Preparing for the 1950 Census

The next Decennial (ten-year) Census of the United States will be available online next year. In 1978, Public Law 95-416, also known as the “72-Year Rule,” restricted access to decennial records to everyone except for the individual named on the record for 72 years. The National Archives will release the 1950 Census records in April 2022.

The 1950 Census contains an estimated:

  • 7,816,000 population schedule pages
  • 9,634 enumeration district maps
  • 60,000 “Indian Census” pages

The agency has been preparing for this launch for the last decade. Right after we launched the 1940 website in 2012, we developed a list of lessons learned, and began planning for the scanning of the 1950 Census.  It is a good thing we started early, too, because we have had limited access to our buildings during the pandemic. Fortunately, selected staff who have received special clearances to work on these records have scanned the majority of the pages and are also able to work remotely on indexing efforts. Our staff are busy ensuring that state, county, city and enumeration district metadata will be available at the time of launch. 

Population schedule page from the 13th Census of the United States: 1910, National Archives Identifier 53333251.

Our User Experience team has been working with a variety of NARA staff and public stakeholders to develop the website. Using agile and human-centered design methodologies, we have recently completed our first sprints working with wireframes to develop what will be the layout of the webpage. We are planning to use current cloud technologies to ensure that the website will be able to withstand the expected crush of users when we launch in April 2022 and beyond. We are also exploring ways to provide person names, which we know are the most common searches for family historians and researchers. 

In addition to the website, we are exploring possibilities for providing bulk downloads of the 1950 Census for those who would like to work with the data as a whole or in large chunks, for digital humanities and other purposes beyond the traditional genealogical value that the Census holds. 

WPA Workers Indexing 1920 Census Records, National Archives Identifier 175739355

We know that the Census data is important to so many of you. Supporting public access to these records is right at the heart of our mission–to make access happen. We have much to do, many constraints, and relatively little time left to accomplish our vision.  Stay tuned for upcoming developments as we work toward our April 2022 launch. 

For more information about Census records at the National Archives, see our Census Records web pages. See also the Census Bureau’s overview of the 1950 Census.

22 thoughts on “Preparing for the 1950 Census

  1. The report mentioned preparing for the release of the 1950 census: what does this mean? How do I prepare for the release?

    1. The whole article is about the preparation of the release of the Census… What is mentioned is how the National Archives is preparing for the release.

    1. When the 1940 census was released in 2012, the archives put up a site for it (linked in the blog post above). I imagine they’ll have a similar one for the 1950 census next year!

  2. If you need volunteers to index the 1950 census, count me in! I love to index items from my home computer.

    1. They had an indexing project for the 1940 census a decade ago (the first census released digitally by the US archives) so I imagine they’ll have a similar set up for this one!

  3. Bulk downloads of Enumeration Districts would be of great help to those of us who are researching areas not just people.

  4. Thanks for continuing beyond the on-line searching I’m still using on the existing 1940 search site. Looking forward to next year’s release of 1950 being release. I was 10 months old in April 1940 and of course almost 10 years old for the one in 1950.

  5. I was born in 1946. I’ve been wanting to see the 1950 census for years. I just read that the files ARE available to me. I’m trying to get information on myself. How do I go about finding out how to locate info about me
    Thank You

  6. I’m still looking for my father’s family in the 1940 census.
    Their name are William Joseph Musgrove (father) b. Aug 1902, Julia Lynn English Musgrove (mother) b. Jul 1905, Norris William Musgrove (son and my father) b. Jun 1924, Irving Donald Musgrove (son) b. Jun 1926, and Glady Lynn Musgrove (daughter) b. Jun 1928. They have all passed the last one was my father who died in November 2005.

    I’ve gone to the DC Archives, used Ancestry trying to find my family on the 1940 census. With no luck.
    the family name is Musgrove in 1943 they lived in Mt. Rainer, Prince Georges, Maryland. I believe they lived in 1940 on MacArthur Boulevard, Washington, District of Columbia per my Aunt Glady’s diary. Hope someone can help me find my family.

    I hope 1950 Census I will have better luck. I was born in 1947 and brother in 1949. My parents were married in 1945.
    Thank you.

  7. Retired and lots of free time, would love to help index. I find information like that so interesting.

  8. I’m anxious to help index the census and oh, so excited to actually be able to use it in the near future!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *