With the release of the 1940 census earlier this week, I eagerly attacked several branches of my family tree. I quickly found all four of my grandparents, just a few years before they each got married; I’m sure those finds will be explored in future blog entries, but with this post, I’d like to focus on my wife’s family.
Much like my family has ties to Chicago, my wife’s family has equally deep roots in Detroit. According to the 1940 Detroit city directory, Edwin & Evelyn Barnowske lived at 3620 Mack Avenue, just south of Gratiot Avenue on the city’s east side. Using Steve Morse’s excellent One-Step guide, I was able to quickly determine that that Detroit address could be found in ED 84-687 in the 1940 Census for Michigan. As luck would have it, the first page of that enumeration district lists Edwin Barnowske and family, including my future father-in-law. Here is a cropped census image highlighting the family:
An added bonus to this census entry is the fact that Edwin’s daughter, Geraldine, was one of the lucky supplementals found at the bottom of the page. Let’s take a closer look at that section:
Instead of properly listing the birthplace of Geraldine’s mother and father, the enumerator erroneously wrote down their names, including her mother’s maiden name (Gleiser). He must have realized the mistake, crossed out the names, and then wrote in the correct information: Michigan. Although it was information I already had, I’m happy for the mistake!
The mother’s maiden name is a clue I would not have expected to find. As a genealogy librarian, I’ve seen too many researchers dismiss the census as a source they’ve already looked at or as something that can’t shed any more light on their family. On the contrary, as this Barnowske example has shown. One never knows what will be revealed on the pages: maiden names, a mother or father-in-law living in the household, naturalization status, or some other important clue. In this example, the mother’s maiden name, although included in error, could have been a critical piece of information in my research, potentially leading me to dozens of other sources.
As my research continues with the 1940 Census, I look forward to reconnecting with familiar ancestors, discovering new ones, and perhaps stumbling across additional unexpected or surprising clues.