Daddy in the 1940 Census

It’s hard to imagine my dad as a little kid.

I’ve seen pictures. I’ve heard stories.

But it’s the documents created during his lifetime that give me the most insight into what made Daddy the person he was.

1940 US Census IL Mueller, William E

1940 US Census IL Mueller, William E

My dad was born during the Depression, the firstborn of four children. His father left when he was quite young, having “run off with Maury’s wife”. After a messy divorce, my grandmother, Frances Lois Mangels married a man my father adored. So much so he wanted to change his surname from Mueller to Brenke.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the name of the family’s 1940 boarder:

It's Grandpa Brenke!

It’s Grandpa Brenke!



6 thoughts on “Daddy in the 1940 Census

  1. 1940 census! That’s where I discovered that my 5 year old father wasn’t living with his parents who lived on the other side of town! And, sadly, it wasn’t the last time he was boarded in a home other than his own! Long story…


  2. Laura,

    Well, that told you something new, didn’t it! Among other things, probably how the couple met. Do you know when your grandmother Frances married “the boarder?”

    I love these little details we learn.

    From the 1940, I learned that one of my g aunts was already shaving years off her age–she wasn’t married yet, but I found the man she’d marry a year or so later and he was 7 years old.

    Much more important, I learned my mother was listed as naturalized, which was NOT true. But her father was, and listed as such. My mother was born in Canada, with dual citizenship, both parents US citizens. She didn’t have a birth registration because the town was too tiny. She’d given up the Canadian citizenship at 21 so she could vote and get a SS card. Why her mother, the respondent (a real bonus in the 1940) said Mom was naturalized, we don’t know. But the upshot was that when she wanted to get a passport in the 1950s, the INS gave her fits. Ultimatelywas came through his father’s naturalization. What that had to do with his being legitimate, I’ve NO idea, but it was the 1950s! The naturalization error probably perked up the INS’s ears, but of course I didn’t know that until seeing the 1940.



    • Doris,

      Indeed! My grandparents were married by a Justice of the Peace October 19, 1940, just a few months after this census was taken.

      I agree – the details often make things more interesting, even when we think we already “know” the whole story. :o)



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