Tuesday, April 5, 2022

take me to your census

This is fun. I've been looking relatives up in the 1950 US census.

I found my mother in her college dorm, and her parents - even though the enumerator misspelled their name - back at home, with their two live-in maids. (Did I know my grandparents had a maid? Yes, I recall my mother mentioning this. Did I know the maid was live-in? Well, I sort of presumed that. Did I know they had two? No.)

I was unable to find my father. He would have been either at university or med school then, but he turned up in neither city, nor could I find his mother. But the two of them had moved around a whole lot after the divorce when my dad was 12. I did find my grandfather, who stayed put for the rest of his life.

B. wasn't available at the moment to ask, but I guessed what city her parents were living in then, and found them on the first shot, with a 3-year-old daughter, their only child at the time. (You will not get B's sister to admit how old she is today.)

Then there's the enumeration district maps. There's a terrible search interface for these at the National Archives, but someone has made a much better one. These are only necessary if you know the address you're looking for and can find it on a map, and need to know the district to limit your search. I found the name/county search function was sufficiently powerful that I didn't need that. But I did enjoy looking at the maps of the area I grew up in. Clearly the post-war boom which was going full-throttle in the 60s had not started yet in 1950, judging by the tiny towns and the vast agricultural zones (orchards, mostly, I remember, from what was left of them) separating the towns. A different world.

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