You can search the 1950 US Census!

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Searching the 1950 US Census will be an awkward and cumbersome search until every field is indexed. But you can give it a try.

Be sure you to navigate to the search page:  https://1950census.archives.gov/search

The 1950 US Census NARA Search Page



The search has limited features that include: name, state, county and enumeration district. You do not have to enter search terms any field. For example, you can leave the county or the enumeration district blank.

1950 US Census Search Inputs


If you cannot see the population schedule sheet for the search result on the right, click on “Population Schedule” to see the actual census sheet.

Of course I had better luck in small towns with families having unique names. Just as in any census, try to search for unusual family names. I have even had some success searching boroughs of New York City.

How about a quick hands-on exercise to find a name on the census? I have a simple example using my favorite poet, Ogden Nash.


Name: Frederick Ogden Nash
State: Maryland

1950 US Census Search fields for Ogn Nash


The first result on the right-hand side, listed Odgen Nash (rather than Frederick Ogden Nash) and showed him with his wife Frances, and his children Linell and Isabel. Note: this result came up without entering a county or enumeration district.

Ogden Nash search result in 1950 US Census

On the bottom of each search result is the “Machine Learning (AI) Extracted Names” section that can help by showing you the names that appear on the same census sheet. The AI-generated indexing was surprising to me because it does try to offer alternate spellings of names.

Odgen Nash and family in 1950 US Census

To download the sheet, click on the three dots that appear under “Help Us To Transcribe Names” to see the option to download the sheet.

Option to download

Only the first entry is expanded. If your family member is in one of the other entries, click on “Population Schedule” to see the actual page of the census.

Multiple results (unexpanded)

And the population schedule for that result will expand. (Only one population schedule sheet will appear in the results on the right at one time.)

Expanded Population Schedule

I have posted a short video on our YouTube channel with the example search in action at: https://youtu.be/rLgq2nqNmbA

Let me know how you do.

This blog post is copyright ©2022 by Margaret M. McMahon, Teaching & Training Co., LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews. All copyrights and trademarks mentioned herein are the possession of their respective owners and the author makes no claims of ownership by mention of the products that contain these marks.

It’s Been Confidential for 72 Years: The 1950 Census

It's been confidential for 72 years: the 1950 Census

There’s been great information published about the upcoming release of the 1950 US Census. I have been collecting it and want to share with you a reference of helpful resources, along with activities that you can do to prepare for the release!

Important date: 1 April 2022

What is going to happen

The 1950 US Census will be released, 72 years after it was taken.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Artificial Intelligence will give us an initial index including name and locations on the day of its release. The AWS artificial intelligence/optical character recognition (AI/OCR) Textract tool is being used to create that initial index. The index will be available for the P1 Population Schedule and the P8 Indian Reservation Schedule. Since the index will probably not be perfect at first, the National Archives asks us to submit name updates to the index using a transcription tool that will be available on the 1950 Census website.

Interesting facts about the 1950 Census

5% of those responding were asked additional questions, including those about where the person lived a year ago, education, employment, marital status, military service (for males) and the country of their parents’ births.

An exciting fact about this census was that it was the first time Americans abroad were enumerated. In practice the enumeration of Americans in the armed forces, US government employees and vessel crews were counted more reliably than others living aboard. Family and neighbors might report others living abroad.

It would also be the last time that enumerators went around to large multifamily dwellings. In future, the blank forms would be mailed.

What’s different from past census releases

Last release: 2 April 2012. We had to wait an extra day because 1 April fell on a Sunday!

The 1940 US Census was made available to us unindexed. Digital images are great, but without an index you had to identify a set of images to look at, then look at each image to see if your family member was on it. The process involved people figuring out the census enumeration district in which their ancestor lived, then going through the pages for that district page-by-page and line-by-line. Simultaneous with the release, volunteers and genealogical record companies began creating indexes, transcribing the census line-by-line and page-by-page. More than 163,000 volunteers were organized by FamilySearch and managed to create an index for the more than 3.8 million images in a lightning four months. (If you have not been part of a FamilySearch indexing project, please consider it. It is an amazing thing to do. Two indexers transcribe data, and a third arbitrates any differences between the two transcriptions.) This time, on the day of release we have an initial index of names and locations, which will be a good starting place.

This year, for the first time, those who have over 165 terabytes of available computer memory and download the whole census dataset in bulk.

What you can do now

1. Bookmark NARA’s 1950 Census Records webpage. That is where the link to the dedicated website will be posted.

2. View the Questions Asked on the 1950 Census and also view samples of all the Census Forms in the 1950 Census Dataset.

Census Forms in the 1950 Census Dataset

You will probably want to start with: Form P1 – Census of Population and Housing (front). The back of the page with housing information was not microfilmed, and only aggregate data exists.

3. Watch the videos at the National Archives Genealogy Series: 1950 Census and download the handouts. Previous presentations have been recorded for later viewing.

National Archives Genealogy Series: 1950 Census

4. Gather blank questionnaires and fill in the censuses during your lifetime. Imagine how glad you would have been if your ancestors had done this for you! Head over to the US Census Bureau to learn more about the Censuses and Download census forms at the Decennial Census of Population and Housing by Decades.

Decennial Census of Population and Housing by Decades

On each page for the decennial census, there will be a link to download that Decennial Census Questionnaire & Instructions. From that page you can download a sample questionnaire. Or you can go directly to the 1950 Census page where you can download blank forms and view the index of questions.

Census Bureau 1950 Census Page

On the Through the Decades webpage you can find a link to download “Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000” in that includes information and questionnaires from the 1790 up to the 2000 US Census in pdf format.

Through the Decades download page

On 1 April 2022

Travel to the NARA’s 1950 Census Records web page, where there will be a link the dedicated website.

Many thanks to all those at NARA who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to bring this data to us on time.

Did My Ancestor Serve in WWI?

New Blog Post

In the past, I answered that question by recommending searching for information at home, searching through the U.S. Army Transport Records that documented a veteran’s trip overseas, consulting state service abstracts or contacting the National Personnel Records Center.

Now, one of the most helpful sets of records to answer that question has come online. It is the U.S. Veterans Administration Master Index from NARA’s Records of the Veterans Administration [VA] (Record Group 15).

So, gather up the list of possible candidates. Having a residence and a birth date may help you narrow down the search for ancestors with common names.

You will need a free account on FamilySearch to access these records. If you do not already use FamilySearch, you will be glad to find out about what it has to offer. The link to search the collection is United States, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940.

Family Search search page for U.S. Veterans Administration Master Index

Enter your ancestor’s name.

Searching example

Look through the search results to look for your ancestor. (Pay attention to the residence; the military service location (St. Louis) is related to where the records were stored.)

result for example search

The small document icon is used to “view the record details.”

The small camera icon on the right means that you can view an image of the record.

Search result

Clicking on “view the original document takes you to the image viewer, you can view and download it.

The image viewer screen

From this image, I know the first military organization in which Joseph F. McMahon served. An important piece of information is his military service number, which is helpful when the veteran has a common name.- His birth and death dates, as well as his enlistment and discharge dates.

C is the Claim Number assigned when an application was made for a service connected disability, pension, and education and training.

An “A” number shows that this veteran was eligible for the Adjusted Compensation paid to veterans based on their WWI service.

T Indicates that the veteran had War Risk Insurance during WWI.

CT  Shows the certificate number assigned by service departments with the World War I Bonus.

Learn more about these records at Family Search search page for U.S. Veterans Administration Master Index.

Learn more about the letter codes at NARA’s Key to Codes & Prefixes.

When you find an ancestor who served in WWI, you can begin to research his service. Check out our other WWI blog posts by using the Search Box and entering WWI.

Learn more about our book on this website or at Amazon Researching Your U.S. WWI Army Ancestors.

The U.S. Military Records That Never Burned

No, NOT all the WWI and WWII military records for your ancestor were burned!

We often hear the misinformation and read many posts on Facebook claiming that all the military records burned. This post will help shed light on just a few of the records about your ancestor’s service that are still available.

We have already blogged about the Official Military Personnel Files OMPFs beginning here, and hope you had a chance to read about them. From that post you will have learned that Navy and Marine Corps personnel files from WWI and WWII were not burned in the NPRC fire.

It is important to know there were original records that were never in the OMPFs, and so, they were NEVER BURNED. These records were part of the paperwork generated by military organizations, and were kept separately from the individual personnel records. The individual personnel records were actually constructed by using these original records.

This blog post covers some great examples of records that could help you understand your ancestor’s military experience: Rosters/Musters and Morning Reports. For military ancestors who died while in service, there are WWI Death Files and WWII Individual Death Personnel Files (IDPF).

Muster Rolls and Rosters

These records contain information about service members who were in an organization, so you can place your ancestor with an organization at a specific time. These are lists of the members of an organization during a specific time period (or at a specified time such as the last day of the month). They shows who was sick in hospital, who was “lost” to the organization by transfer, and to where they were transferred, who was “gained” by the organization through transfer, and who was attached. By piecing these together, a service member can be tracked.

Browsable images of WWI muster rolls and rosters are available online at the FamilySearch website. You need to know the military organization for the service member because these are not searchable. United States, World War I, military muster rolls and rosters, 1916-1939 (The filmstrips are available at the National Personnel Record Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO.)

Morning Reports

These reports cover the day-by-day details of an Army organization, giving a brief summary of the status of the men and animals in the organization.

The front of the morning reports contain columns that record the counts of officers, enlisted men and animals. On the back, brief notations were made naming the soldiers who transferred in, transferred out, transferred to a hospital or were sick. Notes were made of soldiers who were loaned out to other organizations, who were promoted, where and how far they traveled, courts martial, and disciplinary actions.

Like any other diary, this will give context to your military ancestor’s service even when his name is not mentioned.

These records are available at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). The U.S. Navy has Ship’s Logs, which rarely mention individuals. Learn more about Ship’s Logs here.

WWI Death Files / WWII Individual Death Personnel Files (IDPF)

For service members who died while in service, a death file will exist. In WWI, these are Death Files; in WWII they were called Individual Death Personnel Files (IDPF). These files are truly individual, as the contents will vary for each case. Each should contain the circumstances of the service member’s death. If the ancestor died in combat, there will generally be a description of how he died, compiled from available witnesses.

For an ancestor who went overseas, the file will contain correspondence with the next-of-kin to establish whether to ship the service member’s remains back to the United States, or bury him in an overseas military cemetery. In the file for a WWI service member who was buried overseas, there may be information about a Gold Star trip sponsored by the government to allow mothers and wives to visit the grave of their fallen soldier in Europe. If the service member was originally classified as missing in action, the file may contain information about how the remains were identified.

Although these files exist for those who died during service stateside, typically these files contain less information that for those who died in combat.

These records can be requested from the NPRC, however, NARA is prioritizing the digitization of WWI files and making them online. Record Group 92, Series: Correspondence, Reports, Telegrams, Applications, and Other Papers Relating to Burials of Service Personnel, 1/1/1915 – 12/31/1939 are searchable here.

Burial Cards

For service members who died while in service, a burial card will exist. The burial card contains information about where the service member was interred, and where the remains had been relocated. (To learn more, read the blog post Researching Soldiers Who Died During World War I.)

The family of the soldier below chose to have his remains stay in Europe, in the American Battle Monuments Commission Meuse-Argonne Cemetery. NARA Archivists have reported not yet finding where the photographs are stored that are referenced on the cards.

Record Group 92, Series: Card Register of Burials of Deceased American Soldiers, 1917 – 1922. The 104 sets of digitized cards can be browsed from here.

Know that only the personnel records for Army and Air Force service members were involved in the fire, and that even those ancestors still live in the unburned pages of the military records.

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair 2019

Are you looking for an easy way to learn about using the National Archives? Would you like to know more about researching your genealogy at NARA?

The 2019 National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair has come and gone, but the videos have been posted on YouTube, and the handouts are still available. You can learn directly from NARA personnel in the videos and have the handouts for reference. This year’s topics are the History Hub, Preserving Personal Collections, Immigration Records, WWI Navy and Marine Corps Records, Indian Affairs School Records and The Homestead Act.

Check out the 2019 National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair webpage for the topics and links to the videos and handouts. You can follow the links on that page to watch presentations from the day on YouTube.

If you want to head straight to the presentations on YouTube, you can use this link.

Consider taking the time to fill out the Event Evaluation Form to let NARA know how much you appreciate this Virtual Genealogy Fair.

While you are there, follow the links to check out the presentations and handouts for the previous years, too. There are links for the genealogy fairs going back to 2010.

Civil War Pensions

(This is Part 1 of the blog post. Part 2 appears on the Twisted Twigs for Genealogy Blog.)

So many people ask us in person, or post in Facebook groups: “Where do I go to find more about my ancestor’s military service?”. The short answer is that the records you need are at branches of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), but how you get access to them can make a difference.

In this blog post, we outline the process of requesting a Civil War Pension, and what to do if NARA replies that the Pension file is not available at NARA Archives 1 in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps you have found some evidence of your ancestor’s service in the Civil War on in family history, Fold3, Ancestry or FamilySearch. If that ancestor filed for a pension, or his widow or minor children did, you may find some useful and important genealogical data in that pension application.

(Note: The approved pension applications of widows and other dependents of Civil War veterans who served between 1861 and 1910 are available on Fold3 but are only 21% complete. Digitization has been halted due to concerns about handling these fragile files.

Pensions may contain a wealth of genealogical information. The veteran (or dependent) had to provide the story of the veteran’s service, and describe the wounds or ailments that had caused the veteran to be unable to support himself. Relationships had to be documented, so you might find marriage, birth and death dates of family members. There are often written statements from fellow veterans who served with him and witnessed his injuries. There could be doctor’s evaluations.

It is important to find the Pension Index Card (shown below) before ordering a pension. Be sure to save the image of the whole card when you find it. Pension Indexes can be found at Ancestry, Fold3 or on FamilySearch. FamilySearch is a free site for family historians, and the images for the pension can be found by searching the database: United States General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934.

In the card below, the multiple military organizations in which the veteran served are listed. The Certificate Number indicates that a pension was awarded.

If you cannot find a Pension Index Card, it is most likely because that the veteran did not apply a pension. In those days, the pensions were not automatically given to veterans. A veteran, or widow or minor, had to demonstrate that they could not work and did not have income to survive.

1. When you have obtained the Pension Index Card, you can submit a request to NARA online using:

SF 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records

Or NARA Form 85

Please head over to the Twisted Twigs Blog for the second part of this post. It contains information about your options to get a Civil War Pension File and some of the challenges you might face.

7th Generation Detroit Family Historian and NARA Records Retrieval Expert, Deidre Erin Denton of Twisted Twigs Genealogy and Margaret McMahon, author of “Researching Your U.S. WWI Army Ancestors, have teamed up for a series of blog posts to show you the path to researching the military records for WWI, WWII the Korean War and more at NARA. Because of your connection to your ancestor, you are the best teller of his story, and with these records you can write and share a very personal military history.