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Thank you for your question and for your interest in transcribing the 1950 Census.
Census enumerators wrote down the information that was given to them to the best of their ability and education level. What did the respondent say? What did the census taker hear? The census taker may have misunderstood what was said. Names may be misspelled – the census taker may not have asked. The person they spoke with may have not known how to spell the name. Ages may be wrong if the respondent misremembered. There may be errors as to sex – is “Francis” or “Frances” a boy or girl? The name sounds the same. Errors in census records are common – going all the way back to the first census in 1790.
The draft 1950 census index was created using machine learning assisted Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which can be inaccurate due to issues such as: illegible handwriting, poor image orientation (slightly sideways), variations in image quality (light, dark, or poor contrast), text obscured by handwritten flourishes from letters on the line above or below, different handwriting styles, and because surnames written only on the line for the head of household and other persons in the household with a different surname.
Names can be corrected or enhanced to improve searchability by transcribing the correct name, but this does not apply to the other personal information on the Population Schedule such as Relationship, Race, Sex, Age, Place of Birth, etc.
If you know that a name was written incorrectly by the census enumerator (writer), we encourage you to submit a transcription with the correct spelling of the name. Each line allows for up to 5 transcriptions, to allow for variations and corrections. This will not change the name in the Census, but it will allow for a person searching on your version of the name to find the correct population schedule.
To do this, click on the “Help Us Transcribe Names” button when viewing a population schedule. Follow the prompts to register your email address, you can then submit an alternative version of the name.
For more information, please see: 1950 Census: Transcription Tool FAQs and 1950 Census: Please Help NARA Refine the Draft Name Index!
We hope this is helpful!