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Tools & Tips for Searching the 1950 Census

The 1950 Census, available on April 1st, can be searched by Enumeration District (ED) while its indexing is being completed, which is what will make it easily searchable by name. An Enumeration District is an area that could be canvassed by a single census taker or enumerator. Each ED within a state has a unique number that consists of two parts. The first part is a prefix number assigned to each county and the second part is a district number within that county. In order to determine your family members’ ED and search for them in the census right away, you need to know their address.

There are a number of different ways to find a family’s address:

    • The 1940 Census, along the left side of the record
    • Address books
    • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
    • City directories
    • Phone books
    • Diaries
    • Letters
    • Scrapbooks
    • Employment records
    • School and church records
    • Local newspapers and books
    • Naturalization records
    • Social security applications
    • World War II draft registrations
    • Relatives and family friends

Phone books and local newspapers are available on microfilm at CLP-Main. City directories are also available on microfilm at Main, on and on the Historic Pittsburgh website. and can be used to look for other sources of information, such as social security applications and draft registrations, if the original paper records are not available.

When you have found as much information as you can about your ancestor’s 1950 address, the easiest way to determine the ED is to use the Unified Census ED Finder by Stephen Morse and Joel Weintraub. To use the ED Finder, enter as much of the address as you know in the state, county, city or town, house number and street boxes. You can use the “see google map” tab to find cross streets or back streets that may help to zoom in on the correct location. Add the cross or back street from the drop-down menu. Ideally, you’ll have narrowed your search to one ED, but more than one is fine. You’ll then be looking at the census records in those EDs for your family.

Here is a brief video that demonstrates this process:

Toward the bottom of the page of the ED Finder, there are several other links to tools that can help find your family’s address. The 1950 Tutorial Quiz can also help you decide which of these tools to use if you need additional help.

Follow these steps to search using your family’s ED. We’ll also publish a video soon in our Virtual Genealogy series to help.

1. From any page on, click the Search tab and select Card Catalog.Screen shot of with a search bar drop down menu

2. On the Card Catalog page, type 1950 into the Keyword(s) field on the left side of the page and click Search. Click on 1950 U.S. Federal Census on the right side of the page.
Screen shot of card catalog

3. Under Browse this collection on the right, select the state, county, and populated place (a city, township, municipality, hamlet, or village).
Screen shot of browsing addresses

4. Again on the right side of the page, click the link to the ED number that matches your family’s location. If you see a link saying Not stated, click that link.
5. Click the arrow on the right or an image at the bottom of the page to page through the ED.

If you need additional help, please contact the library at 412.622.3114, email us at or visit us. Our staff will be happy to assist you.

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