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The 1950 U.S. Census and Military Research

On April 1, 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration will release the 1950 U.S. Census to the public. These records may provide new insights into the 16 million American men and women who fought during WWII. More than 400,000 Americans died during the war. As a result, many will find ancestors enumerated in the 1940 U.S. Census but no longer living in 1950.

A family takes part in the 1950 Census

Soldiers returning from WWII arrived home to sweeping new legislation known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, or G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill provided benefits to returning veterans, including money for education, job training, and low-interest home loans. As a result, almost half of college admissions in 1947 were veterans. With so many veterans attending college, it’s important to note that in the 1950 U.S. Census, college students were enumerated where they attended school and not where their family was living.

Returning soldiers also started families, ushering in the “baby boom.” The 1950 U.S. Census will show veterans all over the country listed as homeowners. Many took advantage of the low-interest loans to purchase homes, and new neighborhoods of mass-produced subdivisions sprang up all over the country. By 1950, veterans had become the largest single group of homeowners and helped usher in an era of middle-class prosperity.

Some other veteran-related things to watch for in the 1950 U.S. Census records are:

  • The 1940 standard census forms had lines for 40 persons. In 1950, this number was reduced to 30 lines, allowing enumerators space to take notes on additional sample questions answered by every fifth person. Men on these “sample” lines were asked if they served in the military during WWI or WWII or any other service, including the present.
  • Military and civilian personnel living at Canton, Johnston, Midway, and Wake Islands were enumerated and will be included in the 1950 U.S. Census release records.
  • Enumerators were instructed not to enumerate Americans, including soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who worked for the United States Government while living abroad in 1950. They only enumerated those living in their enumeration district.
  • The names and rank of a few U.S. military personnel overseas are included in correspondence in Binder 36-C, Members of Armed Forces and U.S. Citizens Abroad, available here from the National Archives.
  • Officers and crews of U.S. flagged vessels are likely found in an enumeration district in either the vessel’s home port or where the vessel was on April 1, 1950 (the official census day).
  • Those serving in the Coast Guard, including vessels, lighthouses, and other stations of various kinds, were enumerated. Often the lighthouse or vessel was its own enumeration district. Commanding officers of Coast Guard vessels received forms for each of their crew. If someone was away on leave or absent on temporary duty, their commanding officer filled out the form as much as possible. USCG uniformed and civilian personnel living in “barrack-type” quarters received a Form P2, Individual Census Report, which they filled out. A regular census enumerator visited USCG personnel who lived either on-base or off-base with their dependents.
A 1950 Census enumerator interviews Pres. Truman and family

Using new, proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) handwriting recognition technology, Ancestry® announced that it will deliver a searchable index of the 1950 Census faster than ever before. Volunteers will evaluate census extraction records to ensure accurate results. We anticipate the 1950 U.S. Census will be fully indexed and available to search online this summer.

Keep an eye out for the 1950 U.S. Census records coming to Ancestry®, and search Fold3® today to learn more about your veteran’s military history.

121 Comments

  1. Martha Edwards says:

    I think the question about whether or not black veterans were able to use their service to get a loan to buy a home is a valid question. It makes a difference in many ways. This is not a “woke” question, either. I was born in 1942 and have wondered about such things since about 1955 when I realized my town had a black and a white high school, and I asked why that was. I played with a couple of black children at my grandma’s farm, and wondered why we were not in the same school! If you are so hung up on “woke” it says s lot about how racist you are!

    • Deanna L Hopper says:

      As a child I lived in one of the subdivisions built in the 60s not too far from Ft Knox Ky. A lot of GIs bought those homes. I only remember one non-white family in the whole place. One reason I like genealogy is to learn about history and how my family fits in so I don’t understand that one guy’s beef with others who just pointed out that the article could have been a tad more accurate

  2. Art says:

    You might be surprised who wrote those covenants in to those deeds. Under the New Deal, Blacks couldn’t own property in White areas and couldn’t hold certain jobs.
    Truth is there is no difference in the Democrats today with their “Diversity” crap, they now have Blacks demanding segregation, that’s right, demanding what Martin Luther King Jr, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and others died trying to destroy.

  3. Suzanne Hilburn says:

    I will certainly be on the lookout for it. Thank you for sharing the information.

  4. Kathi Coatney says:

    I lived in several small towns and larger cities in Arkansas and Texas in the 1960’s and 70’s. the fact of the matter was that there was only a small part of town, anywhere we lived, that Blacks were allowed to live. Period. It had nothing to do with the GI Bill. It also had nothing to do with how much education a person had, or how much money they made. Could have been a millionaire, would have made no difference.

    • Russ Goodspeed says:

      I find it fascinating that so many people can take a simple subject and turn it into a national debate. The initial post was simply to let anyone who might be interested that the 1950 census information would be released this June.
      Instead it devolved into a civil rights rehash.
      I will readily admit that people of color have not always been treated fairly through history. But we can’t and should not rewrite history.
      I have read manly articles on Critical Race Theory. I have read article written by people of all political leanings.
      From what I have seen the main theme is to teach our children that simply because their skin is white they are automatically racist. If this is the tact we are going to take to try to assuage prejudicial behavior from prior generations going back generations, do we also emphasize the negative aspects of minority populations?
      If you are going to paint all the members of one group with the same brush shouldn’t that approach apply to all.

    • Tim Vance says:

      Russ Goodspeed : “I find it fascinating that so many people can take a simple subject and turn it into a national debate. The initial post was simply to let anyone who might be interested that the 1950 census information would be released this June. Instead it devolved into a civil rights rehash.”

      Yet you choose to enter the debate. Hmmmm

      Then the rest of your post is inaccurate and misleading information, despite you saying you have “read manly articles on Critical Race Theory.” Based upon what you write, you do not understand CRT no matter or how many your source readings.

      You write: “From what I have seen the main theme is to teach our children that simply because their skin is white they are automatically racist.” That is utter nonsense, a total straw man statement. CRT is a complex concept that you and others distort with that one shallow, ridiculous statement. I understand that it is a winning political argument as we saw in Virginia last November, but it is dishonest and shameful.

      Since you say you read material by people of all political leanings, I suggest you read Richard Rothstein’s book, “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” It is meticulously researched and eye-opening for those who have a real love through knowledge (not a myth or fantasy) for our country and desire our country to become the best it can be. As our aspirational Preamble says, “In order to form a more perfect union, establish justice …”

  5. Greg Beers says:

    It is obvious that some have a narrower focus than others when it comes to genealogy. Some see it more restricted to who begat who. Others see it ad encompassing broader history and personal stories. I get “both sides” of the debate. Yet I bet I will be criticized for seeing “both sides “.

    • Jane Lord says:

      Hi Greg. I’m with you. I don’t believe that those with a narrow focus get the full experience. I love history in general and believe that when you know what went on at any given time enriches the ancestors’ experiences. It can help to explain their choices their migrations, and many other things. My tree does not just include direct ancestors, as I frequently go down “rabbit holes” looking at my ancestors’ siblings, spouses, etc. That could be helpful to another researcher. I’ve even found out that one of my college roommates is something like an 8th cousin of mine!!

  6. George Nichols says:

    At the end of WWII in Europe, my dad, an US Army Captain, was joined by his very young bride from Texas. I suspect they/we lived there in occupied quarters/barracks since there were probably no identifiable US posts there at the time. I was born in 1948 in a local Heidelberg, Germany hospital. In fact, I have a German birth certificate. I am curious to see if our small military family was recorded in the 1950 Census because we had recently returned to the US by then. Incidentally, I had a little issue when I later returned to Germany as a G.I. in 1968. For the job I was doing I needed a security clearance. Since I did not have a passport I’m sure the nearly 10-week delay in getting my clearance was related to the German birth certificate issued by a non-US Army hospital. I subsequently received a passport in 1978, but only after an extensive Q & A about why I didn’t already have a US or German passport or why I didn’t have a US birth certificate in 1948 issued by a US Army authority in Germany.

  7. Ruby Johnson says:

    Where can I find the 1950 census? I did not see it on Ancestry.

    • Khristine Davenport says:

      It comes out in june

    • Patricia Robertson says:

      I find the census amazing. I watched how the spelling of my ancestors names changed, how their race was defined every ten years. I can’t wait to see what surprises the 1950 census will show.

    • Jane Lord says:

      Ruby, please read the original message again. It is not going to be released until April 1, 2022. Even so, it will take a couple of months for it to be fully on Ancestry

    • Katy Pace Byrd says:

      It will be available April 1, 2022.

  8. Gabriel Ware says:

    Maybe if America FINALLY starts to be truthful about its past, we won’t have to constantly correct blatant omissions. Black vets were systematically denied the GI Bill, the cheap rate housing loans, the education benefits, agriculture loans etc etc. Talk about no boot straps to pull up! Black soldiers went off to fight and came home to get treated like dirt. Until this country 1)admits the truth and 2)do something about it is the only way to resolve the race issue. Nothing less is acceptable.

  9. Fred Smith says:

    I’ve reported you…

  10. Pat Odoms says:

    I am looking forward to seeing what the 1950 Census shows about Black Americans and in particular Black veterans who served in the War. I have uncles who served and came home to discrimination in housing, getting loans etc.