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Where Were They in 1940?

September 3rd, 2012

Every ten years the US Census Bureau makes public the census from 72 years prior and back in April they made public the complete images of 1940 US Census. At that time there was not a name index for the records thus making it very difficult to find anyone in the census unless you knew the exact street address where they lived in 1940. I had a fairly good idea of where my parents and their parents and grandparents were living in 1940, but I had an exact street address for only one those households and even then that proved to be a challenge. I know that my mother’s grandparents owned a home in Louisville, Kentucky at 1528 South Third Street and I know this because their house still stands in what is the Preservation District in Louisville. Yet what I did not realize is that it 1940 there were actually two different houses in different parts of the city that were listed as 1528 S. Third Street and this really complicated my search.

As it turns out the city of Louisville had started a program of re-numbering the streets back in the mid-1920s but fifteen years later due to budget constraints the process was not yet completed. Even though I had a street address, not having a name index to the census records, it took me a number of hours examining numerous records before I found my great-grandparents. I did this search at the US Census 1940 web site:

In 1940, my great-grandfather, Erhard Joseph (Jo-jo) Kollros, a CPA by profession, was working as a statistician for the WPA (Work Progress Administration). He was 60 years old and had an annual income of $858. He and his wife, my great-grandmother, Catherine (Beenie) Kollros, lived with her brother, Arthur J Bannon. Uncle Artie’s age was listed as 58 and he was a Plasterer-Building Contractor with an annual income of $1,380. My great-grandmother was notorious for lying about her’s and her husband’s age. In 1940, Catherine was actually 64 and her husband was the same age as her younger brother.

Today I discovered that there is now a name index for US Census 1940 and it can be found at https://familysearch.org/1940census/. Having a name index makes a big difference and in matter of minutes I was able to locate the rest of my parent’s family in the census records.

In 1940, my dad’s family lived at 218 West 10th Street, Hastings, Adams, Nebraska. My grandfather was a medical doctor and in 1940 he was earning $5,000 a year. He was 45 years old in 1940. His wife, Geraldine was 46. Daughter, Geraldine De Backer was 21. Leo was 18. Dick was 14. Martha was 13. My father, David was 11. Bobbie was 9 and Judy was one year old.

My maternal grandparents were divorced in the mid-1930’s. In 1937 my grandmother remarried and in 1940 she and her second husband were living near the Cumberland River outside of Nashville, Tennessee. They lived at 1429 McAlpine Ave in what is the Inglewood area of Davidson county Tennessee. My mom’s step-dad, John R. Coarsey was a 41 year old real estate salesman making $2,000 a year. My grandmother, Dorothy was 32 years old in 1940. My mom was 11. Her sister, Joie was 9 and her half-brother, John Robert (Bob), Jr. was two years old. Unlike the previous censuses, the 1940 census asks where the respondents lived five years earlier. So we know from the records that my mother and her family were living in Tampa, Florida in 1935.

My maternal grandfather, James M. Dobbs, Jr. lived in his home state of Texas in 1940. He also had remarried and he, his wife, Helen (Mewhinney) Dobbs, and his mother, Helen (Spiegel) Dobbs were living at 1605 Ashland Ave, Fort Worth, Tarrant, Texas. Jimmy Dobbs, age 37, worked as an auditor for the US Soil Conservation Corps and had an annual income of $1,800. Helen, age 41, who previously also worked for the US government, was now un-employed. My great-grandmother, Helen (Nellie) (Spiegel) Dobbs was 67 years old. From the record I learned that my grandfather and his wife had lived in San Antonio in 1935 and my great-grandmother was living outside of Atlanta in College Park, Folsom county, Georgia in that same year.

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  1. Jerry DeBacker
    September 12th, 2016 at 19:29 | #1

    Hi David- Your persistence is remarkable! A note: my dad, Dick, would have been 16 in 1940 as he was born 9/9/1924. An address I have in a couple of Grandfather’s books is 370 10th Street in Hastings- have you found several Hastings addresses? Great job-regards. Jd