1950 Census Test Form P11, Pleasant Township, Van Wert County

While getting information for the Herbert and Paulena Merkle Tombstone Tuesday post earlier this week, I noticed that they were enumerated using one of the 1950 census test forms that was used in selected areas of the country, one of those areas being Pleasant Township, Van Wert County, Ohio, where the Merkles lived.

The 1950 census was the last census in which most people were visited by an enumerator who used the multi-family form, Form P1. The format of Form P1 had been used for every census since 1850 and in 1950 it was used by the vast majority of areas in the United States. Those forms had 50 lines per page and listed a number of families with the names of all the individuals in a family, one name per line.

However, in 1950 different forms were tested in a very few selected Enumeration Districts in selected counties in Ohio and Michigan. These new forms were called “household” forms and one form was used for each household. Each family was enumerated on its own page, sometimes 2 pages if it was a large family. The forms were filled out by an enumerator in 1950, but today each family completes its own census form.

Van Wert County was one of those selected Ohio counties that used the test census forms in 1950. Some time ago I learned that the village of Willshire (ED 81-38) was selected to use a new form, but this past week I learned that parts Pleasant Township used yet another new form, Form P11.

Form P11, 1950 Census test form

This was the first time I had seen Form P11. The first part of Form P11 contains basically the same questions as the other test forms, but I found questions 40-76 to be quite interesting. They were questions about the family’s living quarters and some household items they owned and used.

Form P11, 1950 Census test form

The first of those housing questions asked about the type of living quarters:

  • Type of Living Quarters: (House/apartment/flat; Trailer; Tent/boat/railroad car; Non dwelling-unit in large rooming house, institution, hotel, tourist court)
  • Type of Structure: (Detached; Semidetached; Attached)
  • Number of dwelling units in structure
  • Business unit in the structure: (Yes/No)
  • Condition: (not DIP; DIP) [this may mean ductile iron pipe.]
  • Final count of persons living here: Have we missed anyone away traveling? Babies? Lodgers?
  • For a Vacant Unit: (Nonseasonal; Seasonal) (For rent?) (For sale only)
  • For Non-farm vacant units only: (If for rent: Monthly rent; If For sale: Sale price asked)

Questions beginning with no. 50 get more interesting:

  • When was this structure built?
  • How many rooms are there in your dwelling unit, not counting bathrooms?
  • What water supply do you have?
    • Hot and cold piped running water inside the building
    • Only cold piped running water inside the building
    • Piped running water outside the building
    • No piped running water or hand pump only
  • What type of toilet do you have?
    • Flush toilet inside the building
    • Flush toilet outside the building
    • Privy, outhouse, or chemical toilet
    • Have no toilet
  • Is toilet shared with any other household?
    • No, not shared with any other household
    • Yes, shared with another household
    • Have no toilet
  • Do you have an installed bathtub or shower (or both)?
    • Yes, for our own household’s use only
    • Yes, shared with another household
    • Have no bathtub or shower
  • Do you have a kitchen sink?
    • Yes, for our own household’s use only
    • Yes, shared with another household
    • Have no kitchen sink
  • Do you have electric lighting?
    • Yes
    • No
  • What type of refrigerator do you have?
    • Electric, gas, other mechanical refrigerator
    • Ice box or ice refrigerator
    • Other refrigeration
    • None
    • Vacant
  • How are your living quarters heated?
    • Piped steam or hot water
    • Warm air furnace
    • Other means-with flue
    • Other means-without flue
    • Not heated
    • Vacant
  • What fuel is used most for heating?
    • Coal or coke
    • Wood
    • Utility gas
    • Bottled gas
    • Liquid feud
    • Electricity
    • Other fuel
    • No cooking
    • Vacant
  • What fuel is used most for cooking? Check one box:
    • [Same fuel choices as above]
  • Is there a radio in these living quarters? (Yes; No)
  • Is there a television set in these living quarters? (Yes; No)
  • Do you own or rent these living quarters?
    • Own
    • Rent
    • Occupy rent free
  • If this is a farm household check the box below and skip the remaining items. This information will be reported on your Agriculture Questionnaire.
  • If you own these living quarters answer these questions:
    • How much would this property sell for?
    • How many separate dwelling units are included in this property?
    • Is there any mortgage (trust) on this property?
    • What is the monthly rent before these quarters?
    • In addition to rent, how much do you pay for each item:
      • Electricity
      • Gas
      • Water
      • Wood
      • Coal
      • Oil
    • Is this unit rented unfurnished or furnished?
    • If rented furnished, what would it rent for monthly if unfurnished?

About 60 Pleasant Township families were enumerated using this form and I summarized the findings of the housing questions of those families:

Most homes there were built before 1919 and most had between five and seven rooms. Most homes had hot and cold running water inside their house, but 2 homes had only cold pumped water and 18 households pumped their water by hand.

Most households had a flush toilet inside the house, but 20 households used a privy, outhouse, or chemical toilet. No household shared a toilet with another household.

Most households had an installed bathtub or shower, but 19 households did not. One household shared a tub or shower with another household.  

All but one household had a kitchen sink.

All households had electric lighting and warm air furnace heating. All but 2 households had an electric, gas, or other mechanical refrigerator. One of those two households had an ice box and the other had no refrigerator at all.    

Most used either coal or liquid fuel for heating and bottled gas or electricity for cooking.

All but one household had a radio and none of the households had a television set.

Although most Pleasant Township households had some modern conveniences in 1950, some of the country households did not. One particular household used a privy or outhouse, had no tub or shower, no kitchen sink, used coal for their heat source, and hand-pumped their water for household use. However, they did have electric lighting, an electric refrigerator, and a radio. Their mortgaged house was worth about $5000.

As for the Herbert Merkle household, which started this whole subject, they resided in a 7-room home built before 1919, hand-pumped water for their house, and had no installed bathtub or shower. They did have electric lighting, an electric refrigerator, and a radio. They used coal to heat their home and cooked with liquid fuel. They owned their home and did not have a mortgage.

Herbert & Paulena Merkle household, 1950 Census, Form P11

How interesting to look back to 1950.

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