15 February 2022

Take These Steps to Be Ready for the 1950 Census

When they release the 1950 United States Census on April 1st, will you be ready to find your family? It will take a few weeks for the collection to be fully indexed and searchable. But don't let that stop you.

With very little trouble, you can create a list of who you want to search for. Then you can prioritize your list and use an online tool to tell you where to look.

Create Your Search List

Once again, it's Family Tree Analyzer to the rescue. Here are the steps I followed to create my list of 1,045 people who may be in the 1950 U.S. census:

1. Export a GEDCOM file from your family tree. Your family tree software or the website where you keep it should have this option.

2. Launch Family Tree Analyzer and open your GEDCOM file.

3. Click the Main List tab, then choose Individuals to Excel from the Export menu at the top.

This saves the file in CSV format. I find it's better to save the CSV file in your spreadsheet software format. For me, that's Excel. This will give you more functionality and let you save your formatting, like column widths.

You can delete several columns for simplicity. All you really need is:

  • Forename
  • Surname
  • BirthDate
  • BirthLocation
  • DeathDate
  • RelationToRoot

4. Sort the data by the BirthLocation column, then hide (or delete) the lines for anyone who didn't live in the USA. Make this column nice and wide so you can see the country.

This step took a while for me because I have about 36,000 people in my family tree who never came to America.

Keep your immigrant ancestors in mind. I realize I've hidden the lines for my grandfathers and my great grandparents. I know I won't forget them, but I will put their lines back in.

Follow these few steps today and be completely ready for the upcoming release of the 1950 U.S. census.
Follow these few steps today and be completely ready for the upcoming release of the 1950 U.S. census.

5. If you hid the non-U.S. lines, copy the entire worksheet to a new, blank worksheet. The hidden lines will not copy. If you deleted the lines, go to step 6.

6. Sort the data by the BirthDate column, then hide (or delete) the lines for anyone born before 1850 and after 1950.

7. Sort the data by the DeathDate column, then hide (or delete) the lines for anyone who died before 1950.

8. If you hid the out-of-range lines in step 7, copy the entire worksheet to a new, blank worksheet. The hidden lines will not copy. If you deleted the lines, go to step 9.

Now you have a list of all the people in your family tree who may be in the 1950 census.

9. Sort the data by the RelationToRoot column so you can focus on your closest relatives first.

When they release the census and you start your search, you can hide or delete lines as you find people. I'm going to add a new column to my spreadsheet where I can put an X when I've found someone.

Find the Neighborhood Before the Index is Ready

I know I want to find my parents first. They made their first appearance in the 1940 census, so now I want their families in 1950.

To find the right set of census pages to scour for their families, follow these steps:

1. Go to stevemorse.org and select Unified 1880-1950 Census ED Finder from the US Census menu.

2. See what address you have for the family in the 1940 census and enter that on the stevemorse.org website.

I'll set the State to New York, the County to Bronx, the City or Town to Bronx. Then I'll enter the House Number 260, and choose East 151st Street from the pull-down list. Next I'll click the "see google map" button to view this address on the map. You need this so you can see what the surrounding streets are.

3. Select the nearest cross or back street from the pull-down menu. Repeat this step as needed.

4. Look beneath the street names you've chosen. You'll see how much you've narrowed down the possible enumeration districts.

Don't wait for the 1950 census to be indexed. Use this tool to go to the right set of pages.
Don't wait for the 1950 census to be indexed. Use this tool to go to the right set of pages.

In my case, my mom's family will be in one of two enumeration districts. I can easily go through them page-by-page when the images are available. In fact, since the majority of my relatives lived right there, I'll be on the lookout for any familiar names.

So you see, with very little effort, you can be ready for the April 1st release date. You'll have your list, and you'll have your priority people. The best thing about this spreadsheet is it'll help make sure you don't overlook anyone.

Be thankful we're getting access to 1950 in 2022, at the end of the 72-year privacy period. People in the U.K. just got access to their 1921 census!


  1. Thanks for these tips :) I only have a couple of families to trace (my granddad's cousins and their families), but I'm eager to see them in 1950. I love FTA!!

  2. The Census is the most valuable tool in genealogy for me. I've found my ancestors since the first one done; I read all the names repeatedly, their ages when that year's census was completed and note it, then move on to neighbors whose names I remember. Even their cook, and house staff are listed, and on one, my oldest aunt's best friend, Emelina was visiting and she was counted. Names and faces I knew well during my childhood years come back to life. Currently I'm working on my dearest friend's genealogy; he grew up mostly alone since age 13, staying at different friends and families for a few nights until his maternal grandmother took him. He only knew his parent's and grandparent's name, and no one else. Slowly, like peeling an onion, I've found his great grandparents, his maternal aunts and uncles, and even the sister he'd never mentioned to me. When I asked about her he just said "oh yes, when my parents separated my mother took her and I stayed". They're only included in a private genealogy I'm keeping myself, not the one he'll get, as I agreed only to finding his direct ancestors. Of course, church documents and government documents, if I can find them and read them, are of value too. I enjoy your blogs tremendously. Thank you.

    1. I know what you mean—when I first started in genealogy, I adored combing through the Bronx census and recognizing almost every name in the neighborhood. That's quite a story about your friend. Isn't it amazing what you can put together from these gov't documents? Thanks so much for reading.

  3. DiAnn - I am looking forward to the 1950 census. My parents were married in June 1940, just after the census so they were living with their parents. In 1950, there were three boys (our sister was born in 1951 so another 10-year wait).
    On another subject, I downloaded and used the FTAnalyzer to look for, to find and to correct errors and problems. I still have some errors to solve (women giving birth before 10) but many more have been corrected while some never will (groom and bride with the same surname). Thank you.

    1. Even Family Tree Maker puts up an error message when a husband and wife have the same last name. And I don't want to say "stop showing me these message" because sometimes it warns me that I made a typo in a date, baptizing a baby before it was born. I like to do a spot check now and then with Family Tree Analyzer to check for those impossible babies and fix the error.

    2. Hi, Usually if you use our Unified Tool you get down to a single ED. I can see why you didn't enter the 4 street names on the block that has your address. It looks like the neighborhood has changed since 1950 so a current map has new configurations. So I repeated your steps. After you entered the 3 streets, you probably hesitated, didn't decide to enter the "alley" with no name, and stopped at two ED possibilities. What you could have then done is to press the "More Details" link to the right of the Radio Button area... that will show you our ED transcriptions for the two EDs. You can see that 3-49 has it's south boundary 151st E (that is, the houses on the north side of 151st E are within 3-49 between Morris Ave and Park Ave. Your address is not included in that ED, we can exclude it. That leaves 3-50. The boundaries on the description don't quite match what I see on a modern map.... but the North boundary description of 3-50.... crosses 151st E before it turns south on Morris Ave (the East boundary of 3-50). So that should be your ED #. Joel Weintraub Dana Point, CA

    3. I left it at two EDs for the sake of illustration. I don't know how many people will be able to get it down to one. Plus, all my relatives lived close together, so I intend to review both EDs.

  4. I am so excited about this census that I can't contain it!

    It is the first census that my daddy, mother, and father, and the majority of their siblings, will be in. My daddy's oldest brother and my mother's brothers were in the 1940 census and her oldest sister in the 1930 census. I have to wait another 10 years for my father's younger brother as he was born in the 1950s.

    I will not likely be alive, or at least not have the mental functioning, to see the first census for my husband and myself and definitely not the first census for our children (1990 census gets one of our children). I'll be nearly 100 years old when that one comes out. I wish that they would do away with the 72 year rule. I guess that I'll see that census from the other side. :)

    I have no clue of the addresses for any of them during 1950, though. I know the likely state and county for all of them, but I need to try to find some addresses.

    Thank you for another great post, DiAnn!