An Overlooked Part of the 1950 Census: The Notes

The 1950 US Census has helped countless genealogists. However, there’s a portion of the census that many people are overlooking: the enumerator’s notes. Let’s take a look at what they are, where to find them, and how to associate them with the right people.

The 1950 Census Enumerator Notes

Unlike other federal censuses, the 1950 census instructed the enumerators to make notes of unusual entries or irregular situations. (You can download the full instructions for the population schedule from the Census Bureau.) Finally, we have some insight into why some entries are the way they are!

The enumerators made notes about all kinds of things. Some made notes when they turned down a street or what order the houses were in going back a lane. Some made notes about why some people were crossed out (or why they were included). There are also editorial comments.

Laura Guisinger was listed in Violet Township, Fairfield County, Ohio, but her name was crossed out and a “2)” appears next to her name. If you look in the notes section near the bottom of the census page, you’ll see, “2) She Died in Feb. 1950.”

Where Are the Enumerator Notes?

The most common form in the 1950 census was form P1, of which there were several versions; the notes are in different places depending on which version of the form was used. Some are near the top of the page (just below the header), others are near the bottom of the page (just above the supplemental questions), and other forms have notes at both the top and bottom of the page.

How Can You Tell What Note Goes With Which Person(s)?

Just how the notes about unusual entries were to be recorded was apparently up to the enumerators. Some enumerators included the line number in their notes. (That makes it easy for us to figure out who it’s about!) On this page, there’s a note “L-24 Will retire in Sept.” Line 24 is John Petentler, age 61, who has no occupation listed.

1950 Census enumerator note showing retirement

Some, like the one who erroneously enumerated Laura Guisinger, gave a footnote number near her name. 

Footnote numbers could also appear in the margin, near the line number. Be sure to look also in the margin of the supplemental questions. In this page in Bibb County, Georgia, there’s a note with a 1 inside of a V or a caret; that same symbol is in the margin in the supplemental question for line 19. Looking at the main part of the census, I can see that line 19 was for a man name Buford Hill.

Footnote numbers can also appear in the box with the information that the enumerator wants to explain more fully. That’s the case with this entry from Champaign County, Illinois. Note 2 on this page reads, “This man is probably 65 or older. His wife gave me this age.”

The corresponding #2 is in the age field for John M. Lutz. He’s listed as age 43, while his wife, Jeanette, is listed as age 72.

I can see why the enumerator wanted to call attention to that!

Make a Habit of Reading the Notes

The enumerator notes can give valuable information about the people listed in the census. It’s easy to miss the footnote numbers that some of the enumerators made. As I’ve been doing my own 1950 census research, I’ve been getting into the habit of reading the notes on all of the pages where my ancestors are listed. Then, I identify who those notes pertain to. I want to make sure that I’m getting all of the information I can about my ancestors.

Have you found any interesting enumerator notes in the 1950 census?


Posted: June 12, 2022.

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  • This is fabulous information Amy. I haven’t had much chance to review the 1950 census records due to travel. Can’t wait to get back to my genealogy. And now, I will have even more to look for. I might have missed these entries without your blog post. Thanks!

  • I’m giving a presentation on the census tomorrow and this is one of my big tips! I’ve seen notes about someone who isn’t expected to live for much longer and one where the enumerator says the they’ve known the family a long time and the wife just doesn’t like them so she won’t provide any information. Another one says the informant grew up in an orphanage but he thinks he was born in Finland.