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Census Fun: Reference Card File of 1950 Federal Census

Detail from “Card Punch Operators working on agricultural cards. Population and housing cards carried 45 columns. All other cards carried 80 columns.” Local Identifier 29-C-1B-41 (NAID 6200858). From series: “Photographs Documenting the Sixteenth Decennial Census, 1940-1941” (NAID 513293).
New Mexico state population card from the Card Files of Population Data Relating to the 17th Census, 1950 – 1950, National Archives Record Group 29

If you haven’t yet investigated History Hub, the National Archives online crowd-sourcing history site, I highly recommend it. You can read a previous post I wrote about the project HERE.

A lot of great blog posts are published within the various History Hub subject groups. Here is a bit of text taken from a recent post on the use of punch cards in the historic Federal Census. I have added an image of New Mexico’s state census population card from the 1950 census (from the National Archives Census Records Collection). You can view the full blog post HERE.

“After the compilation of data from the 1950 census was completed, the Census Bureau’s Geography Division created a card file with basic 1950 census population information that would serve as a quick reference file.  During the 20th century, the Geography Division determined the boundaries of enumeration districts based on the political boundaries of counties, towns, townships, villages, and other “Minor Civil Divisions” (MCDs), as well as known changes in population since the previous census.  After the 1950 census was over, they would start planning for the 1960 census.

The Geography Division’s Card File of Population Data Relating to the 17th Census, 1950 (NAID 2990400) contains one card for each state except that the following are grouped together on a single card: (1) the New England States; (2) Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; (3) Kentucky and Tennessee; and (4) Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  There are summary cards for the United States and for U.S. Territories. The cards answer these basic questions about each state’s population in 1950:

How many counties did the state?

  • How many Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs) did the state have in the 1950 census?  MCDs were townships, towns, villages, and other units of local government.
  • What was the state’s total population in millions?
  • How many cities with over 250,000 population did the state have, and what was their population total in millions?
  • How many cities with between 50,000 and 250,000 population did the state have, and what was their population total in millions?” – Posted by Claire Kluskens on Dec 29, 2020 8:39:00 AM

We hope you enjoy this resource. The physical library is closed, but reference librarians at the New Mexico State Library continue to do our best to help you answer your research questions. Get in touch with us at ASK A LIBRARIAN.

Happy Researching!

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