NARA released the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, at  This is the 65th in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

In September 1949 the Census Bureau's Field Division set forth the rules by which its staff were to establish, number, and describe Enumeration Districts (EDs) for the forthcoming 1950 census in the instruction manual entitled "How to Establish Enumeration District Boundaries" (National Archives Identifier 214451610).  Previous blog posts discussed:

(1)  1950 Census:  How Enumeration Districts Were Established

(2)  1950 Census:  How Enumeration Districts Were Numbered

Written descriptions of EDs were known as the "Plan of Division" and were drafted after the maps had been marked with the ED boundaries.  The written description "supplements the map and can be used with the map to clarify any boundary question, or without the map as a complete identification of the ED."  The original plans were supposed to be handwritten neatly in pencil so that the typist who typed the information onto the proper form did not make any copying errors.  If the 1950 ED was identical in area to the 1940 ED, the 1940 information concerning the number of dwelling units, population, and farms in the ED was to be indicated on the plan.  There were three basic types of ED descriptions:

Written description of Type 1 Enumeration Districts contain either a (1) complete Minor Civil Division (MCD) or special enumeration area (typically an institution or government facility), or (2) partial MCD or special enumeration area whose boundaries were easily determined by reference to those of another MCD.  In these cases, names of boundary lines are omitted.  Examples include:

  • Franklin township
  • Georgetown township - That part outside Georgetown town
  • Camp Campbell
  • St. Francis Hospital
  • Fort Riley Military Reservation (U.S. Airdrome) - That part in Ogden township

Written description of Type 2 Enumeration Districts indicate "the direction of the ED from one or more boundaries" of an MCD that was divided into two to four EDs.  Examples include:

  • Crowder Mountain township - That part east of County Hwy. 3
  • Manhattan township - That part north of U.S. Hwy. 24, outside Manhattan city
  • Polk township - That part East of One Hundred and Two River

Written description of Type 3 Enumeration Districts include names of all boundaries for an MCD that was divided into four or more EDs or in any other case where a "Type 2" description would be unclear.  A typical example of a Type 3 description is:

Selby village - That part bounded by


Second Ave.

Du Mont

Western, village limits

In Type 3 descriptions, the four separate lines were understood to be north, east, south, and west boundaries, respectively.  In this example, Main Street was the northern boundary, Second Avenue was the eastern boundary, Du Mont Street was the southern boundary, and Western Street and the village limits were the western boundary.  Of course, not all roads, railroad tracks, rivers, etc., run perfectly north to south or east to west.  However, the descriptions were to "be written in the sequence in which an enumerator would encounter the features if he were to start at the northwest corner of the ED and travel along the entire outer edge of the ED in a clockwise direction."  EDs that were triangular or otherwise only had three boundaries will have only three lines listed instead of the usual four.  The designation "street" was always omitted (Main, not Main St.), but designations such as Avenue (Ave.), Parkway (Pkwy.), Drive (Dr.), Road (Rd.), and others were always included.  Names of railroads whose tracks served as boundary lines were often recorded by abbreviations widely understood in 1950, such as B & O R.R. (Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) or Pa. R.R. (Pennsylvania Railroad).

Standard Special Terms used in Enumeration District descriptions include the following:

  • BLOCKS were numbered on many city maps and ED descriptions will usually include them:
Enumeration District (ED) for a city with blocks numbered by the Census Bureau on the related ED map
Enumeration District (ED) for a city with blocks numbered by the Census Bureau on the related ED map
  • COEXTENSIVE indicates that an incorporated place includes exactly the same area as one or more MCDs, or that an MCD includes exactly the same area as one or more incorporated places.  Coextensive is only used to indicate the relationship of MCDs and incorporated places.  Two examples are:
    • "Ottawa Hills township, coextensive with Ottawa Hills village"
    • "Bexley township, coextensive with Bexley city:  (after which follows the various EDs)."
  • COMPRISING means "made up of."  It is used to indicate that an ED includes an entire ward or that an incorporated place includes parts of more than one MCD.  Examples include:
    • Arcadia city - That part comprising Ward 1 in Election Precinct 2, East Arcadia, bounded by City limits, City limits, City limits, Barclay Rd., U.P. R.R."
    • Camp Campbell - That part in Civil District 3 (Remainder of Camp Campbell comprises part of Civil District 8 and that part of the county not in any civil district)
  • EXCLUDING indicates that the ED surrounds or partially surrounds a special enumeration area (typically an institution or government facility) that is not part of the ED, such as "Crescent township, excluding State Hospital for the Insane"
  • EXTENDED referred to an imaginary line in the ED boundary that connected an actual visible boundary line to another visible boundary line, such as

Rochester city - That part of Ward 8 bounded by


Joseph Ave.

Nassau, Nassau extended,

N. Clinton Ave.

In this example, "Nassau extended" is an invisible line running from the end of Nassau Street until it reaches North Clinton Avenue.

ED 69-100, Rochester, Monroe County, New York, with Nassau Street "extended" as a part of the southern boundary
ED 69-100, Rochester, Monroe County, New York, with "extended" as a part of one boundary
  • MINOR CIVIL DIVISION (MCD) is a governmental or administrative division of a county, such as township, town, district, city, borough, and so forth. 
  • OUTSIDE indicates that incorporated or unincorporated places surrounded or partially surrounded by an ED are not part of the ED, such as "Georgetown township - That part outside Georgetown town"
  • REMAINDER indicates that all of the EDs for a minor civil division, incorporated place, unincorporated place, or special enumeration area are not grouped together (listed in the same place) in the plan.  "Remainder notes" are inserted in the plans following the last ED in such a split area to tell the user where he may find the descriptions of the EDs making up the balance of the area, such as "Militia District 1520, Springs - That part outside Springs town and Manchester city (Remainder of Militia District 1520, Springs, is in Manchester city)."
  • INCORPORATED PLACE is a governmental unit incorporated under state law as a city, town, borough, or village that has legally prescribed limits, powers, and functions. 
  • UNINCORPORATED PLACE is typically a formally or informally named village or similar area that has no legal status or elected officials.

Where are 1950 Census Enumeration District Descriptions?

  • NARA's Official 1950 Census Website, provides transcribed ED descriptions and links to the original typescript descriptions (click on "View Original ED Description").  See images below.
ED Descriptions in NARA's Official 1950 Census Website,
NARA's Official 1950 Census Website,
Original Census Bureau Typescript ED Description

Sources and Further Reading: