Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Inspiration from the 1950 census

As some of you may have seen, the National Archives has just posted records from the 1950 census. Census record information is held in secret for seventy-two years before it is released, so every 10 years, we get a window into another era.

As a writer, this sort of thing is fascinating. I sifted through the forms online looking for records for members of my own family. I didn’t find my parents or maternal grandparents, but I did find a few aunts, uncles, cousins, and great aunts and uncles. Then while investigating an incomplete notation, I came upon the names of my paternal grandparents, Silas and Sadie. I imagined them standing on the porch of a house on highway 59 on that Tuesday in May as the census worker, Kathleen Jackson, asked them questions.“What is your occupation?”

My grandfather responded, “Farmer.”

“Hours worked?”


Ten hours a day, six days a week. And that was probably an underestimate. He was in his fifties at that point. It would be reasonable to assume that my grandmother matched his workload at least equally. When my dad was asked to describe my grandfather, he simply said, “Hard worker.” The agrarian culture demanded so much. My grandmother died when I was five, so I have only one clear memory of her. My grandfather lived a few years longer but also passed when I was a child. These notations about them on a seventy-year-old form help me feel as if I know them a little better.

One thing is for sure though, at that point in history in my grandparents’ world of not having a telephone, indoor plumbing, much less a television, they could not foresee their granddaughter would in seventy years be examining these records on a computer one could hold in their hand. Or that this device would also serve as a camera, telephone, music player, calendar, and so much more. It would have been unimaginable for them.

This brings me to the spiritual point for this week’s post.

In a much, much greater way, it is hard for us to understand what God has prepared for us in our eternal future. We’ve read. We’ve studied. Still, it is difficult for us to grasp. Jesus tried to bring heaven’s glory to us in a way we could understand by using words like house and rooms. (The King James uses the word "mansions." I like that a lot). 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).

John also tried to describe heaven’s glory. A couple of my favorite descriptions in the closing chapter of Revelation are the crystal river of life flowing from the throne and that there will be no need for lamps because the Lord God will give us light.  

It is hard for the finite mind to comprehend what the infinite has for us. Still, we try. When the brokenness of this life threatens to overwhelm, it’s good to remember that heaven is a real, unimaginably beautiful place. It keeps us looking forward and looking up.

Listed in those 1950 census records are people like my grandparents who are now enjoying their reward in heaven. Seeing their names again serves as a reminder to be faithful, even as they were.

The words of an old gospel song say, “When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.” Yes, when the census is taken in heaven one day, I definitely want to be there.

So, here’s the LINK for the National Archives and the 1950 census. Hope you find inspiration in looking up your people, too.  (Make sure you click on population schedules to see the actual forms).

Beverly Varnado is the author of several small town romances from Anaiah Press including her latest, A Season for Everything. All are available at Amazon. A memoir, Faith in the Fashion District,  from Crosslink Publishing  is also available as well as her other books, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and Home to Currahee. She also has an Etsy Shop, Beverly Varnado Art. 

To explore the web version of One Ringing Bell, please visit bev-oneringingbell.blogspot.com

Beverly Varnado copyright 2022


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