Can you hypothesize a family was skipped in the 1940s census? Of course you can, but you shouldn’t. You should wait to see if the indexing projects find the family or family member somewhere else, especially if the person you are researching is single. Entire families may not be in their house when the enumerator showed up for a multitude of reasons:
- They may have moved or been in the process of moving.
- They may have been mistakenly enumerated in the wrong district.
- They may be at the end of the correct enumeration district, out of order.
- They may be at the end of the wrong enumeration district, out of order.
- Their surname may have been butchered out of recognition in the right or wrong enumeration district.
- They may not have moved, but still not been in the area during the census.
- They may have been skipped.
Some Explanations for Missing Families or Family Members in the 1940 Census
There are plenty of reasons a family might not be in their own house for a couple of weeks:
- The wife was about to give birth so they stayed with her mother for a month.
- There was a flood or fire and so they temporarily stayed in a motel.
- They were renovating the plumbing, the wiring or the floors, and so they lived with a relative, friend or neighbor.
- A great uncle or distant relative left them a property in another state, at the shore, or the mountains and they packed up and went to check it out.
- They went to the Grand Canyon for the longest vacation ever.
- They won a trip or the local raffle and went to New York City, Washington, D. C. or Niagara Falls.
- Things finally fell together and they took off for a belated honeymoon trip.
- Things fell apart and they decided to go to Greece, Egypt, Israel or Italy to see the beginnings of civilization because they always wanted to go before one of them passed away.
- Someone was diagnosed with tuberculosis and the whole family went West for the healthy air.
- They were planning a divorce and went to Nevada to establish residency.
- An elderly family member, friend or neighbor fell, broke a hip, in-home nursing was necessary and your ancestor(s) stepped in to fill the breach.
A single member of any family may be missing from the household enumeration list for very different reasons involving pure mistakes, lifestyle choices of independence, work, school and recreation.
The family member:
- Reciting the members of the family to the enumerator may have slipped up and missed one, especially in large families or if he or she were interrupted while listing the household members.
- Or the enumerator may not have understood the directions about who was to be counted in the home and marked as absent and who was supposed to be counted elsewhere.
- Jumped up, married and started another household.
- Moved out.
- Was in a state school for deaf, blind or dumb, foster care, orphanage, boarding school, college university, monastry, or convent.
- Was an apprentice, journeyman, long haul trucker, missionary, migrant worker, embassy worker in another country, in the military, mining camps, merchant marines, a horse trainer or jockey on the circuit, carney worker, traveling big bands, symphony or ballet company member, circus, vaudeville and theatre troupes, river boat worker, cruise ship worker, live in household help (nurse, maid, nanny, housekeeper, cook, butler, gardener, caretaker and security), Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), logger, plane jockey, oil field worker, runaway, hobo, orlady of the night.
- Left for Hollywood to become a star or took a job as a Harvey Girl.
- Had gone on vacation, maybe a Grand Tour, Study abroad, a Gap year.
- Left the country for the city and stayed in the local YWCA, YMCA or Barbizon style hotel.
- Had been in County Jail, State or Federal Prison, a Florence Crittendon House, insane asylum, retirement home, hospital, or nursing home.
- Read each possible and probable enumeration district, page by page and those neighboring enumeration districts page by page.
- Check each parent and sibling of both the husband and wife to see if for some reason they were not living in their own house.
- Wait for one or the other of the indexing projects and try them out.
Don’t jump to conclusions, keep researching even after a couple indexes are finished. If they don’t show up in the 1940 indexes, you need to search by family even if you search only the first names with wildcards. Don’t hesitate to search for a 14 year old Michael son of Jane in a specific county. Expand your use of the wildcards.