Newly released records from the 1950 U.S. Census make it possible to confirm where your ancestors were living — and what they did for work — 72 years ago.

The online archives from the Census Bureau became available this month, and — assuming you have a rough idea of where the folks you are looking for were living — it’s relatively easy to find them.

If you have a street address, or specific neighborhood in Evanston to search for, you might start your search by looking at the 1950 Census Enumeration District Map for the city.

The 1950 enumeration districts in Evanston range from 107-1 to 107-96 — with the last two digits specified in orange type on the map.

You can then go to the search tool for the census population schedules. (We’ve already selected Evanston, Illinois, for you in the link.)

Enter the enumeration district number found from the map.

Then enter the the name of the head of household of the family you’re looking for, last name first.

If you’re lucky, you may get a single “Population Schedule” result with the ancestor you’re looking for.

If you’ve got a common name (like, say, “Smith”) you may have to scroll through a bunch of results to find the household you’re looking for — especially if you haven’t been able to specify an enumeration district in your search.

I found my grandparents, Sebastian and Martha Smith, living at 2323 Lake St.

Sebastian, age 74, who’d retired a few years earlier from his long-time job as a clerk at the Evanston post office, was still working, the census said, as a clerk in a hotel.

Of course the census data is available for the whole country — so if your relatives weren’t in Evanston, but were elsewhere in the U.S. in 1950, you can look for them, too.

Federal law requires that individually identifiable census data be kept secret for 72 years, so that’s why the 1950 population schedule forms are just becoming available now.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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