… When this happens:
1. Pour the cup of fresh coffee, shake the cobwebs out, start searching the 1915 New York Census for 142 West 126th St., Manhattan.
2. Use Stephen Morse’s invaluable One-Step Tool for finding New York Assembly Districts/Election Districts for 1890-1925.
3. Locate the relevant set of images at Ancestry.com. Excellent.
6. Page through the image set carefully, page by page, beginning to end, checking which image numbers correspond to which actual census sheet numbers (penned).
7. Realize that Image No. 3 contains Sheets 4 and 5, and Image No. 4 contains Sheets 8 and 9.
GUESS WHAT IS ON SHEETS 6 AND 7?
No, really, guess.
Now, the New York State Library in Albany says it has original manuscripts of the 1915 and 1925 censuses, so the missing pages would appear to exist in some form somewhere, which is something. And missing census pages do happen in microfilm sets. See this amusing post from Ancestry Insider about missing federal census pages. Well, at least I hope you find it amusing. I personally plan to amuse myself by banging my head into the nearest wall.
Modern census database searching is great. Many mis-indexed ancestors have been found by the ability to throw wild card variables into a tricky surname or, when all else fails, to abandon names altogether and search for characteristics like age, occupation and nativity.
But remember: Each page in a search result is just one possible piece of a family mosaic. Case in point:
I was scouring the 1870 index for the family of my great-grandmother Catherine Connors Haigney in Watervliet, Albany County, N.Y. By this point in my search I knew that Catherine’s oldest sister, Mary Ann, was likely to be married to a man named Bernard Connell in 1870. And there they were:
Excellent! (A bonus: They married in the census year, so the enumerator noted the month of their wedding, January. You can’t see it in this crop, but it’s there.)
Now it was time to check on my great-great-grandparents, Patrick and Bridget Connors. There was only one family in Watervliet in 1870 that included a head of household named Patrick, a wife Bridget and siblings whose names matched the known siblings of Catherine and Mary Ann. Up they popped:
Wonderful! There they all are, Andrew, Mary Ann, James … Wait.
Mary Ann? Seriously? But how could she be both the eldest daughter in Patrick Connor’s household and the wife of Bernard Connell? One finding had to be the wrong Mary Ann. Right?
I spent the next few minutes whimpering softly about what a rotten, horrible, deceptive world this is, where census indexes make us think we have a handle on a family, only to cruelly snatch our triumph away with the very next hit.
But soon I saw something that I should have noticed right away. See Bernard Connell and Mary Ann up there? See how they’re at the top of their page?
And see how Patrick and Bridget and their gang are at the bottom of their page?
Could these people just possibly be on adjacent pages?
You bet, Sherlock. The Connors and the Connells are, in fact, in the same dwelling, No. 727, but are enumerated as two distinct families, No. 902 and No. 903.
The Connors/Connell family group was visited by a somewhat persnickety enumerator in 1870, a year in which individual names were recorded, but relationships to head of household were not. Faced with the presence of Patrick’s married oldest daughter, the enumerator parsed the situation as precisely as he could. He listed Mary Ann first among Patrick’s children, and a second time as Bernard Connell’s wife. Then the entry happened to break across Pages 110-111.
There are not two 18-year-old Mary Anns in Dwelling 727. They are the same person whose dual identity has been carefully, if confusingly, preserved, a conclusion supported by other sources, including the obituary of one of Mary Ann’s daughters many years later. And, of course, these two Mary Anns appear as two separate census search results on separate pages, each seemingly valid, but contradictory. Only when the pages are read in sequence do they make sense.
It’s an elegant example of some basic census-research advice: Never simply zero in on one key name on a census page. Read up, read down and read adjacent pages. It’s the only way you’re sure you’re getting the whole picture.
My sister hates the signature whine her GPS makes when she deviates from the agreed-upon route:
For a piece of electronic engineering, it sounds remarkably petulant. However, sometimes redirECTing is unavoidable, as we could tell the GPS if it were in the mood to listen.
Particularly in genealogical research. Particularly when your original route is leading into a swamp.
For example: One of my great-great-aunts, Mary Ann Haigney (1872-1956), inconsiderately married a person surnamed Walker. Sorting through Walkers in directories, documents and federal censuses is not nearly as efficient as sorting through Haigneys, and I just don’t know as much as I’d like about them. I did have a bunch of newspaper clippings about Mary Ann, including her obituary and several society items about family parties mentioning visits from her son Edward and his wife, a grandson, and “Mrs. Geis.” I really wanted to confirm the names of Edward’s wife and son, and find out who the mysterious Mrs. Geis was.
But this year, I had a couple of super-strengths to put into the Walker search.
The first was the 1940 census. The second was the address book kept in the late 1930s and early 1940s by my great-aunt Anna. When I got this address book last fall and realized its value as a 1940 search tool, I felt like holding it aloft, superhero-style, and waiting for thunderbolts to explode out of it.
In the address book was a Brooklyn address for an “E. Walker,” whom I devoutly hoped would turn out to be Mary Ann’s son Edward. Using another awesome thunderbolt of genealogical power, the Unified 1940 Census E.D. Finder, I located:
Walker, Edward, head, 38
Walker, Frances, wife, 43
[redacted], son, 11
Geis, Caspar, brother-in-law, 58
Geis, Henrietta, sister-in-law, 49
[redacted], niece by marriage, 23
Identities for Edward’s wife and son! Plus, an explanation for Mrs. Geis!
Clearly, Caspar was Frances’ brother, and Frances’ maiden name was Geis. Fantastic. I decided to take a lunch break.
Astute readers will know that any time the word “clearly” appears in my text, things are actually not clear at all. Over a sandwich and tea, I recalled that phrase “by marriage.”
Wait a minute. Whose marriage? Was Edward linked to the Geis family through Caspar, or through Henrietta? I read through the entry again. Sure enough, it was a classic case of stopping too soon for a lunch break. There was a seventh name in the household:
Schemank, Mary, mother-in-law, 77
With that, I had the complete picture. As the full household list implies (and other documents eventually confirmed), Edward had married the former Miss Frances Schemank, not Geis. Henrietta (Schemank) Geis is one of Frances’ sisters (she had two, plus a brother). Caspar Geis, of course, is Frances’ brother-in-law, not her brother.
And I’m just glad my genealogy GPS redirECTed before I drove the car into a swamp.
Next up in my initial 1940 census snapshots are my maternal grandparents, who emigrated from Germany’s rural Upper Franconia district in the mid-1920s and settled in Greenpoint.
Names: John and Eva Rudroff
Relationship: Maternal grandparents
Background: After crossing the Atlantic, John (1886-1969) and Eva (1895-1963) didn’t move around. They moved to 39 Sutton Street in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn shortly after they married in 1927, and that was it until Grandpa died in 1969. This was where they raised my mother and her twin brother. It was also the place from which Grandma Eva sent a care package after World War II to cousins in bombed-out Wurzburg, one of whom recited the exact address (with zip code) to me forty years later, by way of explaining just how memorable that package was to her as a little girl.
• Did the 1940 census taker get the surname spelled right? In 1930, the enumerator listed it as “Rutkoff.”
• How did Grandpa’s employment and wage information stack up? Mom always said they were very lucky that he held on to a good job at Standard Oil of New York all through the Depression years.
• Yay for the 1940 enumerator, who spelled the name the same way my grandparents spelled it. OK, so my grandma was listed as “Eve,” not “Eva,” but whaddya gonna do. Also consistent with other family records, my grandfather was a naturalized citizen (he became one in 1933); my grandmother was not (and never did become one).
• Grandpa and Grandma Rudroff had both completed eight grades of school, according to this census. My mother and her brother, now 12-year-old twins, had completed six, and I assume that they were in the seventh grade at the time the census was taken.
• As I expected, Grandpa’s job was “fireman, oil co.,” meaning he tended boilers at the Standard Oil of New York plant not far from where the family lived. During the week of March 24-30, 1940, he’d put in 32 hours, which was on the low side compared to some other entries on the page. (Most were in the range of 40 to 45 hours, although one factory watchman listed a whopping 84 hours.)
• Grandpa’s yearly salary was $1,150, or about $17,680 in today’s dollars. Not bad, but definitely below the yearly average for the mid-1930s in New York City ($1,745, or $27,425 today). This squares with my mother’s description of her childhood as being free from anxiety over where the next meal was coming from, but without a lot of spare change for anything besides the necessities.
Takeaway: At first glance, I don’t see a lot of surprises here, but then, this is a pretty familiar part of the family story. However, I am having a lot of fun comparing the information on this entry to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, 100 Years of U.S. Consumer Spending, the source for the New York City average salary figure listed above. If you’re curious about how far your family’s income might have stretched, check it out (at the link, you can download a .pdf file).
Next time: The mysterious distant cousin.
Even without a Great Mystery to solve in the 1940 census, everyone has things they’re curious about. How does what we find stack up against what we were wondering? Over the next few days I’ll share some of my own comparisons.
As a starting point, I made a list of New York City relatives whose addresses were as close to sure bets as anything gets in genealogy. I then used Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub’s Unified 1940 Census E.D. Finder to find them in the 1940 census. The Unified Finder proved to be a thing of beauty, in my case. In under an hour I found E.D.s for all my candidates. (Only one false start, and it was my own fault – I transposed two digits on the street number.)
Enough of the preliminaries. Here’s case study No. 1.
Names: Raymond and Margaret Haigney
Relationship: Paternal grandparents
Background: This was to be my grandfather Raymond’s last census appearance. Raymond (born 1891) died of a heart attack seven months later at age 49, on 26 November 1940. This sad fact carries a genealogical benefit – the address on Raymond’s death certificate would almost certainly be where he lived when the census was taken. Raymond and Margaret both died before my parents met, and my father never talked much to us about his childhood. So anything in this census is potentially interesting.
• What did my father’s family look like in this last snapshot with both parents alive?
• What was my father’s first name going to be in this census? (I know; it’s a long story.)
Results: Here are Raymond and Margaret, right where I supposed they’d be. Listed with them are eight of their ten surviving children, including my father. (Two of his older brothers were married and living in their own households by this time. Oh, and there is one person in that list who is still with us, which is why you can’t read that name.)
Names: Great news! My father has regained his baptismal name, Peter. In 1930, he was listed as Jerome, which happens to be his middle name, apparently because his mother had a serious issue with his first name. I told the story here. I am glad Dad got his first name back. I wonder what discussions were involved.
Money: Raymond worked as a health inspector for the city of New York, not bad for a guy who never was able to attend high school (see below). His salary was $2,100 a year. Still, adjusted for inflation (using this nifty tool here), that would be $32,609.42 – not a ton of salary to raise eight kids on. I’m sure the money his two oldest daughters brought home came in handy.
Education: Raymond had completed school through the seventh grade; his wife the sixth. Their oldest daughter, Catherine, completed eight grades and was working as a packer at “Beech-Nut”, probably the Beech-Nut factory at 148 39th Street in Brooklyn. Maybe she’d answered a Brooklyn Eagle ad like this one from January 1945:
The next sister, Dorothy, had graduated high school and was a clerk at a wholesale grocery. Most of the other kids, including my dad, were still in school. Dad’s older brother Joseph had completed two years of college (I think he was the first college student in the family), and was working as a “gov’t.” messenger. I’m assuming that Dad was in his junior year of high school, since the census said he had already completed two years.
After Dad’s father died, the family considered the obvious choice of having Dad leave high school and go to work like his older sisters. (As you can see from this census, there were a lot of younger kids still at home.) My mother said one of Dad’s teachers persuaded my grandmother to let Dad finish high school. But it must have been hard.
Takeaway: As I’ve said, I don’t have a lot to go on with my dad’s family. Dad himself died of a heart attack at age 59, before I really got serious about genealogy, so what he himself would have had to say about this period in his life, I can only guess.
I first heard the story of his almost dropping out of school from my mom, and my reaction was resentful: How could they? He was smart, he was hardworking. How unfair! If it hadn’t been for Dad’s teacher, a shortsighted decision might have put his life on a very different path.
But looking at the names and numbers from 1940, and knowing the event that’s about to hit them all in a few months, puts this story in a different perspective. Life can really deal out some tough choices sometimes. I don’t envy my grandmother the situation she faced.
Next time: The maternal grandparents!
Last time the links were about the hows of searching 1940. This time, they’re about some examples of the gold (and a bit of tin) at the end of that census rainbow.
• Kimberly Powell found her grandpa in big-city Pittsburgh.
• As the Gothamist reports, the New York Public Library is painstakingly covering the Famous New York People Angle, for example, J.D. Salinger.
• Plus, Stanley Kubrick.
• In all the 1940 excitement, it’s good to remember basic common sense. And Judy Russell at the Legal Genealogist reminds us, via an example in her own family, that the census can get things wrong, and should not be considered the final word.
• This brings us, neatly enough, to a great post from sci-fi blogger Mike at File 770, who investigated what little Robert Heinlein and his family in L.A. were up to in 1940. And they may have been having a blast making up stories to tell census takers. Don’t miss the lively discussion in the comments section. Those wacky Heinleins!
Am I done with 1940 yet? Heck no. (Is anyone?)
Forthcoming: a series of posts in which I explore a few early case studies from my own family — what I thought I’d find, what was actually there, and what I learned from it.