Gathering information from the 1940 census

Earlier this year, the US Census Bureau released the 1940 census for researchers. A couple of months ago, completed its indexing project on this census. That means that anyone who was alive 72 years ago should be accounted for on this census. Many can find their parents and grandparents with this census release.

My first searches in 1940 census were for my grandparents and great-grandparents. By this time only four of my great-grandparents were known to be alive. (I have a great-grandfather who abandoned the family so his fate and whereabouts in 1940 are unknown).

My paternal grandfather’s father was William Lewis Kemper. He was living in Hanover Township, Shelby County, Indiana. Two other people were in the same household: his daughter Pauline, and her husband, Albert McConnell.

What did I learn about William in this census? He was living in a house valued at $1500, on a farm that he owned. He was 67 years old, white, and male. He was a widower. He had completed school through the fourth year of high school. He had been born in Indiana and had been living in the same house since before Jan 1 1935. He had been gainfully employed the last week of March 1940. He typiclaly worked 72 hours a week as a farmer doing farming on his own account. He worked a full year in 1939. He gained his income from non-wage sources. His farm was #86 on the schedule.

Now, that is a great deal of information that shows something about him and the environment around him.

I have been doing research on William for quite a while now. I knew quite a bit about him before this. What did the 1940 census tell me that I did not already know?

William’s farm had a value of $1500. Looking at his neighborhood, William’s home appears to be worth less than many of his neighbors. That can mean it was on the small size or in need of repair.

William remained a widower in 1940. He had lost his wife, Cora Belle (Cregor) Kemper, in 1915. No marriage records found so far indicate he remarried. This census confirmed his continuing state on non-marriage.

William lived on a working farm. Many of his neighbors were professionals living in non-farming homes.

William went through four years of high school. This is something I did not know. His neighbors had a range of education through high school with some college also. It shows a diverse, but educated, population.

This census record helped to confirm much of what I already knew. But, it added a few nuggets that helped give a wider picture of who William was.


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