Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Stories From the 1950 Census ~ My Great Aunts Were Farmers

I previously shared that my mother remembers walking (quite a distance) to visit her grandmother Marguerite when she was growing up outside of Pittsburgh. She was supposedly her grandmother's favorite grandchild and even spent three months living with her when she was eight years old and recovering from (possibly) rheumatic fever, which left her with a lifetime heart murmur.

My great-grandmother, Marguerite (Lysle) Hunter, was the first ancestor I found in the 1950 census when it became available on April 1 at the National Archives website. No, I didn't find her by searching for Marguerite Hunter (a relatively common first name combined with a very common surname in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania). I searched for her divorced daughter, Mary Gerken.

1950 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Hampton Township, ED 2-366, sheet 7, lines 17-19, household 55 (Marguerite Hunter & daughters); U.S. National Archives, 1950 Census (

Marguerite L. Hunter, a 73-year-old widow, was living on Middle Road in Hampton Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The response to the question: "Is this house on a farm?" was YES. I know that the farm that they owned was one mile away, but perhaps they did enough farming on this property that it was considered a farm.

In her household were two of her daughters, whom I have previously written about. Mary H. Gerken, age 46, was divorced. Margarete [sic] L. Hunter was 44 and never married. Their occupations were listed as "Farmer" and industry "Farm".

The 1950 census has sections where the enumerator could write notes. Above the headings, you can see "17) confidential income report sent in." This suggests to me that whoever provided the household information did not like being asked how much money the household earned! 

This note section also includes the note "17) A-1 form out of place." Form A1 was the Agriculture Questionnaire "to be used by enumerators in rural areas in the enumeration of all farms, all places of 3 or more acres, and all places with certain specialized agricultural operations." (See Census Instructions at the National Archives website.) Sadly, these schedules did not survive.

Thank you to Marian Wood of Climbing My Family Tree who shared information about how to decode the numbers found in the right-hand columns. The page at the Steve Morse website for Deciphering the 1950 Census Codes tells me that the occupation code of 100 represented "Farmers (owners and tenants)"; the industry code of 105 represented "Agriculture" and the class code of 3 represented "In own business" also noted by the "O" in the column just before.

I'm now exploring these codes for all the other census records I've found.

Aunt Mary and Aunt Margie owned the farm as investment property and hired tenant farmers who did the bulk of the work. They had purchased this 41-acre farm on the corner of Middle Road and McCullough Road in the fall of 1943. (When Aunt Mary died in 1971, her estate passed to Aunt Margie. This land was part of Aunt Margie's estate when she died in 1994.)

My great-grandmother, Marguerite was asked the supplemental questions.

Marguerite completed two years of college (news to me!) She did not earn money working for wages or salary but it was reported $80 "receive[d] from interest, dividends, veteran's allowances, pensions, rents, or other income." I wonder if this was recorded after the "confidential income report" was received.

And of course it's fun (and informative) to look at the entire page (and page before and after) to see what the neighborhood was like. Walter and Ardis Blenko lived next door and my mother remembers this family.


  1. Quite an interesting story -- and I like the way you searched for the divorced daughter in order to find Marguerite! And how the codes reinforced the occupation info, too.

    1. It's fun when the census enhances a known family story. Thanks for reading and commenting!