Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Have a 1940 Census MVP?

Francis A. Starr, seated middle front
1899- Littlestown, Pennsylvania

Every genealogists around the globe is looking forward to April 02, 2012. Of course, that is the day the 1940 United States Federal Census will be released.

Each of us has a list of ancestors we hope to discover on the pages of the census. How exciting to find information that will help move along our research. All of us dream of breaking through our most stubborn brick walls.

Who will be the very first person on your list? Have you been marking the days in anticipation of locating that special brick wall relative.

My quest is to find my husband's grandparents, Francis and Mary Ann Starr. The story behind the marriage of these people has lead me on a merry dance.

Beginning this genealogy adventure there were only a few concrete facts known about Francis Starr. Early on my mother-in-law shared bits and pieces of her childhood memories. Most difficult being her father heading out one day never to return.

When researching this line I discovered that Francis was born in Adams County, Pennsylvania. This eventually lead to many surprising facts about the Starr family, in particular my husband's grandfather.

One interesting tidbit being that Francis had a previous marriage and two additional children. That was information my mother-in-law never shared with her son.

After his second marriage Francis began a career as a traveling salesman. For many years my mother-in-law and her parents moved from town to town. The last time I find the family is on the 1920 census residing in Chicago, Illinois.

Not long after Francis ventured out alone in search of work. The plan being once settled he would send for Mary Ann and daughter. For many months they waited to hear word. Unfortunately, they never again heard from Francis. Eventually Mary Ann moved back to Maryland with her young daughter.

For some reason it had become a quest of mine to locate this errant husband.

One night several years ago something exciting occurred. During my research to locate Francis I discovered him on 1930 census residing in Los Angeles, California. Placing this information into my Ancestry database a very interesting leaf appeared.

All the facts on the record matched that of my husband's grandfather. Right away I sent away for the death certificate to gain further information.

Now here is where things get totally confusing! Mary Ann died September 18, 1950, listing her marital status as widowed. Francis died Jun 15, 1964, listing his marital status as divorced.

How can this be? Did Mary Ann assume Francis had died? Did Francis claim to be divorced upon beginning a new life in California?

Did the couple actually divorce, and Mary Ann refused to accept the situation? Did Francis "marry" someone in California without ending his current marriage? Did he eventually divorce this woman?

This my friends is why I am on pins and needles for the 1940 United States Federal Census. On those pages I hope to find Francis and Mary Ann Starr. Where are they residing? What is their marital status?

Each day as April 02, 2012 grows closer, I dream of solving this maddening riddle.

Have a census MVP? What are you hoping to discover?


  1. Hmm...that is a good question? My initial response to reading your post was to make a list of all the people I want to look for! But after a little thought, I think I'll just mosey around and find people at random. It could take a while...maybe I'll hire a sitter!

  2. Oh, this is good, Deb. Very good. Naughty Francis certainly needs to be found.

    I'm going to have to think real hard on the 1940 census MVP thing. It's not Big Paw Paw, I know where he is [married to my grandma with a mistress on the side]. I just might have to sniff out another bad apple in the tree. LOL.

    I'm so glad you wrote about Francis, Deb, and now? I'm waiting on pins and needles right there with you!


  3. Anything is possible in California! ; )

    What I want to know is: have you ever tracked down anything further on the two children from the previous marriage?

  4. I have a similar story. My great grandfather left his family in Pennsylvania and ran off to Los Angeles as well. The "story" in the family was that he was dead. In fact, he didn't die until 1960 in LA. I did check some city directories and it seemed like he remarried in CA. But I don't believe he ever divorced his first wife. Oh, and did I mention he was a preacher!