Now What: 1950 Census Alternatives

By David A. Fryxell Premium


I found a relative in the 1940 census but I lose track of her after that. Until the 1950 census is released, where can I look?



City directories, predecessors of the telephone book, can be a valuable resource for finding more- recent ancestors. Check the listings at Online Historical Directories and the collections at Distant Cousin and You can also search for city directory at the Internet Archive. If you’re near the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., it has an unmatched collection of microfilmed directories <>.

Newspapers are another route to information on 20th-century kin. You can search newspaper titles at the subscription sites GenealogyBank and (where some papers published after the 1923 copyright “cutoff” date require an additional fee to view).

Don’t forget school records, yearbooks and other directories, including old phone books. has a two-volume database of US public records spanning 1950 to 1993 at <> and <>.

It’s also always worth checking to see if a recent relative has died. The Social Security Death Index, available on FamilySearch and other sites, makes it easy. If searching for a married female relative, remember to search all these resources by her married name.


My great-grandfather owned a general store. His 38-page estate inventory includes a coffee grinder, typewriter, 20 cans of soup and more. How can I include all this in a written family history?


Specific details such as these are exactly what makes family history writing come to life. Rather than dealing in vague generalities (“The store sold clothes as well as food”), it’s always best to give specifics. Your great-grandfather’s probate file has handed you a whole pile of specifics.

Of course, you’ll want to use the details with care—and probably won’t want to list all 38 pages’ worth. One strategy is to cite specifics that suggest the range of your subject matter: “Customers’ grocery needs were met with implements ranging from a coffee grinder to an oyster tank” or “The store’s inventory when he died ranged from work—one typewriter and 17 composition books—to play, with 10 decks of playing cards.” You can also tease out broader points, illustrating them with carefully selected specifics: What, for example, could you conclude about the store’s customer base judging by the clothing it sold? Did your ancestor cater to what today would be considered a “blue collar” clientele, white collar or both?

Dole out these details over several paragraphs or even a whole chapter, rather than overwhelming readers with an unbroken litany. Use some specifics to imagine what the store looked like, others to discuss its customers, and perhaps still others to illuminate your great-grandfather’s character.


How can I learn more about someone who was killed in the D-Day invasion?


The carnage of the invasion of Normandy made counting and identifying those who died difficult. It took almost 10 years for National D-Day Memorial researchers to determine that Allied deaths on June 6, 1944, totaled 4,413, including 2,499 Americans. Their names appear on plaques encircling the memorial in Bedford, Va. <>. Researchers also are compiling a database with the names of all those who participated in operations Overlord and Neptune on the initial day of the Normandy invasion. See <>.

In France, the Normandy American Cemetery is the final resting place for 9,387 Americans, most of whom gave their lives during the landing operations and in the establishment of the beachhead. The names of another 1,557 soldiers are inscribed on tablets in the cemetery’s Garden of the Missing. Search for burials at the cemetery on the American Battle Monuments Commission website <>. The remains of approximately 14,000 others originally buried in Normandy were returned home at the request of their next of kin. If they were then buried in a veterans’ cemetery, try the National Gravesite Locator.

The National Archives also has many documents related to D-Day. You can see a list at <>.