Tuesday, March 29, 2022

1950 US Census "Sample of Sample" Questions

Just days until the 1950 US Census is released and I'm more than ready to dive in and find my ancestors on April 1st. 

It would be a stroke of luck to have an ancestor selected as part of the "sample" to answer additional, detailed questions about 1949 residence, 1949 income, parents' birthplaces, school attendance, and military service.

Six out of 30 answered sample questions

This sample consisted of 6 people out of the 30 enumerated on every page of the Census. Truly a treasure trove of family history if one of my ancestors is included.

From those who answered the sample questions, one was asked a few "sample of sample" questions. As shown above in an excerpt from the US National Archives page listing all the Census questions for 1950, these questions were for people aged 14 and up.

More details about marriage and children

If one of my ancestors is listed on a line selected for the "sample of sample" questions, the answers will illuminate his or her marital history. Was the person married more than once? How many years since marital status changed? Wonderful genealogical clues for me to follow up and search for marriage or divorce documents!

If I'm really lucky, that person will be one of my women ancestors. Why? Because the final question asks how many children this woman has ever borne.** This will give me hints about whether I've missed an infant death, for instance, and improve my family tree's accuracy for the sake of future generations and future researchers.

1910 vs 1950 question about children

The last time this kind of question was asked was in the 1910 US Census (and before that, the 1900 Census). In 1910, the enumerator first asked how many children the woman ever had borne, and then asked how many were still alive. That's how I knew to look for children who died young or in between Census years. 

Did my paternal grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954) have any children who died young? In 1910, she told the Census she had 2 children and both were alive. Now when the 1950 Census is released, if this ancestor was asked the "sample of sample" questions, I hope to learn whether there were other children I never knew about. 

My great-grandma Tillie Jacobs Mahler (185?-1952), reported 9 children in all and 7 alive in 1900, then 10 children in all and 7 alive in 1910. What about in the 1950 Census? 

My maternal grandma Henrietta Farkas Schwartz (1886-1964) got married and had her children between 1910 and 1920 and never answered this question before the 1950 Census. I don't expect any surprises, but who knows--let's see if she was asked the "sample of sample" questions.

**Note the assumption built into this final "sample of sample" question: If a woman said she was never married when answering question #12 on the Population Schedule, she would not be asked question #38. On the other hand, if she answered that she was married, separated, divorced, or widowed, she would be asked this question if she was recorded on the line chosen for "sample of sample" questions. This assumption didn't apply to the 1910 or 1900 question, apparently.

To see all of my 1950 US Census posts, please go to my summary page here.


  1. This would be great information! Can't wait till we get there.

  2. Great article about the sample questions! We think alike; I stated the same thing in my blog! I hope one of my grandmother's was part of that sample! ;) I can't wait! :)