Monday, April 4, 2022

1950 US Census: Read the Notes!


Enumerators sometimes wrote notes on the 1950 US Census. The notes section may be near top, middle, or bottom of the page, depending on which version of the questionnaire was being used.

In most cases, the notes mentioned where a missing resident might be enumerated elsewhere in that ED (sheet number, line number). At least two of my ancestors, living in big city apartments, weren't home on the first call--and were never actually interviewed. The notes said something like "Superintendent provided information after 4 calls." 

Enumerators occasionally noted that they had left income forms for residents to fill out and return confidentially. Others noted the presence of more than one apartment at a dwelling or the fact that an address was a vacant dwelling.

You just never know what little details you'll learn if you read the notes! Some interesting notes I've found so far:

  • "Line 26--Person just arrived from Canada. Sister-in-law supplied information and couldn't tell former occupation."
  • "Lines 6-8 - Respondent vague on answers--couldn't remember ages."
  • "Line __, serial no. 80. Rent of $40.00 is out of reason, about $15.00 should be right."
  • "I left [Census] line for a locked gate and then I got information from neighbors."
  • "Person is in reserve Navy."
  • "Information given by daughter staying there while parents are away."
  • "Line 1 is a female even though name is William T."
  • "On vacation, don't know when she will be home."
I'm delighted to participate in this month's Genealogy Blog Party by going back to the 1950s!


  1. While looking for my grandmother and her second husband (in a very nice neighborhood just outside of Boston), I found a sheet at the bottom of which was the notation: "Info on 3-13 furnished by maids" in addition to "20-24 - furnished by neighbors"

    This was on p 73, so the enumerator was likely returning to the neighborhood to find people they hadn't found previously.

    1. Isn't it fascinating not just to see what the info was but who gave the info? TY for reading and commenting!

  2. I bet the $40.00 included meals......

  3. I came across many notes such as these, while scanning the images for my family! I read all of them just in case it was about one of my ancestors, but none were. I loved reading them; it made it much more fun and interesting going through all those images! :)

  4. Thank you for this! I have made my first pass at finding my ancestors and their extended families in the 1950 US Census, but have not yet gone over each return in detail. Now I will be looking at those notes. Of interest, the confirm what we researchers have long known -- that much depends on the informant (from names and ages to family member whereabouts) for accuracy.

  5. I have read the notes, but none about my family so far. Mainly "Not home" for various neighbors.