Last night Ancestry.com released its largest batch of indexes to the 1940 census yet. The addition of fifteen new states puts the Ancestry.com index at 55% complete. Indexes are now available for these twenty-six states:
Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Who will you find today? Here are some notable names that we found in the newly added states.
Wladziu Valentino Liberace is still using his first name in the 1940 census, though he’s Anglicized it to Walter. Later that year, he’ll head off to New York, but in April he was still living at home in Milwaukee with his family—including his mother, Francis. He made $300 the year before working as a musician. Bet that total has a few more digits on the 1950 census.
William Sylvester Harley and Arthur Davidson
It’s hog heaven for G.I.s when famed motorcycle company Harley-Davidson produces more than 60,000 motorcycles for the troops during WWII. (A third of those went to Russian soldiers—after they joined our side.)
According to the census, Orville Redenbacher and his wife, Corinne, have moved from Terra Haute, where they were living in 1935, to Patoka, Indiana. Orville developed his first hybrid popcorn strains in 4H, but it will be another 25 years before he and business partner Charles Bowman perfect the hybrid popcorn that will make him famous.
Country music legend Hank (Hiram) Williams was living with his mother, sister, and two lodgers in Montgomery, Alabama, in April 1940. Lillian, Hank’s mother, ran a boarding house to help support the family while Hank’s father was hospitalized for years in Louisiana.
Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1940, Martin Luther King Jr. is sharing the house with a brother, a sister, a grandmother, an aunt, and a lodger. He hasn’t started skipping grades yet in school, but he has already changed his name from Michael to Martin. His father, a pastor, made $2,500 the previous year.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard
“Ma” and “Pa” (as they called each other) Gable settled down on their ranch in Encino, California, after their 1939 wedding.
Dorothy Marie Hofert (David Letterman’s mom)
Dorothy is two years away from marrying Harry Joseph Letterman, seven from becoming mother to her famous son, David, and fifty-four from her first gig as correspondent at the 1994 Winter Olympics
Nelle Harper Lee
Did you ever wonder where Nelle Harper Lee got her ideas for To Kill a Mockingbird? The 1940 census lists her as the daughter of Francis [Finch] and Amasa Lee, who in 1940 was working as a lawyer in private practice. At 13, a precocious Nelle is already in high school.
Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron
Hammerin’ Hank is six years old in the 1940 census, and his little brother Tommie is seven months. Tommie and Hank share the record for most home runs by a pair of siblings in the Majors—though they didn’t exactly share and share alike: Hank had 755, Tommie 13.
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell Marsh
Margaret Mitchell Marsh lists her occupation as a writer doing “private work,” though she claims no salary or wages for the previous year. On her way to selling two million copies of Gone with the Wind, after the movie came out in 1939, she and husband John R. Marsh probably got on just fine on the $5,000+ wages he reported from his work as advertising manager for a power company.
Dorothy Lamour was lighting up screens with the recent release of The Road to Singapore with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. On the home front, she apparently had moved in with her mother and stepfather after her 1939 divorce. (Five lines down on the census page you’ll find her neighbor Boris Karloff.)
Was Bob trying to go incognito by using his real given name Leslie (misspelled as Lesley) Hope on the 1940 census?
Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby
And apparently “Bing” was good enough for the rest of the world, but nor for Uncle Sam, who recorded Harry L. Crosby and family at 10500 Camarillo Street.
Apparently the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. Nine-year-old Warren Buffet’s father lists his occupation as the proprietor of a bond investment business on the 1940 census.
Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, the last of seven children, is living with his mother and brothers and sisters in Omaha. Gibson would give up his spot with the legendary Harlem Globetrotters to play even more legendary baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Carsons moved from Iowa to Nebraska when Johnny was eight. About the time the census was taken, Johnny started working as an amateur magician—the Great Carsoni—but he records no income for 1939.
She’s a little too young, and not an orphan, but the 1940 census for Kansas does include a Dorothy Gale.
Salvatore “Sonny” Bono
Before his family made the move to sunny California, Salvatore “Sonny” Bono lived in Detroit, where his father working on the assembly line in an auto plant and his mother owned a beauty parlor.
Francis Ford Coppola
Census as prophet? Francis Ford Coppola’s biography says he was born in Detroit—which is where he is living in 1940. But the census says the one-year-old was born in New York—which is where he would grow up.
Hunter S. Thompson
Godfather of Gonzo journalism Hunter S. Thompson was living in Kentucky with his father, a veteran of the World War according to the supplemental details provided at the bottom of the page. There was no “1” at the end of World War yet. Too bad some things change.
Dennis Lee Hopper
Easy riding Dennis Hopper is living with his parents in the home of his maternal grandparents, William L. and Nellie Davis, where they were apparently living in 1935 as well. Grandpa is a farmer, while Dennis’s father manages a grocery store.
Carl Hilding “Doc” Serverinsen
Doc got the nickname “Little Doc” after his father, who was a dentist in private practice in Oregon according to the 1940 census.
Alan B. Shepard
The 1940 census didn’t report on sports or hobbies, so there is no indication of whether the moon’s most famous golfer had started working on his swing yet.
William West Anderson
Apparently tired of Gotham, Batman was hanging out in Walla Walla during the 1940 census. Or at least that’s where you’ll find his alter ego Adam West (living incognito as 11-year-old Billy West Anderson).
Martin David Robinson hasn’t shortened his name to Marty Robbins and started singing gunfighter ballads quite yet. In a couple of years, he’ll join the Navy; in 1953, he’ll join the Grand Ole Opry.
Before Barry M. Goldwater became a senator and then a presidential candidate, he was president and manager of the family’s retail department store. The business is apparently doing well enough to allow for three live-in servants: a cook, a house man, and a nurse.
Judging from Florence Henderson’s 1940 census record, the role of Carol Brady wasn’t much of a stretch. She’s the youngest of nine children still living at home.
James Earl “Jimmy” Carter
Brother William (Billy) is only three. Father is a farmer—possibly also a manager. H-2 for Jimmy’s highest grade at the time.
Rosalynn Smith [Carter]
And here’s his future wife, Rosalynn Smith. Her father, a mechanic at an auto garage, died later that year.
We found Jimmy Hoffa—in 1940. He’s at home in Detroit with wife, Josephine, and daughter, Barbara.
About Juliana Szucs
Juliana Szucs has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 16 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.