Saturday, April 7, 2012

Phantom Family in the 1940 Census

I have my first 1940 census image for my family but I didn't find it! I've not been doing any searching for my family in the 1940 census yet. I have a few families in rural areas that should be easy to locate. However, the ones I'm really interested are in urban areas, I think, and I'm not up to scrolling through pages and pages to find them just now.

Thanks to an eagle-eyed cousin (who found me through this blog) I have the census image for my Dad with his mother, two brothers and two cousins...according to the census. They were enumerated in Union Township in VanBuren County Arkansas. What's so interesting about this census image? It may be best for me to start a list!

  1. Violas last name....wrong! Should be Vanderman, not because that was her actual last name because it's not. Her last name should be Baudermann (maiden name Smith). When Viola left her first husband she started using the last name of Vanderman. I will cut Viola some slack on this one and say the enumerator just spelled it wrong.
  2. Violas marital status...wrong! She was not a widow, her legal husband outlived her by two years. Viola never bothered to get a divorce.
  3. Violas place of birth...wrong! Viola was born in Illinois according to every previous census and her death certificate.
  4. Howard's place of birth...wrong! I have Howard's New Jersey birth certificate.
  5. Carol's place of birth...wrong! (are you sensing a pattern here?) I have Carol's New Jersey birth certificate.
  6. Weetie and Beetie are Wyoudia and Beatrice. I will go with what is listed as nick names, I knew Wyoudia as Weedie. But they were not Viola's nieces nor were they born in Missouri. Viola later called them her step-daughters even though she never married their father. Speaking of which, where is their father George Emery?
  7. Weetie and Beetie last names...wrong! Their last name was Emery.
This isn't the first document that I have found in which Viola was "creative" with the facts. I'm not at all surprised that she gave misleading information. Oh, I forgot to mention...her first name isn't even Viola!!! It's Una...add it to the list!

So, what is right about this census data? Viola did live in Nebraska from 1900 to 1910, giving her some connection to Nebraska. Viola did have sons named Howard and Carol and step-daughters Weedie and Beatrice. The ages of those listed all agree with other documents I have. Carol, enlisted in the Army in 1942 and gave VanBuren Arkansas as his residence. I also remember him talking about being in the CCC camp in Arkansas. I have photos of this family with VanBuren Arkansas listed as the location on the back.

Is this my father and his family? I believe it is, what are the odds of finding another family with that combination of names with the same birth dates in a location they should be in? (go easy on me proof police).

What I keep thinking about the most is what if I was just starting out my research on my Dad's family and this is the first document I had? I would be chasing a phantom family for sure! What a mess that would be. And, by the way...Una/Viola is the daughter of my Mary/Martha Smith person...why am I not surprised??? :)


  1. Some bloggers have mentioned how the science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein faked up his census information. One way of sticking it to The Man, I guess, if one is so inclined. I have too much of a sense of history (and genealogy) to do that! You have a real adventure, and I think it would be fascinating for you to see if you could find out why Una faked everything so. Was she afraid of the man she was married to? Had she run, and was she afraid he would find her? Intriguing!

  2. Karen, that's the story my Dad was told, that his father was such a mean person they had to flee and hide from him. However, the family back in NJ tells a different story of how he came home from work to find his family gone. He was supposedly heartbroken and searched and searched for them. He did finally find his 3 sons through the Red Cross during WWII and they met. But after that one meeting they lost contact with him again. I guess I'll never know the true story, everyone involved is gone now. Kinda sad.

  3. Interesting. I have a family that I have done minimal research on and in each census the relations ship changes to the one gentleman I am interested in. He was my great grandmothers 2nd husband (supposedly, no marriage record found, yet). In 1910 and 1920 he was listed as nephew to the head of house. Making his cousins to the two boys. In 1930, he is the head of house and is the boys are listed as his brothers.

    Then I met someone who told me that a family secret said that he was their father. He was 25 yrs older than the oldest boy. It is a crazy story and I have not wrote about it because of descendants of the family. Do not want to make anyone angry, especially since i only met them once.

    Good luck with your search.

  4. That is so frustrating, and also sad. Do you have any more eagle-eyed cousins? Any descendants of friends or neighbors or other family who could give you clues? Sounds like one person, Viola, was spreading a lot of lies. Would she have descendants you could talk to? I'm also dealing with lies, structurally--mixed-race relatives, illegitimate, who keep turning up in other families but with out family's surnames. That's the problem with the census -- the census takers misspell and misunderstand, on the one hand, and people lie to the census, on the other. So sorry you are blocked.

  5. So interesting Jenna! And here I thought my grandparents were being so devious by indicating on the census that everyone had lived in "the same house" in 1935 when in fact this was my grandfather's second wife and he was very much married to wife #1 in 1935!! But your story really takes the cake ~

  6. I never met Viola, my grandmother, she died 6 years before I was born. I've asked my older siblings about her, but they can't really give me a feel for what kind of person they think she was. I try to keep an open mind about her, but when I see all the "creative" information she provided it's very hard!