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Some true… and some not

Geophysics professor, says the occupation entry on line 8.

It’s there on the sheet for the enumeration of the United States census in Golden, Colorado, where The Legal Genealogist‘s parents are recorded.

Chemistry professor for the entry on line 10.

Mining superintendent for line 15.

Petroleum refining teacher for line 21.1

For those from the immediate neighborhood who weren’t at home to be recorded on the same page, there’s a mechanical engineering professor, an engineering professor, a mathematics professor, a geology professor, and the assistant chemist for the U.S. government.2

fib in 1950 census

And then there was the fibber.

Or, shall we say with more charity, the woman who never let the truth interfere with a good story.

Or, as she was more commonly known in our household, Mom.

She was one of the five people recorded on that sheet who was asked the supplemental questions. Among them: “What is the highest grade of school that he has attended?” And then: “Did he finish this grade?”

The answers as recorded are what you see in the image above: S12, indicating for the fourth year of high school. And yes, she said, she had finished that year.


Not so.

Not even close.

My mother, you see, was a member of the class of 1943 at Midland High School in Midland, Texas. She was a high school freshman in 1939-40,3 sophomore in 1940-41,4 and junior in 1941-42.5 So she would have been a senior in 1942-43.

Except for one minor little thing.

The minor little thing called World War II.

That minor little thing that propelled her out of the classroom and into on-the-job training as a paleontological assistant in the oil industry, doing slide cuttings to help the geologists develop oil fields as part of the war effort.

No, she didn’t finish high school.

But considering who the folks were she was living among and recorded with in that census of 1950… living almost across the street from the Colorado School of Mines where my father taught petroleum refining… is it any wonder that she fibbed?

It wasn’t until later in her life that she gained — or regained — the pride she had in doing what she could to serve the country’s needs during the war.

By then, she wasn’t a young bride with her first baby, married to a college-educated engineer who was working as an educator, surrounded by folks with advanced degrees, with some census taker standing at the door and asking about her education.

She valued education, and encouraged all her children to get as much schooling as they could. But she wasn’t a bit ashamed of the gap in her own resume, not by the time we were old enough to ask about it.

In April of 1950, well, she fibbed.

And that’s just one of the stories to be found in that 1950 census.

Some that are true.

And some that are not.

And every last one of them worth telling.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “The stories in the census,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 9 Apr 2022).


  1. 1950 U.S. census, Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 30-17, sheet 8; digital image, ( : accessed 9 Apr 2022).
  2. Ibid., sheets 71-72.
  3. 1939-40 “Catoico,” Midland (Texas) High School, unpaginated, freshman class photo 8D; digital images, “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012,” ( : accessed 9 Apr 2022).
  4. Ibid., 1940-41 “Catoico,” Midland (Texas) High School, unpaginated, second sophomore class photo.
  5. 1941-42 “Catoico,” Midland (Texas) High School, unpaginated, junior class photos, alphabetical; image provided by Jim Moring.
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