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See who we’ve found in 1940

Who can you find in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census? Here are just a handful of recognizable names we’ve already discovered in New York and Washington DC:

New York
Katherine Hepburn   “The Great Kate” was in New York acting in the stage version of The Philadelphia Story, which had closed its year-long run at the Shubert Theater just a few days before the census was taken. She wouldn’t be in New York for long though, as she needed to be back in Hollywood where the movie version of The Philadelphia Story began filming in July of that year.

John D. Rockefeller Jr.
  The philanthropist and iconic businessman had driven “The Last Rivet” in the final original building in Rockefeller Center  the previous year and was basking in the success of his now-thriving “city within a city.”

Billie [Elnora] Holiday Born Eleanora Harris, Billie lists her occupation as a singer in a night club, and is living with her mother, Sadie, and friend and fellow musician, Irene Wilson.

Al Jolson  Scroll down the page to find David Selznick, producer of the 1940 Academy Award winning movie, Gone with the Wind. Both are guests at the Sherry Netherland Hotel.

Bert Lahr  Probably enjoying some of the fruits of his recent success as “the Cowardly Lion” in The Wizard of Oz, actor Bert Lahr was enumerated staying the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Cole Porter  At home in his apartment at the Waldorf Astoria, Cole Porter’s lists his last residence as Paris, France. Following a fall from a horse that broke both of his legs in 1937, he was suffering from chronic pain that would plague him for the rest of his life, but he continued to work, writing several songs for the 1940 film Broadway Melody of 1940, including I’ve Got My Eyes on You and Begin the Beguine.

Washington DC
J. Edgar Hoover  Living alone at 413 Seward Square in Washington, D.C., Hoover, the FBI director, had been leading the bureau (formerly the Bureau of Investigation) since he was appointed director in 1924 by Calvin Coolidge, and he would continue in that role until his death in 1972.

Marvin Gaye  The census taker arrived at the Gay family residence on Marvin’s first birthday April 2, where Marvin was enumerated along with his father Marvin Sr., who was a preacher, his mom, Alberta, and one brother and one sister.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt FDR and Eleanor are in the White House, just where you’d expect them.

Family and Friends

My sister’s and I inherited several boxes when my mother past away full of family goodies from the mid 1800 to 2001.  But one funeral card we found in one of the boxes had an unfamiliar name.  We searched looking for a connection, thinking and brain storming who could it be.  Finally looking through the 1940 census, the man on the funeral card was my grandfather’s next door neighbor.  He passed away one week after the 1940 census was taken.  One mystery solved many, many more to conquer.

Check “The Line” on the 1940 Census

I remember my mother and friend gossiping about “the line” which referred to the supplemental questions that appeared twice on each 1940 census page. “Did you know that so-and-so was ‘on the line’ when the enumerator arrived?”  To my surprise, it was my mother who was “on the line.”  The info at the bottom of the page didn’t add much to what I knew, but if one of your family members is “on the line” be sure to check the bottom of the page.


Great Stories from the 1940 Census

I was able to work on the 1940 census with my Mom.  She turns 80 this coming Jan.  We not only found Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  We found the doctor that delivered my and the doctor that delivered my father 81 years ago.  My father was the first C-section done in Murphysboro, Ill.  One doctor read the instructions from a book while the other preformed the operation.

Just going through the 1940 Census jogged my parents memories and the stories just kept coming.  What a great way to spend some quality time with my parents.

My Aunt Was a Census Enumerator!

I discovered one of my aunts, her husband and three children at the start of a census district I thought my grandparents would be in. (I haven’t been able to find them yet.) After searching through the E.D., I went back and started at the beginning again. When I did, I noticed that the listed enumerator was Clara B. McCord, my aunt and one of my mother’s older sisters. This was a lovely surprise, and on reflection, I remembered that Aunt Clara was the town clerk for many years, so I presume that she was a natural for the chore. From what I can see on the pages, she recorded the 680 inhabitants of her small rural town in southern Kansas, starting on April 2nd. They all lived on “unnamed streets of Elk City.” Though I haven’t seen it in years, her neat, vertical handwriting is familiar. I can remember seeing it on letters and cards from her to my family.

June Baker Higgins

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.