Saturday, April 7, 2012

Error in 1940 Census ~ No Charles Pyle

I was so excited to find my 15-year-old dad with his remarried mother and step-father in the 1940 U.S. Census. I knew exactly where they were living, too: at 22 Reservoir Road, Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and I had found the enumeration district of 9-454.

Imagine my disappointment when I found the record and it contained numerous errors.

1940 U.S. Census, Newton, Middlesex, Massachusetts, Roll T627_1616, E.D. 9-454
page 2B, lines 69-75, household of Edgar C. Rust

Detail from above census image of Rust family: left-hand columns

Edgar C. Rust was my step-grandfather. His home at 22 Reservoir Avenue was the 29th visited by the census enumerator. He owned the home and it was valued at $51,000. (It was not a farm.)

The 1940 US Census is the first census that indicated with a circled X who answered the enumerator's questions. Note that no one in this household has a circled X next to his or her name, so I don't know who provided the enumerator with the family's information, but they got a lot of it wrong!

Edgar is listed as 53 years old (he was 57). My grandmother, Elizabeth Rust is listed as 48 years old (she was 42). Paul should be Kenneth, and he is listed as 24 years old (he was 21). The next name is Rust, Charles, son, age 21. This should be Pyle, Charles, step-son, age 15. I know my dad was closer to his step-father than to his own father, but I also know that he kept the Pyle surname.

The next columns indicate Male/Female; White; Married (M), Single (S), or Widowed (Wd); and "No" or "Yes" for whether the person attended school during the past month.

Another interesting feature of this census is the reporting of the highest grade of school completed. C-4 indicates four years of college. This is correct for Edgar (Harvard, class of 1904), but not for Elizabeth, who completed four years of high school. (She attended Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut, from 1913-1916.) I'm not sure about my step-uncle's college, reported here as C-4, but in April 1940, Charles should have H-9, indicating that he had completed 9th grade. (He was in 10th grade at Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts at this time, but enumerators were instructed to not count students living at a boarding school as that was not considered their primary residence - I checked.)

I don't have a close-up of the birth location columns, which indicate all four family members were born in Massachusetts. Again, in error: Elizabeth was born in Illinois and Charles was born in New York.

They also had three maids living with them, Mary, Sarah, and Margaret, who were coded as Males.

Detail from above census image of Rust family: right-hand columns

Additional interesting features of this census include:
Where the person was living five years previously: for all but the last maid, they lived in this same house.
Additional information about employment: Edgar Rust worked 57 hours in the week prior to the census, as a Broker in Investments. He worked 52 weeks during 1939. He did not consider his income as "wages or salary" (which is why there is a 0 in the second-to-last column) but received income of more than $50 from sources other than money wages or salary. "OA" means that he worked "on own account." "PW" means "wage or salary worker in private work."

Elizabeth, "Paul" and Charles are coded as "H" meaning "engaged in home housework." Actually "Paul" and Charlie should have had "S" for Student instead of "H."

I wasn't expecting any major revelations in this census record, but I certainly wasn't expecting as many errors as I found.

Elizabeth and her first husband divorced in 1933 and she married Edgar C. Rust soon after. I'm not sure where I'll find her first husband, my grandfather Charles M. Pyle, in the 1940 Census; this may have to wait until there is an every-name index.

Update: I found Edgar C. and Elizabeth Rust in California and found my grandfather, Charles Pyle, in Maryland.


  1. That is interesting to find them and 'not' find them in the 1940 US Census. Perhaps this is more evidence that one piece of information may not have the complete and accurate piece of information. However, taking all the information together shows the whole picture.

    I haven't tried looking into the 1940 US Census. I'm waiting for the every-name index. I am focusing on people in the 1850s more than 1940. However, I love reading about the finds people are making.

  2. Devon - thanks for reading and commenting. Your description of finding the family, yet "not" finding the family is a good one, and of course, a great example of gathering information from many sources to complete the family picture.