Thursday, July 26, 2012

Analyzing My Grandparents 1940 Census Record

My maternal grandparents were the first people I looked for in the 1940 census because I knew I could find them in Harlan County, Kentucky pretty quickly without an index. I didn't expect to find any surprises but I didn't expect to find anything wrong either. News flash - records aren't always accurate, especially census records.

The record says my grandfather was a brakeman for the railroad. That's true. He worked for L & N from 1918 until 1960 with a couple of breaks for service in the U. S. Army. I remember the day he retired. He was a conductor on a line hauling coal out of the mountains in Harlan County by that time. Don't tell the L & N but his grandchildren rode in the caboose with him on part of his last run. (Yes, at eight years old, I jumped a freight train. On and off - we couldn't ride into the station.)

The record says my grandmother was a postmaster. That's true. She was the Postmaster at the Loyall Post Office in Harlan County from 1937 to 1941.

The record says my grandfather made $1,500 in 1939. Wouldn't you know - my grandmother's salary is blank. That could have been an interesting comparison.

The record says my grandfather completed the 5th grade and my grandmother one year of high school. I can't argue with the 5th grade for Papaw. From things he told, that's probably fairly accurate but Mamaw graduated from Mt. Vernon High School in 1917. Not only did she graduate, she was the youngest person (at 16 years old) in her graduating class because she had skipped a grade or two along the way. Because she was just 16, she had to wait a year to take the exam to become a school teacher so she worked at the Post Office in Mt. Vernon for several months in the meantime.

The record says nine-year-old June Taylor (relationship - sister) lived with them. Huh? Who? My grandmother's maiden name was Taylor and I expected to see to see her older sister, Gracie Taylor, living with them in 1940. Gracie moved in during the time Mamaw worked at the Post Office to help keep house and take care of the girls. But she wasn't nine years old in 1940, she was 53. And no one in the family was named June. This surely was supposed to be Gracie although she was also enumerated in Rockcastle County in her father's household where she normally lived. If I didn't know that this June Taylor did not exist, I could waste lots of time looking for her.

Oh, BTW, that redacted information was the names and ages of my mother and her sisters. I'm not stupid - they know where to find me.

1 comment:

  1. You are fortunate to have your Mother and her sisters as first hand witnesses, so that you can more easily dismiss the "June Taylor" entry (btw indexed as "June Jaylor" on I've had similar census issues without any first hand witness, some of which resolve themselves when other documentation is found, and some that remain mysteries.

    I've always wondered if the documents we see were filled out during the census taker's visit, or was it compiled later based on other notes.