Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Add a Transcription to Improve NARA's 1950 Census Index

Waiting for the big genealogy sites to index the entire 1950 US Census, I've been using the US National Archives site to locate my ancestors in that Census. Thankfully, NARA released a preliminary name index along with the images of the Census sheets, allowing for both name search and browsing. 

I've been most successful in locating ancestors when I try my search by inputting the state, county, Enumeration District, and surname of head of household.

Searching for Carrie

Above, results of my search for hubby's great aunt in ED 88-26 of Wyandot County, Ohio. Her name was Carrie E. Traxler. My search was for Traxler Carrie because the automated systems transcribed what they "read" on each line, and head of household was listed Surname Given

NARA's system can match on creative spelling, and the first result was the ancestor I wanted--even though the transcription wasn't perfect. Her name was NOT Traller Carriee, as the system read the enumerator's handwriting. But it's close!

Adding a transcription

NARA welcomes the public's assistance in adding correct transcriptions. It will accept both transcriptions that correct what the automated system says AND transcriptions that correct what the enumerator wrote. Note that this will not alter the actual Census in any way. It will improve the search system so others can find ancestors on the NARA 1950 Census site.

After I made a note of the line number where my husband's great aunt appears, here's how I added a transcription to correct her name as transcribed by the automated system.

First, I clicked the button to "Help Us Transcribe Names" and entered my email. NARA sent me a six-digit verification code, which I entered so I could begin my transcription. 

Next, I used the NARA drop-down menu to indicate line number...which took me to a blank of the screen shown above. I typed "Traxler" for last name, "Carrie" for first name, and "E" for middle name--all of which are shown in cursive handwriting on the Census form, but not accurately read by the automated system.

Other family members with same surname in same HH?

After submitting a transcription, NARA said thank you and invited me to "Add a transcription to the next line."

If Carrie Traxler's household included a husband or child or anyone with same surname directly below her name, I would click to add their surname.

This is a key step for families that share a surname and were enumerated in the same household. I didn't do it for Carrie, but I did do it for many other ancestors who had folks with same surname in that HH. 

Otherwise, the search system can't find these people by their full names. Remember, they would have been enumerated with a dash for surname, followed by a given name. My transcription replaces the dash with the actual surname.

"How do you spell that?" is the #52Ancestors prompt by Amy Johnson Crow for week #15.


  1. LOL I'm glad I didn't post about this because this is a great summary of the steps - I'll just refer people here! I just finished a transcription of a two-page ED in Houston that was my aunt's convent (this was the first year she appeared in it, at age 19) and the adjacent parish rectory. I'm glad I could include correct spellings for some of the sisters' names. In that era, they were all using religious names (although the census does have their birth surnames).

  2. Great and easy to follow instructions, Carrie. Thanks so much. Your posts are always helpful.