Today’s the day!
The 1950 US Census images have been released by NARA (the National Archives and Records Administration in the U.S.) and are viewable on their website for FREE.
TIP: In the search returns, three buttons you’ll want to understand:
- Population Schedules button is for viewing the images/scans
- Help Us Transcribe Names button is for improving the index
- Share button is to share the link on Twitter or Facebook, or to simply copy the link
There is a location index and you’re able to search by state, county or city, and enumeration district and then search a batch of images/census scans for a locale, but then you’ll need to go page by page, looking for an ancestor’s name the old-fashioned way. You’ll have better results if you can narrow the location search to a state AND a county/city.
There is a name index provided by NARA but it is a very preliminary work, so there are many false positives/incorrect results. It’s worth trying but you can also wait for a better index (see 1950 US Census Index below). If you use NARA’s name search, you can search by an individual’s first and/or last name. Search results will also return close variations or misspellings of the specified name. In the results, look for the “Matched Name(s)” to see what they found, based on your query.
TIP: Use the Location Search with a state AND county/city AND a Name Search. If you only search by a state and ancestor name the results will be overwhelming.
TIP: Search for the least common name in a family. When I search for my grandfather, Howard Tayler, by state and county/city, I can’t find him in the search results. When I search for his daughter, Eudora Tayler, also by state and county/city, the whole family shows up on the first page of results. It’s not the first result (ranked), but it’s on the first page.
The name index was created using artificial intelligence and Optical Character Recognition technology. Website visitors will have the ability to transcribe names that appear in the census and these transcriptions will be added to the website’s name index, improving its accuracy over time. Transcriptions will be moderated by NARA community managers. The Transcription button is labeled “Help Us Transcribe Names”
When you select “Help Us Transcribe Names” you’ll be asked for your email address, then NARA will send a verification code to that email address. You’ll type the verification code into the prompt on their site
and then you’ll be taken to a transcription window. First, you’ll select the line number (the left column in the image)
then you’ll be able to add a transcription for that line number.
The entire 1950 US Census dataset is available for download for free.
NARA YouTube videos about 1950 US Census:
- 1950 Census: Overview of Website Features (10 minutes)
- Genealogy Series: Overview of What’s in the 1950 Census
- Genealogy Series: Mapping the 1950 Census
- Genealogy Series: The 1950 Census Website: Design, Development, & Features to Expect
IMPROVED 1950 US Census Index
Ancestry, MyHeritage, and FamilySearch are all working together to build a robust index for the 1950 census, so if you’re patient and can wait a few weeks you’ll be able to search an improved index at these three sites. Keep checking these sites over the next few weeks to see the progress they’re making.
Here are links to the current 1950 census collections at these three sites:
Ancestry — 10 states and 4 territories as of 1 April 2022 at 1 pm MDT
MyHeritage — all 50 states and all territories as of 1 April 2022 at 1 pm MDT
FamilySearch — 13 states as of 1 April 2022 at 1 pm MDT
Image collections, if not complete on these sites, will continue to be added hourly. Updated indexes should happen three times in the next couple of weeks and then every Wednesday morning until the index is completely updated.
You can sign up to help with the Ancestry/MyHeritage/FamilySearch census index here.
Best with your genealogy searches!