1950’s Census & Stories: Anticipating the1950 Census!

Photo credit to…. Know Who Wears the Genes in your Family website.

April 1, 2022… Release Date of the 1950 Census!

How did this 72-year rule come to be? The census was first sealed for 72 years because of life expectancy… but in looking at the history of the census… that was not necessarily true!

  • From 1790 to 1870 every census was immediately available after it was recorded. One copy was sent to Washington for archiving…with a second copy sent to the local courthouse, but the date was only local for their area. At that time, no one… or was there anyone searching family history records… so, for the most part, there was no need to see anything beyond their area. If they so needed to see another area, they would have needed to travel by horse and buggy to the county courthouse of such area… I’m sure that didn’t happen, as they had more pressing things to do, like plow fields, spin wool for yarn to create clothing, or weaving yarn/threads for fabric. They were very busy people in those early years… no time for frivilous crafting as I do today.
  • From 1880 to 1940 there was ony “one” single copy of each census sent to the Census Bureau… and it was now closed to the public! While they released statistical data in the census to the public, they kept the information on the people under lock and key. But even in those years… who was interested in searching this data… or were they? I’m sure there was… and there was one such person in my family… unknown to me until much later in my research years. One of our early “Bryan” resarchers actually began her research sometime in the 1940’s… and I’ve recorded many of Thelma Nelson’s stories she has passed down to us. Being she began in those early years, she knew the families famililies born before 1900… and they knew their ancestors… information came right from the horses’ mouth… so to speak!
  • The National Archives was formed in 1934, and later in 1942, the Census Bureau transferred almost all of census records to them for safe keeping. It was then, that the National Archives decided to begin opening up all the census years, up to and including 1870… this was how the 72 year rule first began.
  • In my birth year of 1952, the Census Bureau transferred the newly 1950 census also to the National Archives, but only under the condition that “all” censuses would remain sealed for 72 years. It was from that agreement, that the 1880 census was then released… establashing that 72 year rule.
  • During the 1970 enumeration, privacy concerns were raised… causing the Census Bureau to reverse its decision on releasing the census pages every 72 years. This caused the 1900 census, scheduled for release in 1972, to be on hold! As I wasn’t researching in 1970, I never gave it another thought… but I might have been marching on the Census Bureau front steps if I had been… and I am curious now as to how many researchers protested this! As I’ll never see the 1970 census release in my lifetime.. scheduled for release in 2052… I’ll have to rely on my granddaughters to look me up. If I am alive in 2052, I will be 100 years old… YIKES! And probably at age 100, I might not even give a “hoot” any longer in seeing myself on the census.
  • Finally a compromise was reached in 1973 on the 1900 census, and the census was opened up to the public. I’m sure many researchers did the happy dance… you all know what that is… and the rest is history!
  • To my grandchildren, I say… Take Note, Ella, McKinley, Ana, Nina and Grace… you girls now have the job of finding me in 1970, in Perry, Georgia. I may possibly still be living at 706 Hillcrest Avenue with my parents, and possibly my grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley. My parents divorced that year and I moved to 836 Oakridge Drive to finish high school and live with my father; my mother moved back to my grandfathers farm in Siloam to care for him; if mama isn’t with me on that census, be sure and look for her in Siloam… back on the farm where she grew up and so loved! I will be 18 years of age on this census, possibly working or listed as a student… and little did I know at this time, that I would meet the love of my life at the end of 1970, and marry in 1971… and as of 2022, I’m married for soon to be 51 years on May 5th.

I’m looking forward to viewing the 1950 census… discovering my parents living in the same house of where I would later be born in 1952… my first home at 212 Binns St. in Union Point, Georgia.

The 1950 Census will be the first census to show my mother and father, Helen (McKinley) & Clayton Bryan living together as a married couple… all four of my grandparents, Edgar & Ola (Askew) McKinley, Paul & Evelyn (Little) Bryan are alive… and even my great grandfather Willam Clark Bryan… as well as several aunts, uncles, cousins and even more cousins unknown to me at that time.

Photo credit to…. Know Who Wears the Genes in your Family website.

The questions on the 1950 census were listed by household, name and relationship to head of household. Also asked was… race, sex, marital status, age, where born, and whether naturalized… the box of asking whether naturalized offers another great clue for those searching immigrant ancestors.

On the working box line, it asks… people aged 14 and older… working… looking for work… number hours worked… type of work and industry… private worker… government worker… or without pay on family farm/business?

The questions asked of people on the address line, were as… where were you living a year ago, as to county, state or foreign country… and of what county, state or country were their mother and father born? It’s always good to have them answer that again… as how often have we seen it change on documents. People just didn’t seem to know where their parents were necessarily born or lived in years past as they do today… information seemed to have been kept quiet in those times… guess that’s why they gave so many wrong answers back then… they just didn’t know!

Also asked were questions on their income and military service… and now with check boxes to indicate the person’s service… whether WWI, WWII, or other military affiliation. This is a great plus for new researchers who may not know.

1950’s life was mostly a two-parent household, as divorce wasn’t common at that time; boys and girls were expected to marry, and stay married… and marry at an earlier age than today. People didn’t live alone as single adults… only 9.3% of homes had single occupants, unlike today. Those percentages climbed to 16.3% in the 1960’s… and have climbed up to 25% today.

People married younger in the 50’s… and mostly only men continued onto college at that time… women generally married early, to not have the stigma title of “old maid” labeled upon them in living home with their parents.

My mother married at age 18… marrying right before graduation in 1947; she was suppose to have graduated in 1946, but because she slacked on her studying, in dating my father… she had to repeat her senior year. She did tell me how she’d skip school and her girlsfriends boyfriend would pick her up near the train station on his motorcycle; I don’t think her father was very happy, telling her, “you get what you reap.” At her graduation, she almost missed her call to the stage, as they announced her with her married name… she had to be nudged to walk onstage to receive her diploma, as she hadn’t caught the new name announced with her newly married surname. My father was home on leave from the Navy to attend her graduation… he was 20 years old. Today most people remain single way into their 30’s and even 40’s… making it harder to marry… and being set in their ways.

I married at age 19, with my husband being 22… had me leaving daddy’s household to now live with my new husband… never knowing what it was to live on my own… and I’d never change a thing if I had to do it all over again. We’ve always been very close, and do everything together, although he didn’t follow me so much in my early years of research, as he was working, and I had afternoons free. But today, he follows me everywhere, enjoying our travels of research… wherever it takes us!

A woman’s best chance at employment in the 1950’s was only in so-called “women’s jobs” such as, nurse, secretary, teacher, or possibly librarian; women, for the most part, working out of the home, was not the norm! It was most often the man, who had the social pressure of supporting his wife and family… and expecting to return home nightly to a clean home and a hot meal waiting! This is the family home that children don’t often have today… instead attending after school programs, or coming home to an empty home, or often picked up by the grandparents. I see many grandparents picking up when we pick up at their schools. In today’s world, most households need two-incomes to support the house, and bills… while also trying to save for retirement… which seems so far away when you’re young… but it comes faster than you think! Never rush it!

If you’ve ever thought you’d like to be a Census enumerator… do check out the 264 page booklet that would have been given to you… Yikes, what a read this looks to be, but definetly looks interesting… now, finding time to read!

Another great site to begin your “getting ready” for the 1950 census research can be found over HERE, or if you’d rather listen than read… then head over to watch Joel Weintraub’s 1950 Census Talks on YouTube. After discovering all this information… I needed to have found it a year ago, as it will take me the rest of the year to soak it all in!

The booklet, Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000, and it can be downloaded for free over HERE.

This booklet explains all the questions asked in each Census through 2000. It also gives the instructions given to the enumerators for each census year.

So… Are you ready to view the 1950 census? I Am!

Access all 1950 Census & Stories HERE!

© 2022, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 1950's Census & Stories, Daily Writings and funnies..., Family Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 1950’s Census & Stories: Anticipating the1950 Census!

  1. Anne Young says:

    You are lucky to have the census records. In Australia census returns were destroyed and we only have the summaries – no household details 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kristin says:

    I spent this morning looking for myself as a 3 year old, my cousins my grandparents and my husband’s family. I found everyone except my husband’s family so far. It isn’t indexed yet so takes a little digging.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.