that was used in most of the United States.  Each Form P1 had space for 30 individuals to be enumerated.  Of those 30, every 5th person was asked additional questions in order to obtain a statistical sample of information on nativity, migration, education, unemployment, income, military service, previous job, and marital status.  No answers would be entered if the enumerator recorded terms like “vacant,” “occupied by nonresidents,” or “no one at home” for the particular sample line.  This post will focus on questions 21 to 28 that were asked of all persons on “sample” lines.


In order to further randomize the sample, the Census Bureau built a “deck” of five versions of the form so that the same lines weren’t sampled over and over again.  For example, line 1 was likely to contain a male head of household (at least on the first page of every Enumeration District), so if every form sampled line 1, the statistics would unduly weight answers by male heads of households. Thus, the five versions of the Form P1 sampled these lines:


  • Version 1:  Lines 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26
  • Version 2:  Lines 2, 7, 12, 17, 22, 27
  • Version 3:  Lines 3, 8, 13, 18, 23, 28
  • Version 4:  Lines 4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29
  • Version 5:  Lines 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30


In addition, the person on the last sample line (26, 27, 28, 29, or 30) was asked several additional sample questions!


Item 21, Was he [or she] living in this same house a year ago?  (Yes/No).  “One year ago” referred to one year prior to the date of enumeration, not April 1, 1949, and “same house” referred to the person’s “usual place of residence” not a temporary location like a hotel during a vacation. If the person on the sample line was a child under the age of one, the enumerator was to write “under 1 year” in Item 24a and leave items 21, 22, 23, and 24b blank.

  • Yes” was the correct answer if the person had lived in the same house, the same apartment building (even if in a different unit), or same trailer camp or parking lot (even if in a different parking space).
  • “No” was the correct answer if the person had lived in a different house, a different apartment building, or whose same trailer had been in a different trailer camp or parking lot or had a different postal mailing address.


Item 22. Was he [or she] living on a farm a year ago?  (Yes/No).  The person need not have been an agricultural worker to have lived on a farm.


Item 23, Was he [she] living in this same county a year ago?  (Yes/No). The enumerator was to mark this item only if Item 21 was “No.”


Item 24, If “No” in Item 23:  What county (24a) and state or foreign country (24b) was he [or she] living in a year ago?  The enumerator was to enter information only if Item 23 was “No.”

  • Louisiana parishes, the five New York city boroughs, and independent cities (such as in Virginia) were to be entered as county equivalents, indicating city when appropriate.  “New York City” was not to be entered unless that was the only information available.
  • If the county was unknown, the State plus the full name of the specific place of residence or nearest place were to be reported.
  • If the person had lived in a foreign country, it was to be reported according to current (1950) national boundaries.  If that was not known, then it was acceptable to record the former (1949) name of the country, or the name of the province, city, town, or other locality in which the person had resided.
  • Persons who had resided on a U.S. domestic military installation were to report its county and state, but if that was not known, then it was acceptable to indicate the name of the military installation.
  • Persons who had resided on a U.S. military installation abroad were to report the name of the foreign country.
  • “At sea” was to be recorded for persons who had been at sea and had no usual place of residence. If the person had been aboard a ship docked in port and had no usual place of residence, the location of the port was to be indicated.



Item 25, What country were his [or her] father and mother born in?

  • “U.S.” for persons born in the continental United States.
  • The name of the foreign country or U.S. territory or possession according to 1950 international boundaries for foreign-born persons, following the same guidance as given for Item 13 (birthplace of the person being enumerated).


Item 26, What is the highest grade of school that he [or she] has attended?  Grade codes are indicated at the bottom of each Form P1.  They are:

  • “0” (zero) - nursery school or “none”
  • “K” -  Kindergarten
  • S1 to S12 for 1st to 12th grades
  • C1 to C4 for 1st to 4th years of college or professional school immediately after high school
  • C5 - One or more year of graduate or professional school after the 4th year of college


Of course, there were additional instructions:

  • The highest grade attended was to be entered regardless of “skipped” or “repeated” grades.
  • Years in “regular” schools counted (public, private, or parochial schools, colleges, universities, and professional schools).
  • Years in “on-the-job training” or “nonregular” schools did not count (vocational, trade, correspondence, or business schools outside the “regular” system).
  • The approximate equivalent grade in the American school system was to be reported for education in foreign or ungraded schools.


Item 27, Did he [or she] finish this grade?  “
Yes” was the answer if the person fully completed the grade, otherwise “No” if the person failed to pass the last grade attended or dropped out before completion.


Item 28, Has he [or she] attended school at any time since February 1st?  (Yes, No, or age 30 or over).  The Census Bureau decided in advance that it was unnecessary to ask people age 30 or above if they had attended school since February 1, 1950.


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 46-52.