How Indexing the 1950 Census Will Be Different

African American family next to an Oldsmobile car in the 1950s.

The release and publication of the 1950 United States census in April 2022 will be unlike any previous census publication. Thanks to powerful new processes and technical innovations, the searchable index to the 1950 census will be published sooner. This expedited schedule means you will be able to search for ancestors' names soon after the census records are released.

Searching the records and volunteering will also be more user-friendly than ever before. Read on to learn more about the 1950 census indexing project and the preparations for this historic release.

What Will Be Different?

Volunteers can work on census records closer to heart.

Based on feedback we’ve received through the years, FamilySearch is working to make your volunteer experience more personalized. Volunteers will be able to work on records related to their family and for locations in which they have an interest.

Alaska 1950s family
The Stoltzfus family in Fortuna Ledge, Alaska, in the 1950s.

Ancestry will create an initial automated index using machine learning algorithms and AI handwriting recognition technology.

In past years, thousands of indexing volunteers spent months or even years making census collections searchable. This year, Ancestry's sophisticated artificial intelligence and handwriting recognition technology will save time by creating an initial index from digital census images. While this index won’t be perfect, it will expedite the review and publication process to let you search for your family’s names in the 1950 census sooner after its release.

Volunteers will help review the computer-created index for accuracy.

Instead of creating an index from scratch, volunteers helping with the 1950 census indexing will be invited to review the automated index to ensure that every name is included and indexed correctly. A human review will refine the index and help ensure that everyone included in the census can be found.

Click here to get updates about the 1950 census project and to help review names as they become available.

Children playing in the snow in the 1950s.

The census images will be delivered online by the National Archives to expedite publication.

When the 1940 United States census was released, organizations such as FamilySearch and Ancestry that wanted to help publish the images had to first transfer them to their own hard drives. Then, in a separate step, these groups uploaded the images onto public servers. For the 1950 census, these images will be made available in the cloud for direct and immediate download by participating organizations on 1 April 2022.

What Remains the Same?

Volunteer efforts will still be crucial for success.

While FamilySearch will use new technologies and processes to create the 1950 census index, the careful efforts of volunteers are still needed to complete a comprehensive review. The work of dedicated volunteers will make the publication of the completed index much faster than for previous census years.

Woman showing indexing project to her friends.

Sharing your experiences with others will make a difference.

A comprehensive review of the index will be completed sooner if volunteers share their experience with family and friends who may also choose to participate. FamilySearch, as a nonprofit organization, relies on the goodwill of patrons and outside organizations to help spread the word about this opportunity to expedite the publication of the 1950 census.

The 1950 U.S. census is now available! Click here to browse the record images for free.

As the 1950 community project is completed, the census will also become text-searchable. Visit the 1950 census page on FamilySearch for updates and to help review names.

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