Projects like the 1950 US Census have less to do with data and more to do with people. When we gather, we do good. When we collaborate, we solve problems. When we link arms, we foster friendships.
The 1950 US Federal Census was released on 1 April, 2022, and the Census Community Project will enlist an army of volunteers to help publish a free searchable index of all 151 million individuals included in this valuable record. Volunteers will review and improve an automated index created by Ancestry using handwriting recognition technology to ensure that it is complete and accurate.
Learn more at familysearch.org/1950census.
Recently I wrapped a writing project with our friends at FamilySearch. I was primarily contracted to craft content related to the 1950 census release and its unprecedented treasure trove for the family history community.
I went into the project with a lifetime love of words. I came out with a love of family history.
Throughout my career, I’ve often referred to myself more as a storyteller than a writer. Whether it’s a short Facebook post or an 80,000-word novel, I love capturing the arc of a beautiful story.
I had no idea just how similar that would be to exploring family history.
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As I became more familiar with the FamilySearch tools, and more specifically with the preparation and roll out of the census data, I became keenly aware that stories could be found everywhere. At last, memories of my parents doing genealogy in a dark and dusty room in a chapel in Charlottesville, Virginia, have been permanently filed away into that steel microfiche cabinet.
I learned a lifetime of lessons along my journey with FamilySearch.
I discovered that too much of the fun is still being had by too few people. Perhaps intimidated by the unknown, or locked into memories similar to mine, millions of us are reluctant to dip a toe into the tools. As I interviewed family history buffs, I heard over and over how easy it’s become and how ready they are to help first-timers. Perhaps you’re unaware how easy it is to create a FamilySearch account, or maybe you believe that it’s only available to members of nonprofit associations, societies, or church groups.
Not so. Creating an account is free and easy. No strings.
As I explored my own account, I was wowed at the tools and technology. Where I was once overwhelmed by the resources, I learned to be empowered, not intimidated.
As I researched, I was surprised at the number of support resources. Have questions? Email or call them.
Want an in-person appointment to help you get started or tackle a tricky issue? They’ll do that.
Prefer a virtual visit? They’ll use Google Meet and come to you.
Whether creating an account or a four-generation fan chart, linking with your grandparents or diving into the 1950 census records, the team is ready to help, and I had no idea how committed and dedicated they are.
My work also reminded me how many of us are fascinated by US history and are intrigued by famous Americans. Writing specifically about the 1950 census sent me into the most wonderful rabbit hole of stories. When the census data review is complete—a mix of human and computer intelligence—it shouldn’t be hard to find the names of Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, or Jimmy Stewart. Their stories are remarkable!
What additional knowledge nuggets will we discover about them? Or the US presidents alive in 1950? Or prominent religious leaders?
Still, as my writing rolled along, I realized that family history isn’t just about linking us to our ancestors or peeking behind the curtain into American culture; it’s about bonding us to the people we love and live with today.
What could be more gratifying than watching a child create and log into an account to make their own discoveries? Is there anything more exciting than being in a room full of people and trying the “Relatives Around Me” feature to discover that you’re related to half the room? I did this once during a church meeting and there were audible gasps and almost giddy laughter from around the room.
Perhaps the greatest thing I learned writing for FamilySearch is that projects like the 1950 US Census have less to do with data and more to do with people. When we gather, we do good. When we collaborate, we solve problems. When we link arms, we foster friendships.
In ten years, the 1960 census data will be released. Imagine the advancements in technology. Consider the names we’ll see for the very first time. Ponder just how much the FamilySearch community will have grown.
I can’t wait. See you in 2032.
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