As most of us genealogy obsessives pour over the 1940 census this past week, I am reminded yet again what a fickle piece of documentation that the census can be for any researcher. First of all, only heads of the households were written down prior to 1850 until finally that year, the names of everyone in the household was recorded. Don't get me started on the loss of the 1890 census...could there be a more tragic occurrence for genealogists than the loss of that census. Then the 1900 was cool because it listed the month and year of birth for each household member, but that must have been too much trouble to do again because it didn't show up again. So...here I finally have the 1940 census - in a perfect world, I would find my close family exactly where I think they should be....right???
When I first got access to the census, the newest census that had been released was the 1920 census. With my new account with Ancestry.com, I innocently thought that I would be able to find my ancestors easily. My mother’s parent’s families were relatively easy to find. The Friddle family were still on the home place up on Grouse Flats, Wallowa Co., OR. The expected members were there:
1920 Census – Grouse Precinct, Wallowa Co., OR, Pg. 3B #37
Mom’s Father’s family – the Tannahills were in Caney, Osage Co., OK…and while the names might not have spelled correctly…they were there.
1920 Census – Dist. 81, Caney, Osage Co., OK, Pg. 7B
So, my next step was to look for my father’s family. His father lived in Dunn Co., ND – surely that would be easy to find. Small town and county…but despite looking at each page, there was no U. G. Johnson, Shirlie Johnson or Frank Johnson to be found. My Dad guessed that they were living down on the Missouri breaks and were just not counted. So, I had my grandmother left….I found Monona Co., IA and there at the top of 6B on Cooper Township was Ora Gage and wife Florence and son, Orlando…but no Helen Marian Gage. Surely she should be recorded but no…the census was taken in January and not June…so therefore she wasn’t there.
So, now I start looking through the 1940 census. As before, I had no problem finding the Friddle family in Lewiston and my mother’s parents were at the top of the page. I easily found my grandmother Marian this time with her new husband, Frank and father-in-law in Dunn Co., ND. Now…I would look at the area that I was most familiar with – the Hatter Creek precinct in Latah Co., ID. This would be the only census where I would find my great grandparents and their children in Hatter Creek. So, I started going page by page through Princeton, ID and through the Gold Hill area. Then, I came across the Bear Creek area and finally Hatter Creek. As I looked for familiar names…I found Oscar Schweder and his wife, Alice. Now, I knew that they lived just below my great grandparent’s original homestead…but the Gage name was nowhere to be found. However, my great uncle’s family was recorded there so I thought that I would look for my other great uncle….and his family wasn’t counted either. I had two great aunts marry into two neighbor’s family on Hatter Creek…and only one of the four families could be found. Then I wondered if they were there…perhaps they were somewhere else when the census was taken. So, I asked the people who would know…the ones who should have shown up in that census. I was assured that they were there…my great aunt told me that she graduated the very next year from high school from Potlatch…and they were living at that location for several more years.
So, I am reminded yet again that census takers weren’t even close to being perfect. After all, they had missed my family…I can find so many other people in so many other census’ – why not my family. Just unlucky, I guess J