Getting My Geek On, pt. 1: The Elliotts in the 1940 Census

Three weeks ago today, like most other genealogists and lots of other random people, I set out to get my geek on and make a website go haywire.

Ok, well, not really. We meant to get our geek on, but we didn’t mean to make the 1940 census website go haywire or slow down like molasses or even crash. We kinda did, though. All 22 million of us in the first four hours. Though I regret that our excitement caused them such difficulties, deep in my genealogy heart, I beamed and applauded how geeky we all were. Myself, included. While things were being fixed at the 1940 census site, I spent some time on looking at their images. (And as a side-note, I have to say, I really like their new census beta reader.) As the states were uploaded, I began wandering through them, hoping that one of my ancestors would win the census lottery and be one of the 5% of the population asked those supplemental questions. In some ways, I won and in others I lost. But one thing at a time.

Today I want to introduce my easiest success in the 1940 census: finding my paternal grandfather’s family. I knew exactly where this family was going to be pretty much because they had lived and continued to live in the same small town – Stamford, Texas – for almost a century. Using the Steve Morse Unified 1940 tool (thanks Steve Morse!), I found my 1940 ED using the 1930 ED from this family. And though they had moved houses, the town was small enough that it didn’t hurt my search in the least. Really, the easiest of my four grandparent-al (is that a word?) families. I give you, the Marvin Elliott family:

Though an example of one of the handwriting-challenged enumerators, this gives me exactly what I expected: Marvin, 53, is the head, with his wife Fredie (Freddie), 48. They had three sons, all at home at the time: Dewane (gpa!), 19, Julian, 16, and Tom, 10. The family business then and for many decades to come was a dry cleaning and tailoring business, and that is also written as expected. Marvin and Freddie spent 48 hours a week, 52 weeks a year working that business and it provided them with an income of $1800/yr. It also says they received additional money, though, and I’m wondering what that meant…

At the bottom, a lodger is listed: Maurice Salmon, single and 30. This is a great example of why you should never discount lodgers as non-family – Maurice was Freddie’s younger brother (providing, of course, her maiden name, too!). In fact, he was 18 years younger, and she practically raised him when their mother died young. He was living with his sister and brother-in-law in 1930, but also still in 1940. In 1930, he was listed as a brother-in-law, but in 1940 as simply a lodger. Don’t assume they aren’t family without double-checking! But I do have to shake my head at him – he has no profession listed at all. Come on, Maurice! Great Depression aside, go help out in the shop or something! (He did later start his own dry-cleaning business in Tarrant County, but it was much later. I guess we have a ‘failure to launch’ situation here.)

I didn’t learn anything shocking from this census; in fact, I learned exactly what I expected to. Still, it’s nice to have corroborating evidence. A few things were new, such as how much schooling they had each had. And it’s interesting to think that in just 2-3 years, Dewane would be getting married and joining the army in WWII, and Julian would soon follow in the navy. It’s the last census where they are all together in the same household.

I’m giving my very first shot at doing a source citation in a blog post, thanks Michael Hait for the assistance.


Source Citation:  1940 U.S. census, Jones County, Texas, population schedule, Stamford, enumeration district (ED) 127-5, sheet no. 25-A (penned), dwelling 571, Marvin Elliott household; digital image, ( accessed 23 April 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T627.

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