Ancestry, The 1950 Census, &  Grandma Donna

Tuesday’s Tips
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I received an email from Ancestry that indicated due to their “proprietary AI technology,” they have an early index of the records. My recollection said it took several months to index the 1940 census ten years ago, and once done, there were a lot of indexing errors. So I wondered if searches of the 1950 census would be effective so soon after its release.

Ancestry included a link 1950 United States Federal Census in their email. I decided to use it and look for my mother and grandmother.


The 1950 Census date was April 1st. I was born in Oregon and knew my mom and I flew back to Minnesota in August 1950. So I searched for:

    • Name: Donna Kees
    • Any Event Location: Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota.

Bang – Four results. There was a Donna R Kees in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The six-year-old was definitely not my grandmother. However, the second entry returned was Donna M Kees in Detroit[i]. In the same household was Sylvia J Kees. Definitely my grandmother and mother.

Wow! What a treasure trove of information.

Donna and my mom  were still in Detroit and lived at 8542 Olivet in April 1950. Donna was only “45 years old.” She was always a bit loose with her age, but saying she was 12 years younger than her actual age was a new record for her. She was an unemployed bakery saleslady and was seeking work.

My mom was an 18-year-old “never married” woman. She too was an unemployed bakery saleslady seeking work.

A little box checked indicated the household was continued on the next page. I turned the page and wow They had a lodger, James K Quigging. He was a 25-year-old divorcee born in Kentucky and working as a metal polisher at an auto factory. Wow. I’ve never heard of him. His living with grandma and my mom is a total surprise.

Even more incredible, Donna was line 29 on the census, which means she was sampled for additional information. I learned that Donna had lived at the same house a year previously. Her education was “S12,” and she had completed her last year of school, so she was a high school graduate. It looks like she had no wages or income in 1949. However, she did have income from others in the household of $450. Donna had been married more than once (I knew that). Line 37 showed she had been divorced for five years. Another surprise. I know that Donna and Russell Kees got together in the late 1930s. It was my understanding they never married, rather just lived together. This entry suggests that she and Russell Kees may have been married and divorced about 1945.


I was impressed. Ancestry’s indexing using their Artificial Intelligence (AI) worked very well. I will definately use it to learn more about my Ancestors.

Using it to learn about my mother and grandmother’s whereabouts in April 1950 brought several new questions.

  • Who was James K Quigging?
  • Did Donna and Russell Kees actually get married? Did they get legally divorced?
  • I understood that Donna went to the Toronto Music Conservatory. I had sensed that it was a college-level type of school. Apparently, it was more of a High School equivalent. I guess I need to learn more about the school.


[i] 1950 Census – Michigan, Wayne, Detroit – ED 85-2022 – Sheet 73 – Line 29 – Donna M Kees, Head, via Ancestry.

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