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.
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.
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.