I ventured into the 1950 census for the first time today. I jumped around different states before I decided that the most fruitful search I could start at this early point in the process was to look at records from my hometown.
While looking for family, I found Myron Bueche, the owner of my local grocery store chain; Esther Way, the former high school music teacher whose portrait was stolen my senior year; Marion Crouse, the board of education president and person for whom an elementary school was named; Earl Partridge, the man for which the street I grew up on was named; Jennie Bump, my grandaunt and the local florist; and many familiar last names such as Scharrer, Gillam, and Breiler, whose descendants would become my neighbors, fellow class members, and friends.
I also found close family members, and learned how their lives had carried on after the last census. The first close family record I found struck me.
In 1950, my great-grandparents Fred and Minnie Porterfield Wilson were taking care of their grandchildren, Don and Ralph Keller. I had known that their parents and sisters had been killed in a horrific car accident just three years before, but I hadn’t considered where the sons had landed after they recovered physically.
I’m not surprised that Fred and Minnie took them in, of course. But having not known them personally, this information tells me more about the kind of people they were. At retirement age, they took on the task of raising their daughter’s boys, helping them through tragedy and rehabilitation. Giving the boys hope and stability after terrible losses so early in life.
This census record is just a reminder that I come from good people. And that these words on paper cannot possibly contain the fragile emotions in that household at the time.