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An Unexpected Find in the 1950 Census

Earlier this month the government released the 1950 U. S. census. Genealogists everywhere can look for themselves or their parents and grandparents on this newly available source. The My Heritage website let me know early on that they had indexed my home state of Wyoming.

So, what did I find?

  1. I searched first for my mother’s Bentsen family. My recollection of their whereabouts in the postwar years was hazy, and I wondered whether they resided in Wyoming or South Dakota in 1950. I learned they were living in Park County, Wyoming. My mom was a college student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie that year, but she was enumerated with her family. My grandfather owned an electrical shop where he and my grandmother both worked.
  2. I suspected that other relatives also lived in Wyoming at that time. I found them, too. My dad’s cousin Alta Reed was living and working in Cheyenne. Dad’s older sister Hazel Reed Barnes and her family lived on a ranch near Glendo, Wyoming.

Since looking up these families, I have learned that I need not wait for additional indexes to be compiled. The government’s website ( https://1950census.archives.gov/) has an OCR search feature. I used that to look for my dad. I found a surprise.

He was enumerated with his mother and two of his brothers at the family home in Loveland, Colorado. The youngest brother Donald Reed was still in high school. Dad and his older brother Harold were working at the local sugar factory.

The sugar factory? I knew that Harold had always worked there, but I did not remember that my dad ever did. He had graduated from Loveland High School in 1945 and promptly joined the Navy. After being demobilized in 1946, he had bounced between college and work for the next eight years.

He was employed at various places during that time to earn enough money for school. He mentioned working at molybdenum mines in Colorado and Montana. He did railroad and telephone company work in Wyoming. When he was attending school for a semester, he would wash dishes in the dormitory dining hall.

But I did not recall that he had ever returned home to work at the sugar factory. Sugar beet farming was a big local industry when he grew up, and I knew he and his fellow high school students were pressed into harvest duty during the war years. But I did not expect to see him back living at home and working at the factory in 1950. Now I have another anecdote for his life story.

Some of my fellow genealogists have told me they do not plan to look at the 1950 census. They say that they already know where their families lived that year. I say, take a look at it anyway. You never know what you might find.

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