Survey: Half of Americans Can't Name All Four Grandparents

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A new survey from Ancestry, the leader in family history, found more than half (53%) of Americans can’t name all four grandparents – demonstrating a knowledge gap in key information about more recent family history. Released every 10 years, census records are one of the most valuable ways people can learn about their family’s past, as they provide rich insights into what an ancestor’s life was like at the time.

On April 1, the National Archives and Records Administration made the 1950 U.S. Census public. Ancestry will begin indexing the records state by state to make them searchable to everyone for free. People born in the U.S. before 1975 are now likely to find their parents in the 1950 census if they were U.S. residents – and those born before 2000 could find a grandparent.

While many Americans don’t know a lot about their family’s past, they want to know more. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they want to learn more about their family history and over half (51%) want stories about when their ancestor were young and what life was like at a moment in time. The 151 million newly released 1950 U.S. Census records will be a valuable resource for learning about their family members’ lives – with details like home address, occupations and salaries, names and ages for members of the household, education level, military service, and more. In fact, nearly one out of three discoveries for Ancestry customers in the U.S. is made using a census record.

“It’s exciting that younger generations now have the opportunity to learn more about family members they know, like parents and grandparents,” said Crista Cowan, Corporate Genealogist at Ancestry. “The 1950 Census provides a fascinating look at an era in our collective history but the magic happens when you discover a more complete picture of not only what your family member’s life was like at a moment in time, but also how it had changed over the decades.”

Ancestry will debut exclusive product features to make the most comprehensive and searchable 1950 U.S. Census index, including:

A Personalized Guide to the Census: The Record Tour feature will provide a step-by-step guided experience, showing what’s in each census record and what it means. It can help people better understand their story and reveal new details about their relatives and their world in 1950.

AI Powering Quicker Discoveries: Ancestry developed precise machine learning to power its proprietary AI Handwriting Recognition technology to make every field of these records searchable, rather than just names – enabling everyone to quickly and more accurately find family members. AI better pinpoints specific people to reduce the time it takes to make discoveries.

Look At Your Ancestor’s Life Over Time: Get snapshots of relatives’ lives across the decades by comparing multiple records – even adding additional historical context to discover what remained the same and what changed from one decade to another. For example, a great-grandfather may have been a factory worker in the 1930 Census and later a factory owner in the 1950 Census.

An Interactive Way to Explore Then vs. Now: By Combining a census enumeration map overlay with a modern-day interactive map, users will be able to compare landmarks, roads, new developments, and other marked features on the maps to see how much has changed over the years, and how much is still the same.

Short Sharable Stories, Without Any Research: Simply input a grandparent’s or parent’s name, where they might have lived, and birth year and users could get brief sharable stories about an ancestor’s life at the time. With a few clicks, Ancestry technology will quickly extract key details from the 1940 U.S. Census records and add historical context in short story form, including insights like where they lived, if they owned their home and its value, the level of education of everyone in the household, and more. Once the 1950 Census is fully indexed, this experience will provide stories using those records.

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