1950 U.S. Federal Census

I have not been a good writer these past few weeks. It seems life got away from me a little.

There have been a lot of articles written in the past few months on the April 1 release of the 1950 U.S. Federal Census. Honestly, I wasn’t planning on writing anything about it. I was torn. On the one hand, I was excited (as many seriously addicted Genealogy junkie was); but on the other hand, I already knew what became of those direct ancestors who I could look up in the 1950 census. There are only five families in my direct lineage who were still living in 1950 and there is no big mystery to uncover about them. But I thought…well, what could the 1950 census tell me that I didn’t already know? So, I took a peek.

The oldest living Rhoades family in 1950 was Kenneth and Eleanor. They had raised their children in Omaha, Nebraska in the same house where Kenny addressed all his World War II letters, 4011 North 30th Street, Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha street names have not changed much in the decades since Ken and Eleanor first moved in there. So if one were to “Google” that address, they would easily find it. Young Kenny had returned from the War by this time and had transitioned back to civilian life, married with young children. Since my father was born in Omaha, and his birth certificate identifies his parent’s home address, finding them should not be hard.

For our Aleck’s, there are more families to look up. Charles and Elizabeth (Kucks) Aleck were last living on the farm in Harrison County, Iowa. My great-aunt Eileen has already published a pretty comprehensive family history that includes Charles and Elizabeth so I know that they had moved off the farm and were living in Logan, Iowa. Edward Gage had lost Luella (DeJean) in 1949 and he died in Harrison County, Iowa, so I didn’t expect to have trouble finding him. His daughter, Mary, had become a widow three years earlier while living in Omaha. Like Kenny, since I know where he met Mary’s daughter (my grandmother), I was pretty sure I could find Mary despite a large gap in records (from 1940 to 1982 when she died).

I chose to go straight to the National Archives images instead of Ancestry or FamilySearch – because I wanted to check out a new database. The 1950 census was initially indexed using a computer algorithm that can scan or translate handwriting. So – errors are sure to abound. I did begin my search the easy way (I thought) and searched by name in the State and County I expected to find my ancestors. The results were abysmal. I did find some distant relations, but not my direct line. So I went to plan B, I studied the enumeration district maps to narrow down which set of records I needed to look in. It paid off.

Rhoades

As expected, Ken and Eleanor were easily found at 4011 North 30th Street, which was in enumeration district 95-30. I found them on image 21 (sheet number 20) at line 9 starting with Keneth (sic) W. Rhoades (note there is an ‘e’ when in 1940 there was not!). In the household is Eleanor ‘N’ (instead of ‘M’), Richard is back at home, Helene is 13, and they have a widowed lodger, Mae Ellitt age 68. Ken still has his Real Estate business and Eleanor is now working on the side as a saleslady at a retail clothing store. Richard, age 27, is still single and working as an installer for the telephone company. He fell on a lucky line that flagged him for additional questions. He lived at the same address the previous year, he finished the 12th grade, his parents were both born in the US, and he worked all 52 weeks the previous year earning $2,400 gross wages. Curiously his veteran questions were left blank even though we know without question that he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Close-up of the 1948 City Planning Map of Omaha, Nebraska. Used by the U.S. Census as enumeration district mapping. Green area is where Ken and Eleanor lived. Blue area is were Kenny lived. Red is where Mary lived. Click on the map to be redirected to the Census page for full viewing.

In one of Ken’s letters to his son, he mentions Mae several times. I had assumed Mae was a school friend of Helene’s but now, I suspect Mae was the elderly lodger. OK, the 1950 census told me something I didn’t know!

Kenny and Ken’s letters also mention Jenson’s and Loomis’. I did find these families in the 1940 census living fairly close to Ken and Eleanor, and these families are still in the same homes. Many of the Rhoades’ neighbors changed, but there were a few who were still around from 1940.

Kenny lived just a few miles away at 4917 Sigwert Street (my father’s birth certificate says Sigwart Avenue) and the enumeration district map didn’t even show a Sigwart anything. So I took a stab with Google and found where Sigwert Street is today. As with the North 30th Street neighborhood, the street names around Sigwert Street were all the same, so I looked at enumeration district 95-292 and there I found Kenny with his wife and his first two children (one being my dad). Kenny was living near his wife’s high school and was working as a bulldozer operator in construction. Nothing new here.

Alecks

I looked around for Mary in the same batch as Kenny, but did not find her. So I went back to just searching for her by name and there she was in enumeration district 95-338 on image 32, line 25. Her address was 3492 Meredith, Omaha, Nebraska. She was widowed (as expected) and had no occupation. Her youngest daughter (my great-aunt) was living with her along with one lady lodger. This lodger may have been a friend of my great-aunt as she was also a registered nurse. Mary’s census line was flagged for additional questions. She lived in the same house the previous year, she started but did not finish the 9th grade, both of her parents were born in the U.S., she did not work the previous year but earned $2,000 from her own business, a family member of her household earned $950 the previous year. It was surprising that Aunt Eileen made so little the previous year. Perhaps she had just graduated from nursing school and didn’t work the whole year. Mary’s $2,000 income was from renting out not only a room to her lodger but the front of the home. The census taker made a note that she missed Mary’s household on her first call because the residence was an apartment at the back of the building. I know from family stories that Edward and Mary bought this home, lived in the back apartment, and rented the front out.

1945 Harrison County, Iowa State Highway Commission Map. Used by the U.S. Census as enumeration district mapping. Green circle is where Edward Gage lived. Blue circle is were Charles and Elizabeth lived. Red square is where Cass Township where the Aleck family farm was. Click on the map to be redirected to the Census page for full viewing.

In 1940, Mary’s parents, Edward and Luella, lived at 106 Normal Street, Woodbine, Iowa which was in enumeration district 43-3. In 1950 the house address 106 was not listed, instead, Edward was living at 108 Normal Street. Transcription error? Widowed Edward lived alone at the age of 82. He had no occupation and was enumerated as “unable to work”. None of his immediate neighbors were the same in 1950 as in 1940. Nearby (but in a different enumeration district) was his son, Leslie, and his daughter, Bertha with their families. These two were neighbors on Ely Street.

Mary’s parent’s-in-law, Charles and Elizabeth (Kucks) Aleck, had moved from the farm in Cass Township to town by 1950. They lived at 420 N. 4th A[ve], Logan, Iowa. Charles was also enumerated as “unable to work” and Elizabeth was keeping house.

All in all, it was an interesting exercise in curiosity that did answer one small nagging question about who Mae was.

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