Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Margaret, Ann and Caroline in the 1940 US Census

Yesterday, April 2, 2012, the 1940 US Census was released with all images made public at the National Archives 1940 Census site. However, there were millions of genealogists trying to access the site and very few were able to retrieve any census images. (NARA reported 22.5 million "hits" in the first few hours!)

Ancestry.com, which purchased the census images from NARA, received them at 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning and started uploading the images state by state. In addition to some U.S. territories, there were a few states fully uploaded on Monday. One that was "in process" was Pennsylvania. It was not until this morning that the Enumeration Districts for Pittsburgh were available. I'm finding the interface at Ancestry easier and faster to access than the interface at NARA.

I knew that my 5-year-old mother would be living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 836 North Highland Avenue. There is no index yet, so in order to search, I had to know the Enumeration District of 69-260, which I had discovered last August. I had to look through almost all of the 32 images for this E.D. until I got to image 29, where I found them!

1940 U.S. Census, Ward 11, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Roll T627_3659, E.D. 69-260,
page 15A, lines 35-40, household of Lowell Copeland.
There's my grandfather, Lowell Copeland on line 35. He owned his home at 836 North Highland Avenue and it was valued at $10,000. Grandmother is on the next line. The mark next to her name is a circled x, which indicates that she was the one who answered the census enumerator's questions. Below that we see Margaret, Ann, and Caroline! It wasn't for several years that Margaret's name was legally changed to Margot, although she was called Margot almost immediately after she was born. The family also had a 19-year-old servant living with them, Helen Bunsen, who likely helped with the three young girls. (And as we know, they were a handful.)

[January 4, 2014, update: My mother re-read this post and noted that it was in 1954 that her parents had to go to court (she was a minor at the time, but was getting her first passport) to tell a judge that they had always called her Margot so could the name legally be changed for the passport application.]

Some interesting features of this census include:
Highest grade of school completed: Grandfather had (C4) four years of college and Grandmother had (H4) four years of High School.
Where the person was living five years previously: For Grandfather, Grandmother, and Margaret, it was "same house." (Needless to say, this field was left blank for children under the age of 5.)
Additional information about employment: Grandfather was employed as a Salesman in the Advertising industry. In this census, we find that in the previous week, he worked 48 hours. He was a "Wage/Salary Worker in Private Work" (PW in column 30) and made $3,000 working 52 weeks in 1939. The far right column indicates, no, he did not earn more than $50 in income other than wages or salaries.

Not a whole lot of new information, but this does give a bit of insight into my mother's family when she was a young child, just before they moved to a suburb just north of the city of Pittsburgh.


  1. I haven't dived into the 1940 census yet--but am looking forward to doing it as soon as I find a little time. I wonder how much difficulty I'll have figuring out enumeration districts in rural Pennsylvania.

  2. Sheryl, the website to start looking for an enumeration district is the 1940 E.D. Quiz at Steve Morse's One-Step website at http://stevemorse.org/census/quiz.php. Good luck!

  3. Thanks for sharing your find. I so focused on the people who wouldn't be in the 1940 US Census that I'm not as giddy about it being released as others. However, it is fun to see how exciting the release of one set of records has been for some people. Glad you were able to find your family.

  4. Glad you found your family! Wow, you were prepared for this search :) Happy holiday, Marian

  5. Devon and Marian - thanks for reading and commenting. Since this was the first census that my mother was in, I was interested in finding her, not that I found much that was new, but just for the fun of it.