According to the April 6, 1950, edition of The Itawamba County Times, April 1 marked the official opening of the Decennial Census.

Much to the delight of researchers, genealogists and history buffs, the 1950 United State Census was released on April 1 by the National Archives. By law, the records are sealed for 72 years for privacy purposes. The 1950 Census can be accessed on the website of the National Archives at https://1950census.archives.gov/. The newly released Census contains seven million records, a tremendous increase from 3.8 million records in the 1940 Census. This data, 1.65 terabytes in size, was immediately available to researchers for bulk download.

“Since 1790, census data have painted a vivid, vibrant portrait of America,” said Robert Santos the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau in a video shared when the Census was first made available online earlier in the month.

The 1950 Census was the first after World War II, and a new challenge posed to those who planned it was figuring out how to count the large number of military and government workers living overseas for the first time. For these, they specifically designed forms of population and the Department of Defense and State Department oversaw the enumerations of those stationed overseas.

“While the Decennial Census is constitutionally used to determine congressional apportionment to states, the completed forms can give us a unique peek into our nation’s past to the delight of historians, genealogists, and to all of us – the public,” Santos said later in the video. “So thanks to all those people who participated in the 1950 Census, we can follow the movement of people across the country and gain a glimpse into how they lived through the National Archives release.”

The Census asked 20 questions of those 14 and older with a new survey on residential financing. Researchers will be able to use the data to study and learn about how people lived in different parts of the United States at the time as well as identify any new patterns in populations that the records might bring to light. The Census is also an invaluable tool to those researching their family’s history. Not only can one find where their family lived at the time, but also about the communities in which they lived. Although the data is a long way from being fully transcribed, researchers can take advantage of new technology to locate an individual easier using a search engine with Optical Character Recognition. This feature searches for the name entered in the handwritten notes and displays the options it finds like other search engines.

The Itawamba County-Pratt Memorial Library has a number of resources available to help genealogists search not only the 1950 Census but also to use what is found to add depth to the initial findings.

“I am very excited about the release of the 1950 Census. I think of genealogy as one big puzzle. When new information is either released or just found, it helps people get closer to solving that puzzle. Here at the library, we have many resources that one can use to help put together their genealogical puzzle,” said library director Jeffrey Martin.

The Mississippi Room of the library has a wealth of information for local historians including books on the county’s early settlers, written histories and cemetery records, but Martin says their most popular research source is online.

“The most popular resource is the Ancestry.com database. In the past, it has only been available for use in the library building. With COVID-19 disrupting library service at some points, the service was made available to library patrons by using their library cards to sign in to the library’s website. This service is still available at present,” Martin said. “Library patrons can also use their cards to access the Heritage Quest database.”

However one uses the data included in the 1950 Census whether to understand their own family better or to study a larger number of people and demographics in a county, state or region, one can better understand how the U.S. lived and changed as the nation entered the first decade after World War II.

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