1950 Census: I Think They Missed a Brownstone

On April 1st, 2022, the National Archives released the 1950 Census. A law passed in 1978 requires 72 years before the census is released to the public. The official count date for the 1950 Census was 1 April 1950. Because of the need to return and gather information from people that the census taker missed on the first or second go-around, data may still have been collected as late as May 1950.

I dove into the district sheets as soon as they were uploaded to the internet. My goal was to find the Baumann, Flood, Kelly, and O’Connell families in the data. All of the families were still mainly in Brooklyn in 1950.

While the data is not yet thoroughly indexed, you can effortlessly search for information by keying addresses into the 1950 Census District Finder on Ancestry.com. Plugging an address into the tool will yield the census district you will search to find your family in 1950. Then it is just a matter of sifting through the pages to find the address. No problem!

I started in Park Slope, on 9th Street. My father, age 16, lives at 491 9th Street with my grandparents. My grandfather was trying to find work as a bartender. My grandmother is listed as working as an adjuster in the retail industry. Honestly, I don’t really know what that means yet. Dad is a student a Brooklyn Prep.

My great-uncle Henry Flood and his wife, Rose, lived at 491 9th Street in a different apartment. (They are not on the sheet below.) I am turning my research to the family of Alice Flood Baumann, my paternal grandmother. Uncle Henry was her brother. Rose was a mystery to me for a long time. I have faint memories of her from my childhood. I have only recently discovered her maiden name and her extended family in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Baumann, 491 9th Street

The Kelly’s are closer to Prospect Park West at 595 4th Street. This is the first census that my Aunts Ann and Maureen appear in. Grandfather Kelly is with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). Nana is staying at home with Anne and Maureen. My Uncle Bernard is at Brooklyn Prep, and Regina (my mom) is at St. Saviour Elementary School. The person charged with indexing this district transcribed the surname to “Keely.” I have already submitted changes to the transcriptions.

Kelly, 595 4th Street

The next stop was a visit to the “Dukes of Dean Street,” Edward O’Connel and his adult sons, Edward and James, at 164 Dean Street in the Boerum Hill neighborhood. I am curious to see who lived in the old brownstone in 1950 besides the O’Connells. District 24-1401 covers the 100 block of Dean Street. I dove right in.

Sheet #2, Enumeration District 24-1401, Brooklyn (1950 Census)

The census enumerator for this District was Marie Olivia Sutphin. Her sheets are dated 1 April 1950 (Saturday) for the initial canvas on Dean Street. It looked like everything was going smoothly until sheet number 2, when she came to house number 168. Lines 27-30 had adjustments to the address numbers to read 166 vice168. Pen and ink changes are expected when doing census work in the field. I was hoping to find the O’Connells on sheet number 3 near the top of the page.

I was surprised to see House number 162 on line #1. I doubled back to sheet 2, and it leaves off with 166. Did I miss something? Maybe the O’Connells were in the call-back sheets. If no one was at home, there should have been an annotation of that or that the reviewer should see a call-back sheet later in the package. But there was no line for 164 Dean Street. It just isn’t there.

Sheet #3, Enumeration District 24-1401, Brooklyn (1950 Census)

Working through the call-back sheets did not yield an enumeration for the residents at 164 Dean Street. I wonder what caused the oversight. Did Ms. Sutphin knock on the door, and no one answered? Were my great grandfather and his two adult sons upstairs in the house and could not be bothered to come to the door? Were they off on errands or a family visit? I checked some old weather data to see if there were environmental issues that could have led to the house being skipped. The weather was chilly, but there was no precipitation on that day in Brooklyn.

I would need a time machine to go back and find out what happened. If you have one, drop me a note. In my imagination, I would like to think there was a reason for 164 being missing from the list. If you are a Harry Potter fan, as I am, you may jump to the conclusion that the three-story brownstone in the middle of Dean Street was the American headquarters of The Order of the Pheonix. Like 12 Grimmauld Place in London, it is not visible. It only appears to those who require entry into the house.

It was probably just an oversight. If Ms. Sutphin did not have a notation that no one was home at that address, she would not know to go back for a follow-up visit. 164 Dean Street fell through the gap between sheets 2 and 3. This reinforces a margin of error when conducting the count every ten years.

I will admit that I am disappointed. I was looking to see what I could tease out of the census information on my mother’s side of the family. I am sure there are thousands of gaps in the census across the United States. This one just happens to hit home in my own family tree.

Brooklyn 1950s

One thought on “1950 Census: I Think They Missed a Brownstone

  1. You obviously do not have anywhere near the trouble I do reading the writing on these tiny lines, and I have had little luck enlarging the pic (most of the time)

    Another great blog – keep up the good work!


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