Nearly 7 million records from the 1950 US Census have been made public.

The digital recordings were released on Friday and are available to the public for free on a dedicated website, allowing viewers to research their family histories and backgrounds. They include 6.57 million population lists — many of which include multiple families and households — and 33,360 Indian reservation lists for Native Americans living on reservations.

In a video celebrating the release of the archives, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero explained that the National Archives had been preparing for release for a decade. The images featured on the website are actually microfilm taken by the office in 1952 that had to be carefully digitized by archive staff. The original paper documents were destroyed in the 1960s.

Ferriero praised the archives staff “for their dedication to preserving and providing access to this important body of material.”

“Personally, I can’t wait to be reunited with my own family in Beverly, Massachusetts,” he added.

The archive recommends that users search for the first and last name of the head of household they are looking for; the database will return close matches even if users don’t know the exact spelling. The archive used an artificial intelligence technique called “optical character recognition” to extract names from images of handwritten text, so not all names are perfect.

Users can refine the name index by modifying and adding correct names. The National Archives also released a video explaining how amateur genealogists can explore newly released records.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland also explained in a video that the census is “particularly important for Indian tribes because it helps decide federal funding, which then impacts the government’s fiduciary responsibility to communities. indigenous”.

The 1950 census included 20 questions for all respondents aged 14 and over; some respondents also had to answer six additional questions.

“Since 1790, census data has painted a vivid and dynamic portrait of America,” Robert Santos, director of the US Census Bureau, said in another video celebrating the release.

Notably, the 1950 census marked the last personal visit by enumerators to most households. The office later moved to mailing household census forms, and today citizens can complete the census online, by phone, or by mail.

According to the records, censuses from 1960 and later are not publicly available “due to a legal access restriction of 72 years for confidentiality reasons”, but they can be requested privately from the US Census Bureau. .

“The census is full of family stories, and we know you’re eager to find yours,” Ferriero said.

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