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 22nd in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.


It’s good advice even with today’s digital mapping applications that can give verbal directions to help you get to your destination.  “Your Map is Your Guide - Use It!” is also the title of Section IV-A of the “Enumerator’s Workbook” of October 1949 (National Archives Identifier 205683226).


During 1947 to 1949, the Census Bureau conducted “dress rehearsals” of the 1950 census by testing enumeration forms and instructions in “pretest” enumerations in various parts of the country.  (No, the pretest enumeration forms do not exist.). Census staff learned from the experiences and rewrote and modified the instructions and forms several times.


“Your Map is Your Guide” was one idea for training enumerators how to understand and use the maps they would receive as a part of their enumeration district portfolio of instructions, forms, and maps.  The enumerator was required to actively use the Enumeration District map by annotating it with the dwelling number of each house in order of visitation, as well as by making corrections, such as new roads and houses.  These markings would show the local Crew Leader that the enumerator had done a complete job of enumeration.


Thus, “Your Map” explained basic concepts of map reading, principles behind the drawing of Enumeration District boundaries, how to use the map to ensure a complete enumeration, and directions for marking the map.  This information included:


  • The U.S. would be divided into about 180,000 Enumeration Districts for the census.
  • Enumeration District boundaries follow visible features (rivers, roads, railroads, etc.) or invisible features (political boundary lines).
  • How to read the “legend” of a map that shows types of buildings or roads.
  • How to read the “scale” on a map that indicates distances.
  • How Enumeration Districts were numbered.
  • How to understand the written description of the Enumeration District.
  • How to mark the map with the serial numbers of the houses in the order in which they were enumerated.
  • How to make corrections for new or nonexistent roads, houses, and other important features.
  • How to determine the “block number” for dwellings in cities.
  • Orange Enumeration District (ED) lines marked on a road (railroad tracks, river, and so forth) meant that the ED boundary was in the middle of the road (railroad tracks, river, and so forth), so that one side of that roadway or waterway was in one ED and the other side was in the other ED.


Let’s take a look at a few of the fun and informative illustrations in this guide.  Perhaps it is a “lost” skill in the electronic era, but let's begin with instructions on determining the distance between two points on a map using the scale (click on the image to see it in a larger size):


This page shows the written description of an Enumeration District and its map:


The centerline or middle of roads, railroads, and waterways often formed the boundary of an Enumeration District:


The enumerator should consult his or her Crew Leader for help with complicated Enumeration District boundaries:


In urban areas, the enumerator should go around each block clockwise:


The enumerator’s properly filled out map - indicating houses in the order of visitation - will help him or her call back at houses where no one was at home:


The map doesn’t show there’s a house down this lane, driveway, or road, but the smart and thorough enumerator will go take a look anyway.  There might be a house!


And finally, ALWAYS have your map since it will save time and steps!