Q. My relative was in foreign countries with the Armed Forces during the censuses of 1950, 1960 and 1970. Where are these records kept?
A. Federal censuses, taken every 10 years since 1790, are some of the most useful genealogical sources. Records can provide ages, birthplaces, marital status and immigration and military service information. Laws restrict access to censuses for 72 years; enumerations from 1930 and before are available online at Ancestry.com <Ancestry.com > (by subscription) and HeritageQuest Online <heritagequestonline.com> (free through subscribing libraries), and on microfilm at many libraries.
When the 1950, 1960 and 1970 censuses become available to the public, they’ll provide information about military personnel serving overseas. Military units, including those stationed at battlefronts, were required to fill out census forms and return them through the chain of command to the US Census Bureau. Censuses counted active servicemen and women (except officers) with their military unit, not their civilian household, beginning in 1920. Officers were listed with their families.
In lieu of the census, find a family member who served overseas during the mid-to-late 1900s by running a Google <google.com> or Yahoo! <yahoo.com> search for information on military units. Many regiments have Web sites, such as <www.screamingeagles-327thvietnam.com> and <www.hardchargers.com>, devoted to veterans who served with them. These sites may have rosters, historical data, contact information and calendars listing reunions and other events.
Remember, the primary purpose of censuses is to determine states’ representation in Congress. People living overseas, both civilian and military, aren’t counted in those totals. Interestingly, except for Vietnam, the US military hasn’t been involved in a major war during any census. For more information, see Americans Overseas in US Censuses <www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/overseas/twps0062.html>.
From the February 2007 issue of Family Tree Magazine.