Friday, April 1, 2022

Finding My Parents Family in San Diego in the 1950 U.S. Census

 I was on the National Archives site last night right at 9 p.m. PDT and the countdown clock hit 1 second and the next second the 1950 U.S. Census website appeared:

1)  I clicked on the red "Begin Search" button and saw the search page:
In the search fields on the left, I entered, using the dropdown menus provided:

*  State = California
*  County/City = San Diego, San Diego [because the city of San Diego had its' own ED numbers]
*  Last Name = Seaver

I was pretty sure that the Enumeration district was 72-293 [found earlier using the Steve Morse ED Finder] but the system would not search both an ED and a last name. If you put an ED number in and click the "Search" icon, it takes you to the first page of the ED to browse the pages.

As I entered more information, the right side of the screen changed:

After I entered the last name, I had a list of census pages which had the last name (and variants) indexed).  I scrolled down and saw:

Wait - that has my brother's name on the page in ED 72-293.  Where is my name, and my father's name, and my mother's name?  It turned out that dad was indexed as "Seaner" at the bottom of the previous page.  

I clicked on the blue "Population Schedules" and saw this census page:

Hmm, so how do I go back one more page?  The back and forward carats at the bottom don't work when I've done a name search.  I noted that the above was Sheet 15, so I want Sheet 14.

Luckily, I went back to the name search page and checked further down the list and saw "Seaner, Fredrick W." and clicked on that, and saw Sheet 14:

You can use the scroll wheel on your mouse to enbiggen the image.  And there we are at the bottom of the Sheet 14 at 2119 30th Street (names as indexed):

*  line 28:  Fredrick W. Seaner - head, white, male, 38, married, born Massachusetts, worked last week, an insurance agent, for an insurance company, P[rivate employer].
*  line 29:  Betly C. - wife, white, female, 30, married, born California, H[ome]
*  line 30:  Randilly - son, white, male, 6, nev[er married], born California.

On sheet 15:

*  line 1: Seaver, Stanly R. - son, white, male, age 3, nev[er married], born California.

The enumerator messed up all the names - mine clearly says Randell J. but the OCR indexing saw it as Randilly!

I am in line 30 on Sheet 14 so I get to be a Sample line.  The additional information for me is:

*  Living in same house a year ago?:  Yes
*  Country parents born in:  Father:  U.S. Mother U.S.
*  Highest Grade of school attended:  S1
*  Did he finish this grade?:  Yes  No
*  Attended school since February 1?:  Yes

The census image page above has three dots on the place and ED line above the image, and the user can download the image.  I did, and you have to choose the resolution.  I picked the second choice, which gave me a 1.1 megabyte image.

It took me one minute to find this record at 9:02 p.m., and I wrote a blog post about it last night at 9:33 p.m. after I saved all of the screen captures to a file.

It appears that this enumerator wrote down what they heard and probably didn't ask how to spell the names.  It appears that the NARA AI/OCR indexing is imperfect, having difficulty reading script handwriting.  On the other hand, it can beat browsing through a whole Enumeration District looking for your target family.

To create a useful source, you need to capture the Location, ED number, Sheet number, Line number, Address, head of household name, as below (using a website database as a model):

"1950 Census," indexed record with digital images, National Archives ( : accessed 31 March 2022), California > San Diego, San Diego > ED 72-293, Sheet 14, Household 212, Lines 28-30, 2119 30th Street, Fredrick W. Seaver household.

Using the 1940 census model in Evidence Explained:

1950 U.S. Federal Census, San Diego County, California, San Diego, ED 72-293, Sheet 14, Household 212, Lines 28-30 (2119 30th Street, Frederick W. Seaver household); indexed database with record images, U.S., National Archives, 1950 Census ( : accessed 31 March 2022).

I had to browse a specific ED in San Francisco to find my wife's family there because there were too many Leland families in the index.  I searched by ED (38-1155) and found their family on Sheet 21 of the ED by going page by page on the NARA web site.  If you search by browsing a specific ED, you don't see the indexed names, and you can advance pages using the Back and Forward carats at the bottom of the census page.  

Lastly, I tried to change the name spelling for all four of us on the NARA page, and got as far as entering my email address.  The site said they would send a verification code by email, but in an hour it has not been received.

This search process is not very easy at present.  I knew what to expect from watching YouTube videos (National Archives and DearMYRTLE) and am pretty flexible in searching.  When the Ancestry/FamilySearch and MyHeritage indexing projects are completed, the search process will be much easier, but that is probably one to three months away.


Copyright (c) 2022, Randall J. Seaver

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