Jeepers! Have you visited the fascinating 1940 U.S. Census website yet? The government customarily makes the census information public after a 72-year waiting period, which is why we’re seeing the 1940 one now. I believe this particular one is the first instance where all of the records have been placed online for easy perusal.
I went there to check out what they had on our house, a brick bungalow here in downtown Phoenix originally built in 1927. When I first moved here in 1996, I was informed that it had been a rental for about ten years, and for the previous 50 years before that it had been occupied by the same woman who once worked at the elementary school located half a block away. A few years later, Christopher and I used vintage phone books (back then, phone books included listings by both name and address) at the library to check up on the various occupants of the house over the years, finding out that the home wasn’t built in 1932 as the realtor informed us. This 1940 census adds a few other intriguing details about the house. As we already knew, the house was occupied by the school teacher, a woman named Kathryn. What surprised us was that Kathryn is listed as living here with her parents, Emil and Minnie – AND another woman named Bernice, who is listed as a housekeeper (whether she tended to the folks in our house or someone else’s is unknown). That’s a lot of people living in a dwelling that was then less than 1,000 square feet big! Another mystery is that Kathryn, who was 35 at the time, is listed as having no job. Bernice was the only employed person in the house, having made a grand total of $40 in 1939.
Another interesting thing we uncovered in this census is that the house next door to us, which we’ve always referred to as the “lesbian house” for its long string of same-sex couple occupants, was occupied by two women in 1940. One is listed as the head of the household, while the other is listed as the “Partner.”