I Was There – The 1950 U.S. Census

The other day I was thinking about when the next census would released – 2022.  I enjoyed finding my family and placing them in context in the 1940 Census. I thought that I know much of the information that would be asked on the 1950 Census.  Why wait?  I Googled a blank form for the 1950 Census. This is the first of a series based on all of the unpublished censuses – 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. I was there!

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Click to see the 1950 and all US census forms
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From the Springfield MA City Directory, 1951
Recent photo of the house we lived in at 643 Union Street. Combination rooming house upstairs and parsonage downstairs.

The 1950 Census is the first one in which I make an appearance. I was three years old. We lived at 643 Union Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. This was the parsonage/ community house located next to the church.

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Rev. Albert B. Cleage

My father, Albert B. Cleage, was the “head” of the household.  He was 38 years old and had worked for 52 weeks as the pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church. I do not know how much he earned the previous year, but I’m sure it was on the low side of the $2,992 average wage. He was born in Indiana and both of his parents were born in the United States. He had completed at least 1 year of post degree college work.

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Pearl, Doris & Kristin Cleage

My mother, Doris G. Cleage, was my father’s wife.  She was 27 years old and was born in Michigan.  Both of her parents were also born in the U.S.A.  She had completed four years of college and had not worked outside of the home the previous year. She had given birth to two children, both of them still alive.  Three year old Kristin and one year old Pearl had both been born in Massachusetts. My parents had been married 6 years. Everybody in the house was identified as “Neg(ro)”.  My mother took education classes at Springfield College in 1950 but I’m not sure if it was before or after April, when the census was taken.

Some things that I know about my family at that time that aren’t listed include that we did not own a car and that my father hoped to eventually find a church in Detroit so they could move back home.  This happened the following year, 1951.

I have added two articles from April, 1950 concerning my parents activities.  Read more about our life on Union Street at – U is for Union Street. Read an overview of news and other happenings for the 1950s here American Cultural History 1950 – 1959.

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For this post I used ancestry.com, newspapers.com, family photos and personal knowledge.

15 thoughts on “I Was There – The 1950 U.S. Census

    1. The thing I’m mainly having a problem with are the costs of utilities and what wages were. I think I’ve got the rest. I remember throwing out boxes of utility bills my mother had saved. Darn!

  1. Dear Kristin;
    The article about “Mrs. Cleage to speak,” I saw in the Detroit Red Squad files. I remember reading it. Did you or any family member claim your father’s files? It was quite extensive, I recall.
    For those who did not receive their files, they are at the Burton Collection of the Detroit Main Library. I am a family historian, so your stories are precious to me.
    Elena

    1. My father claimed them but we haven’t been able to find more than bits and pieces. A LOT of the papers from his office were thrown out after he died before anybody had a chance to look through them.

      My husband and I tried to get the files for the Black Conscience Library from the Burton Collection but were told we had to wait until 70 years had passed – crazy. They’ve got all our flyers and newsletters and of course the reports. He was able to get his personal files. They had nothing for me, except where I appear in my husband’s or father’s files.

  2. I wonderful Resourse, although it does show how much remains “off record”.Also useful for innocient Brits like me who used to ,mistakenly ,believed that official segregation lived only in The Deep South

    1. It was everywhere. Schools were segregated by housing patterns, which were segregated . We could vote. In Detroit theaters were segregated when my father was young but were not by the time he younger sisters were going to the show. Buses were not segregated. Jobs were better but not equal.

  3. What a powerful post on so many levels Kristin. This legacy will live in the deepest index of the search engines & archives from this day forward. Whether you’re here (Goddess willing!) or not to tell the CLEAGE story – it will be told, undisputed from a 1st person account. A piece of powerful genealogy you’ve produced here my friend!:)

  4. We want to leave as much as we can so the next family researcher will have a lot to work with. Love the pictures in the header, the days of innocence for the children.

  5. Kristin! This is wonderful and I am so glad that you’ve shared! I too was barely in the 1950 census as I was born in February of that year! Thank you for sharing a copy so that I can begin to formulate ideas of how the census for Etowah, TN will look.

  6. Wonderful to know what was in that census for your family. Just 18 years later and across the state line in Enfield CT, I took part in an effort to integrate housing for people wanting to get out of Hartford’s old buildings. It was called ECHO, Enfield Citizens for Housing Opportunities. And you remind me how important genealogical research is. I need to get back to mine soon.

  7. Because you’re such a wonderful person who does so much GREAT good for present and future generations, it would be wonderful to clone you.

    However, failing that, I could only pray that others are inspired to follow your EXAMPLE, not only as a loving person, but also as an exceptionally gifted and visionary family history researcher and storyteller.

    You certainly set the high bar for me on both counts.

    Your Li’l Bro’,

    Paul

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