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1940 U.S. Census: 50 States, 134 Million Names, 1 Index

Today is all about numbers. The first is 100, as in 100 percent of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census is now indexed. That means all 50 states are available to search to your heart’s content. Our indexing came up with 134,395,545 people counted. Most reports on the 1940 census give the U.S. population as 132 million and change, so you may be wondering where the extra 2 million people came from.

Two words: Puerto Rico. OK, and Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Panama Canal Zone. They were all included in the 1940 U.S. census and add another 2.1 million or so records to the final count.

  The Oldest American(s) We came up with a tie for the oldest person in the census: Mary Dilworth of Oxford, Mississippi,  

  and Cándido Vega Y Torres of Guayama, Puerto Rico, both listed their ages as 119.  

  We identified 35,646,274 heads of household, for an average household size of 3.7 people. The average age of the respondent who talked with the enumerator was 43.   Where Did They All Come From? It’s probably not difficult to guess the number one state reported as birthplace on the census, but a couple of the other nine might surprise you. Here they are in order:

  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Illinois
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Missouri
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina
  • Georgia


Amongst foreign-born folks, the top five reported birth countries were

  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Russia
  • Poland
  • England  


So, What’s Your Name? We can also tell you the top 10 male and female names on the 1940 census: John William James Robert Joseph George Charles Frank Edward Richard   Mary Anna Helen Margaret Elizabeth Dorothy Ruth Marie Rose Alice   If you need proof, just stroll down this street in Butler, PA:  


The top five surnames in the 1940 census were

  • Smith
  • Johnson
  • Brown
  • Williams
  • Jones.  

Who Do You Want to Find? But the most important number in the 1940 U.S. Census might be 1. That one date you’ve been waiting to find. That one relative you hadn’t been able to locate until now. That one discovery that opens up a dozen more. One more question, one more record, one last look… So dig in and enjoy. After all, it’s 10 years before we get another one.

Kris Williams: Three Days by Horse

In the last five years I have seen more than half the states in our nation, plus 22 countries and counting. In that time, I have bounced from one hotel to the next with everything I own packed tightly inside two 25” pieces of luggage.

My downtime has been spent with family in New England, visiting good friends all over the United States and visiting my boyfriend in Australia. Even when I am not working, I somehow manage to stay on the road. Through all of this, there are times where I have taken the technology to travel and stay connected for granted, and there are other times where I’ve been completely amazed by how far we have come. With every generation’s advances in technology our planet continues to get smaller and more connected.

The first time I remember being completely blown away by our progress was while talking to my great-grandmother’s cousin. My great-grandmother passed away when I was only four years-old. Through my genealogy work I was able to track down her cousin, Albertine, about 10 years ago.

I remember her surprised look when I explained to her who I was, and I will never forget her response when I told her it only took me two hours to drive to Vermont from New Hampshire: “It only took you two hours?! It used to take us three days by horse!”

In those days you didn’t just hop in a car. There were no short visits, no phone calls, texts or emails. They would send out letters announcing their visit with the intention of staying a week or more after traveling for days by horse or foot.

Today, having to rely on a horse, and not having a car, is unimaginable. Then again, it was only six short years ago that traveling the world – never mind dating a man who lives in another country – also seemed unimaginable. It all seemed so impossible and, just a few generations ago, it would have been.

Now, as I write this, I’m waiting to board a plane in Australia to head home to the United States. I will have woken on one side of the planet, and will be climbing into bed on the other side – all on the same day!

All around me people talk, some complaining about the long flight ahead. I will admit, the idea of a 14-hour flight stuck in coach isn’t my idea of a good time.  But five generations ago, my second great-grandparents boarded boats in Europe that were headed for America. Following two weeks at sea in cramped quarters, they finally reached their destinations.

If Albertine was surprised by my two-hour drive, how would those great-grandparents respond to my 14-hour flight across the globe? Then again, how would my ancestors from the Mayflower react to my great-grandparents’ “short” two-weeks at sea?

Yes, I had relatives on the Mayflower! Setting sail from Plymouth, England, on Sept. 6, 1620, it took the ship a total of two months to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Two months! There were a total of 102 passengers packed into cramped, cold and damp living quarters. Most found themselves seasick and some passengers died due to illnesses. At least one man was lucky enough to be rescued after being thrown overboard by rough waters.

As a female, I am most amazed by the pregnant women who made the voyage, one of whom gave birth on the ship. Through all of this, the passengers of the Mayflower wondered if they would even make it to the shores of America due to damage that was done to the ship from storms.

They spent two months at sea, and here we are, in our coach seats being served food and drinks. We’re flying in a relatively safe, large metal object and we are complaining about a 14-hour trip from Australia to America.

Once I land Los Angeles, I will be spending the next three weeks looking for an apartment. For me, leaving everything I know in New England is both exciting and scary. In some ways it’s a fresh start; the first time in my whole life where I will be completely responsible for myself and I am excited about it.

However, I still can’t quite shake the fear of leaving what is familiar, and the guilt that hangs over me about leaving my family. What if this move turns out horribly? What if something happens back home and I’m not there? Can I handle being that far from my family? I am willing to bet these same fears and questions haunted my ancestors from the time they packed their bags until years after they settled in New England.

Taking into consideration the day-to-day challenges they continued to face as soon as they touched land, I feel a bit foolish. Once my ancestors made the voyage from Europe to America, that was it. Those who were lucky enough to make the trip alive found themselves in a foreign land having only the limited possessions they brought with them. Chances are they would never see the friends and family they left behind again, and their only communication would be through an occasional handwritten letter.

Today, people regularly move from state to state and I continue to meet many who have moved from country to country. Although we may experience the same fears, we have options. If we are missing home, we can jump in a car, catch a bus, hop on a train or book a flight. While missing our family and friends in-between trips, we have the luxury of making a phone call or sending out a text message.

Not enough? Then there’s always the convenience that comes with the Internet from emails, video chat and social networking sites that allow us to post and read regular status updates or share pictures.

From the days of uncharted lands to the days where you can look up any location on the globe by satellite, I have absolutely no idea where life is going to take me. I may decide to stay in California. I could eventually head back to the east coast or maybe even find myself living outside of the country.

Wherever I am, I hope to always be thankful for how far we have come, and make use of everything we have available to stay connected with my family and friends. As I now sit here on my flight, I also can’t help but wonder what stories I will someday share with my grandchildren that, to them, will seem unimaginable.

By Kris Williams

Twitter: @KrisWilliams81

Kris Williams: Alcatraz - The Great Escape

This month marks the 50thanniversary of one of the most mysterious prison breaks in history. On June 11, 1962, four men - Frank Morris, brothers John and Clarence Anglin and Allen West - took part in what became known as The Great Escape from Alcatraz. Having had the chance to work at “The Rock,” I can’t help but remember my amazement at the lengths they went to escape, as well as remember the experiences I had there while roaming the halls, hunting for spirits of criminals who were believed to still haunt the grounds.

Originally, Alcatraz was built as a military fortification for the purpose of protecting the San Francisco Bay. During the Civil War it doubled as a military fort as well as a military prison where they jailed confederate soldiers and sympathizers. Following the Civil War, actions were taken to update Alcatraz’s outdated defenses until they decided to switch gears, turning the fort strictly into a military prison. Alcatraz was considered the perfect location for a prison due to the isolation created by the cold waters of the bay and its strong, hazardous currents.

My fascination with Alcatraz came with my personal interest in studying true crime, and from my love as a kid for the movie “Murder in the First.” Alcatraz served as a federal prison from 1933 to 1963, and was used to hold the worst of the worst. If you caused enough problems at other prisons, or repeatedly tried to escape, you would eventually find yourself at the inescapable jail. Mickey Cohen, Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud aka “The Birdman, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and - a familiar face from Boston - James “Whitey” Bulger were just some of the notorious residents here.

In the years it served as a federal prison there were a total of 14 escape attempts made by 36 men. While I was on the island I was surprised to learn that of those 36, 23 were caught, six were shot and killed, and two drowned.

But there were five men listed as missing.

Since there was never any evidence found that any of these men made it to shore, they were assumed to have drowned and washed out to sea in the strong currents. Three of these five missing men took part in The Great Escape. Today, people still wonder if Frank, John and Clarence did indeed drown or if they were successful in their escape.

 Frank Morris had a record that included drug possession and armed robbery. However, what landed him in Alcatraz were the several attempts he had made to escape several other prisons. It was during Frank’s stay at an Atlanta prison that he met brothers John and Clarence Anglin. The Anglin brothers were bank robbers who, like Frank, were transferred there after several attempts to escape other prisons. The fourth man involved in The Great Escape was Allen West. Allen had met John at a Florida prison, and was in Alcatraz serving his second term.

Together these four men carried out their fairly hilarious and creative attempt at freedom. Using crudely made hand tools out of objects they secretly lifted from around the jail, they spent months making everything they needed for their escape. The men took turns digging through their individual cell’s ventilation system, made rafts and life preservers out of 50 raincoats and glue, while using soap and toilet paper to make paper machete dummies they painted to look lifelike (they even went so far as adding hair they got from the prison barbershop). It was basically one big arts-and-crafts party made up of hardened criminals.

Once the boys were done with their cutting, pasting and finger painting, Frank, John and Clarence squeezed through the hole in the wall of their cell. Allen was left behind since he failed to finish digging in time. Once inside the prison walls they climbed 30 feet of plumbing before reaching the roof. They then secretly made their way across the roof to climb another 50 feet down the outside wall of the prison. Once outside, they planned to use their handmade raft and life preservers to get to the mainland. By the time Allen finally broke through the wall of his cell and climbed to the roof, Frank, John and Clarence were gone leaving him no choice but to return to his cell.

Over the years there have been many books, movies and documentaries that revolved around The Great Escape. In the end they all had their own theories as to what may have happened to Frank, John and Clarence. But again, no bodies were ever found. However several items were recovered from the water and the shores of nearby Angel Island, which just added to the speculation.

My visit to Alcatraz was due to the paranormal claims that now surround the island. People reported experiences that included noises of crying, moaning and sounds of a banjo (that was believed to played by a ghostly Al Capone); cold spots and sightings of prisoner apparitions and military personnel were also reported. One of the craziest claims was of a prisoner who told a guard he was being killed by a creature with glowing red eyes in his cell. The following morning that same prisoner was found strangled to death in his cell.

While there, I did have a few strange experiences, however what unsettled me the most had nothing to do with the paranormal. In the early morning hours I stood in one of the cells that looked out over the bay. The whole prison was cold and dark - an experience shared by many of the prison’s former occupants. The only sounds in the prison were carried over the bay from the city. I could hear people laughing, cars beeping and live music playing. I could even see faint headlights pass in the distance. I remember thinking, “talk about a daily reminder that life is going on with out you …” It was actually a pretty horrible, lonely feeling.

These men that were locked up at Alcatraz probably deserved their punishment, but I can’t blame them for wanting to get out.

For anyone captivated by Alcatraz and their extreme efforts, the question will always remain: Were three of them successful?

By Kris WilliamsTwitter: @KrisWilliams81

Kris Williams: Genealogy & Your DNA

Just recently I received my AncestryDNA kit results and I can honestly say I was pretty shocked by them. For the most part, on my father’s side, my family has been in this country since the Mayflower - or came on ships that followed soon after.  Others came down through Canada from Nova Scotia. Everything I knew about my Dad’s side of the family brought me back to England and Scotland. My mother’s side is a bit different since the majority of her family only goes back in the United States a few generations. Most of her family came over from Ireland in the 1800s, with the exception of her grandfather who came over from Italy with his family in 1909.

Knowing all of this I asked myself, “How much can the test really tell me?” Through all that I have found on my own, I figured my ethnicity would mainly originate on the British Isles with a small percentage of Italian. That was not the case.

What were my results?

According to my DNA, I am 53% Scandinavian, 37% Southern European, 8% British Isles and there was a small 2% that was marked “Uncertain.” I was confused.

Scandinavian? Where the hell did that come from? What I thought would be my largest ethnic percentage ended up ranking third?

The results made me question what else I could learn about my family through my results and AncestryDNA. To get a better understanding, I took a look at how the test worked.

AncestryDNA uses a new DNA technology called autosomal testing. The main differences between this new technology and previous tests used are that autosomal testing examines a much larger portion of your DNA and it covers both the maternal and paternal sides of your family. Previous tests only cover one or the other and a significantly smaller portion of your DNA. So, with the help of expert population geneticists and molecular biologists, autosomal testing gives us genealogy nuts a bigger and more complete picture of our family in one DNA test.

Not only was I surprised by how convenient and easy it was to take this test, I am now excited by the other features AncestryDNA offers to make further use of my results. With my results, I got a list of matches that show me other AncestryDNA users who I may be related to based on our DNA.

With a subscription to, you are able to reach out to that match and work together to figure out your common link. To make the search easier, the site even provides you and your match with a list of shared surnames from your trees. I have already reached out to one of my matches and I’m excited to start working with him to learn more about my family! Another feature I love is their interactive map, which pinpoints places of birth for everyone you have entered on your tree. It is pretty fascinating when you can see where all of your known ancestors had to travel from for you to be here. It has also made me more curious to find out the reasons behind their moves.

Now that I have my results, and have gone through all the features and have a better understanding of how the test works, I’ve learned to look at the bigger picture. All this time I had viewed my ethnicity as based strictly off of the countries my family came to the United States from, without putting much thought into where their ancestors originated. Being marked 53% Scandinavian by my DNA, I realize that my family tree will eventually lead me back to Norway, Sweden or Denmark.

Taking the history of those locations into account, this possibly brings my family back to Viking times. Vikings were known as merchants, explorers and feared as violent pillagers by coastal towns. Being well-traveled explorers, their adventures took them to nearby England, Ireland and Scotland as well as several other far off lands to establish villages. Knowing this, I am now able to see how Scandinavian descent may have dominated my results.

I can honestly say I am very happy with my decision to try AncestryDNA and am excited to see where this new information takes me! Not only has it given me some insight to my family’s past it is giving me the ability to reach out to others who may share it. The best part is that over time, my list of matches will only continue to grow as more people take the test. Who knows, after taking the AncestryDNA test you could find yourself trading family notes with a long lost cousin and ghost hunter.

Contributed by Kris Williams, Genealogist & star of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters International 

Twitter: @KrisWilliams81

Israel Arbeiter: Ready to Return to the United States

After 8 days that took him from Warsaw, Poland to his native city of Plock in Poland, to Krakow and finally into Germany, where he gained his freedom in 1945, Izzy is tired.

At 87 years old he has the right to be.

After seeing his parents and brother shipped off and murdered at Treblinka, his friends and other relatives also killed in the concentration camps, he has said his final goodbyes to the places and the difficult times that shaped who he is today.

Izzy has walked the grounds at Auschwitz-Birkenau, his home in 1944, where the Nazis killed 1.1 million of the 1.3 who came through their three separate camps there (at Auschwitz).

He walked in darkness beside the memorials at the Treblinka death camp and said a prayer for his family members murdered there.

He has met with school kids from two nations to talk to them about his experiences as a Jew living through the Holocaust and the price he paid for his religious beliefs.

He has reconnected with the daughter of a German family that sacrificed their own lives to throw bread to Izzy and the other slave laborers in his group as they passed down the family’s street on a daily basis to work in a local quarry.

He has visited with old friends, both Polish and German.

If there is one final lasting memory for all of us on this trip it occurred just last night. It’s the photo that accompanies this blog. It’s a snap shot taken last evening of Izzy and another man also in his mid 80’s. His name is Walter Fischer. Walter was a German World War II army veteran.

Walter’s hometown happens to be the same German village that housed a concentration camp in which Izzy spent his last days behind a wire fence before becoming a free man again after almost six years of torture and mind-numbing experiences.

Walter and Izzy sat next to each other during dinner. Their discussion was both quiet and personal, but also animated at times. It was not accusatory in any way, but there were also not a lot of smiles, back slapping and toasts to the past.

There is forgiveness in Izzy Arbeiter, but to forget is impossible. Walter said he was not a Nazi in WWII, just a soldier doing his job. He also said he never knew about the concentration camps, especially the one in his own village. Izzy has heard that reaction many times.

One young German in his early 30’s, when asked on this trip about Germany’s role in WWII and the Holocaust said loudly “It’s over”-meaning the war and that era should be put behind all of us. Should it be forgotten? Is it time to move on? Is it really over?

I can tell you for Auschwitz survivor Israel Arbeiter it’s not that simple and the answer is no. The lessons of that time have to be talked about and preserved. If not for him, then for the six million who cannot be heard any longer. Those voices silenced in the cruelest way possible just because of who they were and what they believed in. Izzy speaks for them. He must carry on. If you have ever visited Auschwitz or Treblinka then you will understand why.

Thank you for following this blog the past week and we hope you have enjoyed tracking Israel Arbeiter’s travels. If you would like to help us in our efforts to fully-fund this important documentary film project, you can donate via: Thanks Izzy for allowing us to be a part of this incredible experience.

Prisoner A18651 Returns to Auschwitz

Contributed by Tim Gray, chairman of the non-profit WWII Foundation. For more information about the foundation, visit

The majority of Holocaust survivors have not the desire nor the will to return to the place where they lived through the most disturbing moments of their life and watched others die in ways still not easy to describe more than 70 years later.

Today in Oświęcim, Poland, 87 year old Israel Arbeiter confronted his past for most likely the final time. He did it on his terms. He held his head high and walked with a crisp step. He wore a Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series baseball cap, dress pants and sneakers and carried a bottle of water with him at all times.

It was a far cry from the striped uniform the German SS made him wear in 1944 designating him as a Jew and that he could die at any time the Nazis so chose.

The German SS could have shot Israel Arbeiter, hanged him, starved him to death, gassed him, thrown him in a pit of already burning corpses or just left him to decompose as a result of disease. In reality, Izzy could die in any fashion his captors could dream up. There also wasn’t any bottled water back then. In fact, Izzy was lucky if he could find any drink or food at all. He was sure he was going to die here. It was almost certain.

Fast forward now to a beautiful Friday in April of 2012. On this sunny and warm morning , thousands of miles from his home in America, Izzy Arbeiter walked through the gates into Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is part of the Auschwitz complex in southern Poland (3 camps in all, about an hour from Krakow). Auschwitz-Birkenau or Auschwitz II as it is also known, is a place where trains pulled directly into the camp from the outside world and as you stepped off your over-crowded, wretched-smelling cattle car, you were told to go to the left or the right. Either way determined whether you lived a little bit longer or died that very day in the gas chambers.

The young and strong had the best chance to live and Israel Arbeiter had one thing going for him, he was a determined teenager from Plock, Poland who had made his father a promise to stay alive and also keep alive his Jewish tradition.

Because of his youth and strength Izzy was “fortunate” in that he would be forcibly worked to death as a slave laborer for the German war machine instead of killed right away. Izzy was told to go to the right.

On Friday, April 27th, 2012 as Israel Arbeiter walked back into Auschwitz-Birkenau he felt free, because inside he knew he could leave the camp at any moment if he so chose and that the gates that once closed behind his train car in 1944 would not be making the sound of metal locking onto metal on this day in 2012.

Israel Arbeiter is a survivor.

This place could not kill him, no German Nazi could, even after they already had murdered his parents and younger brother in another death camp (Treblinka).

As Izzy walked around the camp today he had the air of someone who owned the place and the blue tattoo on his arm that read, A 18651, labeling him a prisoner of Auschwitz, pretty much gave him the right to say so if he wanted to. He didn’t.

His ability to walk freely around this place was enough for him and a silent statement that he had beaten the Nazis at their own game. Izzy was still alive and they were now all dead and residing in Hell.

Israel Arbeiter showed those with him today where people were killed. He stopped to talk about his life in the camp, even visiting what was left of his old prisoner barracks, number 28, now just a pile of bricks. The chimney and the foundation were still visible, but the wood siding and roof were gone. He showed his grandson Matt where his wife future wife (and Matt’s grandmother) Anna lived at Auschwitz II, the exact barracks where she and other female inmates slept and prayed.

He talked about how the gas chambers would be so busy that the Germans actually had a waiting area in the nearby woods where prisoners were politely asked by the SS guards to remain until it was their time to die (or as their guards told them, to take showers or be fed, whatever the lie). He (and we) sat on that very ground, under those very trees today, and listened to Izzy talk about what is what like watching those people wait. He knew what was going to happen to them and could do nothing about it. It was the killing of the young children that bothered him the most. I poked through the dirt with a stick while Izzy spoke, maybe hoping to find something buried by one of those who sat on the very spot I was now sitting on. Maybe if I did find something I could return it to a family member still living somewhere in the world. I found only more dirt.

Izzy talked about the finger nail marks on the inside of the gas chambers, where victims tried to claw their way out through concrete as the SS dropped Zyklon B gas into openings at the top. The finger nail marks remain today, a testament to those who fought to the very last second to stay alive.

I saw them myself and it made me ill. To stand in a gas chamber now and to see those marks on the wall is sickening. Just feet away from the gas chamber at Auschwitz I are several ovens. Victims were cremated within minutes of their death.

Truthfully, ever since we planned to film Izzy’s story here in Poland I have dreaded my first trip inside what today are memorials inside the gas chambers. It  was exactly how I thought it would be. Nauseating. I felt like I had just walked into another world. You could just feel the evil that occurred here.

At Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II) Israel Arbeiter visited what was left of several of the crematoria buildings there. Several were blown up by the Germans in 1945 as they tried to destroy evidence of their mass murders and the burning of the victims bodies. The Russians were prepared to liberate Auschwitz. One of the crematoria was also blown up by prisoners using dynamite, part of a revolt in the camp that the SS quickly snuffed out. There were heroes everywhere here amongst the death.

Izzy stopped by a very small pond where fish nibbled at insects. Underneath the surface, the foundation of the pond was a mixture of sand, but mostly the ashes of those killed in the crematoria. Maybe that’s why the water color seemed go grey?

Izzy visited the building where he was given his tattoo and uniform and instead of being gassed, was given a real shower and disinfected.

Mostly, Israel Arbeiter talked. He feels the need to speak for those who did not survive here. Of the 1.3 million who came through the Auschwitz killing factories, an estimated 1.1 million died. Izzy speaks for them and his parents and younger brother. Everyone who suffered.

School kinds from Slovakia stop and talk with Izzy in front of an old cattle car still on the train tracks inside the camp. He tells these high schoolers to go home and kiss their parents and tell them they love them. He tells them to enjoy their day, but stops and laughs and says that “enjoying” was not what they should do here. Learn was probably a better word. He says God Bless America and God Bless Slovakia. They like that. The two generations part and they clap loudly for this 87 year old man. In a place like Auschwitz applause is not a sound heard very often.

It is now time for Israel Arbeiter to leave Auschwitz-Birkenau. Unlike 1944, no one will tell him he can’t. No one will stand in his way. He will no “go out through the crematoria” as his only means of escape, a phrase told to him when he arrived here in 1944. The only way out then they said was to die, be cremated and your ashes blown into the wind of Poland. That would be the only way to freedom.

Our guide on this day told us Auschwitz survivors rarely come back to visit the camp. The majority are now dead or too ill. Also, those still alive find it too difficult.

On April 27th, 2012 Israel Arbeiter and his grandson Matt walked through the front gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau leaving for the last time. Israel Arbeiter never looked back to say goodbye.

Tim Gray is Chairman of the non-profit WWII Foundation. To learn more about the WWII Foundation and to donate to their projects, including the educational documentary on Israel Arbeiter’s return to Poland and Germany, please visit