Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Elusive Ancestors Hiding in the 1950 US Census

The positives: I've had very good success finding many ancestors in the recently released 1950 US Census. 

The negatives: Some folks remain stubbornly elusive. 

No 1950ish address

The top reason I haven't found a particular ancestor is because I have no 1950ish address. Even if I have a 1940s address, some of these people moved frequently.  Remember, it was a time of great mobility in America and there was also an acute housing shortage in many regions.

Where's wounded WWI vet Frank Maurice Jacobs (1896-1974), my 1c2r? I'd hoped he was still living in the residential Hotel Tudor in New York City, which was his 1942 address while working in the advertising industry. Nope, he didn't show up when I browsed the many dozens of pages for that Enumeration District. With no 1950 address, he could be anywhere in Manhattan (or possibly an outer borough, although I doubt it). When full indexing is complete for New York, I'll do a deep search for him by given name, middle initial, and birthplace, with possibly other search twists.

No longer living on own

Another reason I haven't found an older ancestor is because he or she moved into a retirement home or was living with an adult child whose address I don't yet know.

This might very well be the case with hubby's great aunt Nellie (Rachel Ellen) Wood Kirby (1864-1954), who has been elusive, as I wrote a few days ago. In the 1940 Census, Nellie was in a Chicago apartment. When she died in 1954, she was in a nursing home. I've browsed the Census for both Enumeration Districts and she turned up in neither place. She's on the back burner until full indexing for Illinois is ready and I can search by name and birthplace and/or other search parameters.

Wood, Smith: common names

Let's face it: Wood, my husband's surname, isn't exactly unique. His uncle John A. Wood (1908-1980) is a tough case, since I don't yet have a clue which state, let alone which county, he might have been in. I know his 1951 address when he got married--but he wasn't there in 1950 when I looked! He's on the back burner until full indexing for Indiana and nearby states has been completed. Then I can search for him with his middle initial and birthplace and/or other search parameters.

Similarly, my great aunt Sarah Mahler married a man named Sam Smith and they moved to California during the 1940s. Sam never used a middle initial. When full indexing is ready, I'll search for a household with Sam, Sarah, and one of their children, or use some other creative strategy--they can run but they can't hide. 

Searching by name, initial, birthplace, and/or other fields (like age) might turn my negatives into more positive results!

PS: Try searching state, county, surname on NARA IF not a big city

Before the Census is fully indexed for all states by those big genealogy sites, try searching state, county, and surname on the US National Archives 1950 Census page. That's only if your target ancestor was NOT in a big city.

I wanted to find my hubby's grandfather Brice L. McClure, who wasn't where the family remembered him living in 1950. After a variety of searches that went nowhere, I tried looking where he and his late wife had lived when she died in 1948--in a town in Wyandot county, Ohio. 

Success! He was living in that very same house, about to sell it and move out of the county. But not yet. So even before the big genealogy sites finish indexing bit states, try the NARA site because its indexing is fair enough to find someone, even with creative spelling.

"Negatives" - Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors theme for week 16.

1 comment:

  1. You've done a great job finding the ancestors you did! But I know it's so frustrating not being able to track down some of those pesky ancestors. My Great Grand Aunt moved around a lot with her husband, so I have to wait until indexes are better to search for them. I've also not been able to find a couple other ancestors for unknown reasons. Oh well, we've been patient this long, what's a few more weeks or months. Hopefully not years haha!