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1940 Eye-Opener

Like many other family genealogists, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the 1940 US Federal Census.  It was going to answer so much about not only my family, but my husband’s family as well. 

The Guam census was one of the first to be downloaded and as soon as all districts were in, I began combing through every last page beginning with district one, page one.  I already knew that the family name was rare, so any and all Chamorrans with the surname were my relatives.

There was one person in-particular that I was desperate to find. My grandfather. I never got to meet him, but I knew that one of my aunts was born in this year.  It took me two hours, but I found him, my grandmother and my aunt’s half-sister in Agana. The census was taken just nine days before my aunt’s birth.  He was a carpenter and they owned their home in the city.  This was news to me and my aunt whom lives near me.

I learned a lot from the 1940 census. It’s amazing the stories that pop into your mind when you see something you hadn’t expected at all.  Another example: I did not know that my grandfather had actually taken his step-father’s name and was using it at the time.

You see, 1940 was the last census to be taken before the Japanese invaded and took over Guam, killing and enslaving many on the island. The name my grandfather had used in 1940 was Japanese. According to historical records, whether he was born in Japan or not, he could have been considered a traitor. He could be imprisoned, swear allegiance to Japan and become a soldier, or face death by execution.  

According to family stories, they ran and hid away in caves.  It’s frightening to even think of how they escaped and what they had to do to survive.  But survive they did. Now I must wait for the 1950 census.