Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Two Censuses: England 1921 and United States 1950

 One might wonder what a blog about two Census reports from two separate countries would have to do with each other and why the would be a topic for an occasional blog.

Glad you asked!

Recently, the 1921 Census for England and Wales was released. This was significant because for many people alive today, it would be the first in which their name would appear. It would--and already has--answered questions about great-grandcestors (see what I did there?) because that Census was really taken during a modern time. The questions asked were different, making an amateur genealogist's job of climbing his family tree more...'fruitful.' 

It is significant, too, because it is the first Census in England taken after the Great Migration out of England and into the United States was in full swing. Many residents in England who normally would be counted had boarded ships to immigrant to the USA in search of a better life. In my case, that Census came after my ancestors emigrated, three to the USA and one to Canada in 1909, 12 years before this 1921 Census was taken. I have already verified that their names did not appear; I will not be able to break down a couple of the persistent 'brick walls' that have stymied me for a long time.

So what does that have to do with the 1950 Census? Let me explain.

US law requires that a census count remain 'private' for 72 years. Currently, the latest United States Census available to the general public is the 1940 Census. That one contains the pre-World War II generation, most of whom were born in the 1920s. My father served in the U.S. Army in WWII; he was born in 1927 and appears in the 1940 Census as a young man 13 years of age. That generation, often called the Greatest Generation, is well-documented. Their offspring will show up later.

The generation of their offspring, called the Baby Boomers, resulted from the millions of men and women returning to their homes after the war. My parents were among them and my mother gave birth to her first-born male child in late 1949, me. The 1950 Census will be the first one in which my name is found and it will be the only one in which I will be able to see my name. It will also be the largest Census because of the massive post-war population growth of the Baby Boomer Generation. Those of us still alive will be able to see our names in a Census for the first time. (It is also interesting to note that the 1950 Census will not include Korean War veterans; that conflict began June 25, 1950. It would last three brutal years, killing at least 2.5 million persons.)

The 1950 Census might also be the last time I see my own name unless I live to the year 2032 when the 1960 Census will be released; if I live that long, I will be 83. The problem is that in 1960, the Wilkinson Family was not in the United States; we had moved to the country of Jordan for my Dad's first posting with the United States State Department the year before. How we will have been recorded remains to be seen in 2032; I am sure the U.S. government had a way to enumerate the many folks living in offshore countries since it was a time of nation-building and goodwill after two horrid wars. Time will tell.

Let me now explain what had to happen for me to be listed in the 1950 Census, since there are circumstances beyond mere age.

As mentioned, I was born in late 1949, before the Census was taken in April 1950. Anyone born after the 1940 Census and alive before the 1950 Census would be counted. Unless a mistake happened, I was counted as a 6-month old baby. However, anyone born after the Census enumerators finished their count in 1950 would not show up until the 1960 Census. My next-younger sibling is in that boat. He was born in September 1950 so he will not appear in the 1950 Census. However, he might also not show up in the 1960 Census because he was in Jordan with the rest of the family; the first Census with his name might be the 1970 Census, when he would be about to turn 20 years old. He will have to wait until 2042 for the first chance to see his name in a Census report.

What I missed in the 1921 English Census because my ancestors had emigrated to the USA will partly be made up when the 1950 US Census is released in April 2022 because my parents were married, including my post-WWII father, and I would have been counted. There are some brick walls to break down and some uncertainties about my past to be resolved. Hopefully, that will happen in April.

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