Counting Down Until the Release of the 1950 Census!

Today’s post is by Denise Henderson, Blog alum and Director of Digitization in the Office of Research Services.

Since it only happens once every ten years, NARA wants to give you plenty of advance notice:  365 days from today, on April 1, 2022, the 1950 Census will be digitally released to the public! The opening of a population census is always a momentous event for the National Archives (NARA) and the researcher community. We know some people are already counting down to the big day.

The Federal Government conducts a population census every ten years – you probably remember filling out your own census form in 2020. After the census is taken, it is restricted for 72 years in order to protect the personally identifiable information of the individuals enumerated. At the end of 72 years, NARA is responsible for releasing the accessioned population census to the public. While the information in the 1950 Census is still restricted for another year, appropriately cleared NARA staff are busy preparing for the release.

As we did in 2012 for the 1940 Census, NARA is planning an all-digital roll-out of the 1950 Census. As you can imagine, this huge undertaking requires significant staff time and effort to ensure that the Census is released on time. Staff throughout NARA have been working diligently over the past few years to support this work. Thousands of rolls of microfilm containing the population schedules have been scanned and are in the process of being broken out by enumeration districts; over 8,000 census maps from 1950, located in entry Enumeration District and Related Maps, 1880 – 1990, (National Archives Identifier: 821491), (from Record Group 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census), were scanned and added to the National Archives Catalog by our Cartographic Branch; informational content, tutorials, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are being created; a website is being developed; and much more. Most importantly, we haven’t let the limited operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic stop us – the work on the Census has continued unabated.

While much has already been done, there is still a lot we’re working on. Over the next year, on NARA’s various social media platforms, we will share information about the 1950 Census itself, the Native American Census, associated administrative records, and preparations for the digital release. We’ll also feature some of the important “behind the scenes” work that is being carried out by NARA staff. In addition to following NARA’s blogs, we encourage you to join our new Census Subcommunity that will launch on History Hub on April 5, 2021. You can seek tips and information to help you with your census research and get a jumpstart on planning your 1950 search strategy in this subcommunity. Also on History Hub, be sure to keep up with the always interesting, always informative blog posts written by NARA’s Census Subject Matter Expert (SME), Claire Kluskens. Claire writes a series entitled “Census Fun Facts” and in February, she launched a new series specifically about the 1950 Census (she’s already on her seventh post but don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to catch up)!

“Technical Training Program – 1950 Census,” Flow Charts, 17th Decennial Census, 1950 (National Archives Identifier: 195980236).

In 1950, 140,000 census enumerators were tasked with counting the over 150 million residents of the U.S., including reservations, territories and possessions. Counting the U.S. population in 1950 was a big job; so is ensuring the timely release of that information 72 years later. Like our Census colleagues before us, NARA staff is up to the challenge. Let the countdown begin!

For more information check out “Snapshot USA: 1950 Census Enumeration District Maps”in The Unwritten Record, the blog of NARA’s Special Media Division. 


The images in this post are from the series: Narrative Histories, Committee Minutes, and Procedural Manuals Primarily Relating to the 17th Decennial Census, ca. 1975 – ca. 1978, (National Archives Identifier: 5634057). Record Group 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census.

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