Our family in the 1940 census

The 1940 census was released on Monday, and I’ve been able to locate some of our family, including both Mom and Dad. Finding people in this census is a bit of a challenge, because it hasn’t been indexed yet. The only practical method for locating individuals is to know where they lived in 1940. You can then use maps the census bureau prepared showing the “enumeration districts” that were used to conduct the count. Then you can go to the National Archives web site and view the individual census form images for that area. That usually means your hunt is narrowed down to a few dozen pages to scan through.
1940 United States Federal Census-MomI knew Mom and her family lived at 480 Sunderland Road in Worcester, so they were pretty easy to find- the Dunns are the next to the last household on the page. There aren’t any major surprises, but it’s pretty fascinating to see that Mom is 18, Uncle Bud 13, that the house is worth $5,000, and that Grandfather Dunn worked 48 hours the previous week. It doesn’t tell us how much he earned, because only wage income was listed, and Grandfather, who at the time owned a roofing business, was listed as an “employer”.

There is one item that caught my eye- both Grandfather and Nana are listed as being 43 years of age. I knew that Nana was actually older than Grandfather, so I double checked, and verified that in the 1900 census, Nana was reported as being 11, having been born in April 1889. So she would actually have been 50, and about to turn 51 at the time of the 1940 census. And who supplied this misinformation to the census taker? Based on the circled “x” next to her name, it was none other than Nana herself!

Dad’s family was slightly more difficult to track down- the Sheehans moved several times over the years. In the 1939 Worcester City Directory, the family was living on Fairview Road in Greendale, but they didn’t show up there in the census, so I tried the address Grandfather gave in 1942 when he was required to register for the “Old Man’s Draft”- 913 Main St. And that’s where they were. I almost missed them because I saw another family listed as resident there- but the Sheehans show up on the next page, at the same address. The house is a three decker, and it’s actually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The list of family members contains some surprises, at least for me. Grandfather and grandmother are there, of course, aged 58 and 61. Aunt May is 31, and lists her occupation as “marker” in a mill. “Catherine” (Aunt Kathleen I assume) is listed as a gas station attendant, but that’s got to be an error, and must refer to Dad. Aunt Helen is also there, aged 17.

Now for the surprises- our Uncle William, the father of our cousin Rusty is there. Rusty would have been 12 at the time, but neither she nor her two siblings, Mary and Thomas, nor their mother Helen is there. William is listed as single- not married, widowed or divorced.

There are also two young children in the house- Francis, aged 6, is listed as “son”, which must be an error, given grandfather and grandmother’s ages. The Worcester City Clerk’s web site does show a Francis Edward Sheehan born on Jun 25, 1934, who would be the right age. Unfortunately the web site doesn’t provide any more details. The other child is named Ann, listed as “grand-daughter”, aged 4- and the City Clerk’s records record an Ann Rita Sheehan born in Worcester on May 28, 1936.

I haven’t been able to find any further trace of Ann, but Francis seems to be alive and well (sort of) in Florida- someone with that name and date of birth was arrested for driving with a suspended license in April of last year, according to information I found in a Google search. (As I’m writing this, copies of Francis and Ann’s birth certificates arrived in the mail, confirming that they were the children of Uncle William and Aunt Helen- the Worcester City Clerk’s office is FAST!)

When I mentioned the names to Mom, she immediately said “well those were Bill’s kids”. She said that Bill also had another child, “Jackie”. Sure enough, there is a John M. Sheehan, born on Jan 11, 1932, who might well be “Jackie”. If John M. is Bill’s son Jackie, he apparently passed away on 14 Nov 1995, according to the Social Security Death Index.

When I asked Mom where Rusty, her mother and her siblings would have been in 1940, she said they might have been living with Thomas Sheehan’s family. Thomas owned the gas station on Grafton Street where Dad worked (and where he met Mom). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate Tom and his family in the 1940 data. That may have to wait until the data is indexed.

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