Branching Out

Branching Out

Find out how widening your family tree can lead to more discoveries.

Find out how widening your family tree can lead to more discoveries.

By Juliana Szucs, Ancestry® Family Historian

By Juliana Szucs, Ancestry® Family Historian

1950 Census Page   >   Branching Out

1950 Census Page   >   Branching Out

The 1950 U.S. Census offers insights into the lives of 151,325,798 Americans—that’s upwards of 19 million more individuals than appeared in the 1940 census. The family insights for your ancestors will be family history gold.

And while most of us will be going after the records of those who are nearest and dearest, it’s also important to remember to “go wide” and seek out the records of your ancestors’ broader family—the siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins of your parents and grandparents. 

Building this extended family can offer up a richer family story and can lead to more Ancestry Hints® to the 1950 census or other records that give more context to what life was like at the time.

How can you find these indirect family lines?  Look for clues in previous census records.

Find the story in a household

When you research the family as a whole, you could get more of the story from the living arrangements—grandparents or great‑grandparents residing with an aunt or uncle, or even a cousin. Sometimes you’ll even run into a record like this 1910 census enumeration that includes not only the nuclear family, but step‑children, step‑grandchildren, step‑mother‑in‑law, sister of step‑mother‑in‑law, and even the father of the step‑mother‑in‑law—all in one household.

1910 U.S. Census, District 106, Childers, Woodford County, Kentucky

Seeking out extended family could lead you back a generation—you may find a grandparent or even great-grandparent living in the household with a sibling, cousin, niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, or a grandchild. And that can give you an understanding of the family dynamics and offer new people to research. 

Is he the right “James Kelly”?

Family structure found in census records can also help you set your ancestor apart from others in the area with the same name and characteristics. For example, I was researching James Kelly in New York City in the mid-1800s. There were a lot of them! One man in particular was very similar. My James married a woman named Margaret. So did the other guy. My James was born around 1815. So was the other guy. They both spent time living in the 2nd Ward of Manhattan. But when I compared family structure and others in the household, I could easily separate my family from his. Look at your family in 1940 and see how it compares when you’re looking at 1950 records. Do names, ages, and birthplaces align?

Look for your ancestor’s “FAN club”

Friends, associates, and neighbors can also lead you to new insights. Wander your ancestor’s neighborhood virtually and make note of the names of your ancestor’s neighbors, as you may find family members or in-laws living close to them. Make particular note of those who share the same birthplace as your relative. They may have shared origins since immigrants or migrants often moved to places where they had family and friends who shared their background.

It’s helpful to note ethnicities as well. There may be houses of worship in the area that catered to that group. The same applies to cemeteries. Your ancestor’s ethnic community could lead to a cemetery that served that group.

Exploring the neighborhood will also help you gain insights into your ancestor’s community’s economy. What were their occupations? Were they professionals, artisans, or blue collar workers?

The 1950 census will give us amazing insights into all of our family members when we branch out and enlist the records of extended family and they could hold the key that unlocks your family’s story.

The 1950 U.S. Census offers insights into the lives of 151,325,798 Americans—that’s upwards of 19 million more individuals than appeared in the 1940 census. The family insights for your ancestors will be family history gold.

And while most of us will be going after the records of those who are nearest and dearest, it’s also important to remember to “go wide” and seek out the records of your ancestors’ broader family—the siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins of your parents and grandparents. 

Building this extended family can offer up a richer family story and can lead to more Ancestry Hints® to the 1950 census or other records that give more context to what life was like at the time.

How can you find these indirect family lines?  Look for clues in previous census records.

Find the story in a household

When you research the family as a whole, you could get more of the story from the living arrangements—grandparents or great-grandparents residing with an aunt or uncle, or even a cousin. Sometimes you’ll even run into a record like this 1910 census enumeration that includes not only the nuclear family, but step-children, step-grandchildren, step-mother-in-law, sister of step-mother-in-law, and even the father of the step-mother-in-law—all in one household.

1910 U.S. Census, District 106, Childers,
Woodford County, Kentucky

Seeking out extended family could lead you back a generation—you may find a grandparent or even great-grandparent living in the household with a sibling, cousin, niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, or a grandchild. And that can give you an understanding of the family dynamics and offer new people to research. 

Is he the right “James Kelly”?

Family structure found in census records can also help you set your ancestor apart from others in the area with the same name and characteristics. For example, I was researching James Kelly in New York City in the mid-1800s. There were a lot of them! One man in particular was very similar. My James married a woman named Margaret. So did the other guy. My James was born around 1815. So was the other guy. They both spent time living in the 2nd Ward of Manhattan. But when I compared family structure and others in the household, I could easily separate my family from his. Look at your family in 1940 and see how it compares when you’re looking at 1950 records. Do names, ages, and birthplaces align?

Look for your ancestor’s “FAN club”

Friends, associates, and neighbors can also lead you to new insights. Wander your ancestor’s neighborhood virtually and make note of the names of your ancestor’s neighbors, as you may find family members or in-laws living close to them. Make particular note of those who share the same birthplace as your relative. They may have shared origins since immigrants or migrants often moved to places where they had family and friends who shared their background.

It’s helpful to note ethnicities as well. There may be houses of worship in the area that catered to that group. The same applies to cemeteries. Your ancestor’s ethnic community could lead to a cemetery that served that group.

Exploring the neighborhood will also help you gain insights into your ancestor’s community’s economy. What were their occupations? Were they professionals, artisans, or blue collar workers?

The 1950 census will give us amazing insights into all of our family members when we branch out and enlist the records of extended family and they could hold the key that unlocks your family’s story.