1950 U.S. Census—Project Update

1950 U.S. Census Community Project badge next to images of people from the 1950s.

Thanks to over 185,000 volunteers, the Name Review portion of the 1950 U.S. Census Community Project is now complete! In just 3 months, volunteers reviewed over 151 million names. Thank you to everyone who came together to participate so far! You can read more about this success here.

So what’s remaining for the 1950 U.S. census? The final hurdle for the census to be fully released is to complete the Family Review. As it is completed, the census will continue to be released state by state until it is fully searchable by name, for free, at FamilySearch.org/1950census.

FamilySearch has learned a lot from the 1950 U.S. census volunteer project that will help us make records available quicker and have more accurate indexes in the future. To make the searchable index for the census available sooner (and to allow volunteers to focus on other record sets that are vital to people all around the world), we are accelerating part of the census project as described below.

Graphic showing a globe with people travelling and discussing different locations all around the world.

Changes to the 1950 U.S. Census Community Project

To accelerate the Family Review for the 1950 U.S. census, FamilySearch will complete some of the remaining parts of the Family Review using an alternative process. Volunteers can review families in the census until Labor Day, September 5, 2022. After that date, any remaining reviews will be completed by FamilySearch to expedite the publication of the searchable census index. The searchable index will continue to be released state by state. (You can follow its release by visiting the map on the 1950 census page.)

A Speedy but Accurate Conclusion to the Census

FamilySearch patrons may wonder, is it necessary to finish the Family Review? Will the alternative process be as accurate as volunteers? Why didn’t FamilySearch start using it sooner?

As many volunteers have noted, the Family Review for the 1950 U.S. census is just as important as the name review for making the census highly searchable. Relationships between family members and the ages of individuals are included in the Family Review and can make the difference between finding a family member in the census or not.

Man working on a computer to review items in Get Involved.

Volunteer efforts have taught FamilySearch which fields in the census need review the most and how reliable the computer-index confidence rating is—both very helpful insights for future projects using computer indexes! FamilySearch anticipates the alternative process used for the rest of the census to be almost as accurate as volunteers. That said, all fields on the census will be editable on FamilySearch after the index is published (a feature we’ll talk more about later), so any errors can still be fixed.

Finally, the alternative process, while faster, is a finite resource, and so there are limitations on the extent of its use. FamilySearch has chosen to use it on the remaining reviews for the 1950 U.S. census so patrons can enjoy this long-anticipated index sooner.

Building on the Success of the 1950 Census and Improving the Volunteer Experience for Future Records

For the first time in FamilySearch history, volunteers have been able to search for opportunities using the names they care about. This started with the 1950 U.S. census and will continue with future record sets—in even better ways. FamilySearch will continue to use computers to create a “first” index for many future record sets. Then volunteers improve the index through the simple tasks in Get Involved, fixing mistakes the computer makes, and making it easier for people to find their ancestors. The result is that the index is available to search much sooner, and volunteers can choose to focus on content they care about.

To further improve this experience, FamilySearch has been developing tools to allow all indexes created through computers to be edited at any time—even after the index is published on FamilySearch. This means that any mistake, whether made by a computer or a person, can be fixed when it is found, by whomever finds it. FamilySearch has never had an editing capability this advanced before. Most, if not all indexed fields in these new record sets will be editable far into the future.

Mother and daughter working on their cell phones in the Get Involved App.

How is this different from the current experience for the 1950 U.S. Census? For the Get Involved experience for the 1950 census, if you find a family member while reviewing the 1950 census index, there is no way to immediately attach that record to the Family Tree. This is something that will be possible in Get Involved for other computer-indexes. In addition, once someone reviews a name or a family in the 1950 U.S. census, they cannot be found again until that state’s index is published. When an edit is made in Get Involved on other computer-indexes, those edits will become searchable immediately.

Looking Forward to the Future

We understand that this early conclusion of the volunteer review for the 1950 U.S. Census may be disappointing for some. Many volunteers have labored patiently and meticulously to contribute to the review and have expressed a great love for working on this project. This is just the beginning. We hope you will continue to join us on new projects as they become available in Get Involved. FamilySearch cares about our volunteers and wants to make their experience wonderful and meaningful. Get Involved is an instrument for doing that. We hope you will keep talking to us and help us make Get Involved the best it can be.

Graphic showing people volunteering with a world-wide project.

The future is bright! Technology is changing everything that we do, making more value available to more people faster than ever before. We are only at the beginning of that journey, and things will only get better from here. We at FamilySearch are grateful to work arm in arm with you as we walk into that future. Thank you for all that you do. It’s thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers that millions of people are finding joy in discovering their ancestors every day through the billions of searchable records that volunteers create. That is a wonderful future to be a part of, and the new improvements to Get Involved will help us do even more.

The My Opportunities page on Get Involved is a great way to find ways to volunteer.

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