I've been trying to find the 1940 census entry of Sara Katharina Guenther, born 05 Jul 1908 in Homestead, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA. She had just arrived back in the port of New York NY on 28 Mar 1940 from a trip to Romania (undetermined length, but likely several months), where she got married to Andrew Bruno Schuller. (Both are now deceased). They were not travelling together as he arrived later, at La Guardia Field on 24 Aug 1940. Both passenger lists reference 1013 Winona Ave, Chicago, Illinois, as destination address.

There are 2 households at that address in Illinois enumeration district 103-3067, on sheet 8A (heads Louis Lavin & Gilbert Bronson), but Sara is not enumerated there (sheet dated April 12). My conclusion is that she was still in transit from New York on April 1. I've tried various combinations of name and birth information to find Sara and have not found her. Either she not enumerated or her entry has been badly mangled in entry or transcription.

Most EDs have a section for transients staying at hotels. I assume that Sara was traveling through by train back to Illinois from New York, and had started but not finished that journey on the official enumeration date April 1. She may have completed her travel before the official date for transient enumeration April 8.

Should she have been enumerated while on the train? If yes, what ED would have been applicable? If she was in Chicago when her address was enumerated (April 12) but the enumerator was informed that she had not been there on April 1 and had been away for several months, how would her information been handled? I've looked at the enumerator instructions, but have not seen this case addressed.

Arrivals on 28 Mar 1940 at New York NY:
3,354 [New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957]
33 [New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1973]
433 born USA - 40 born Pennsylvania (like Sara), 24 born Illinois (her destination)
destinations are not indexed at ancestry.com

Passenger List, page 26
14 U.S. citizens (2 naturalized) including Sara*:
U.S. addresses:
4 Brooklyn NY - Geza Danyi checked, found with parents in Brooklyn in 1940 census
1 New York NY
1 Maspeth NY
3 Philadelphia PA
1 Cambridge MA
1 New Bedford MA
1 Chicago IL* - Sara Gunther not found in 1940 census
1 Detroit MI - Petru Zioman not found in 1940 census

Assuming that some of the Illinois-born might still be resident in Illinois, checked
- the Gillett family (4 persons arriving in NY), found in Kenilworth, Coook, Illinois, enumerated April 2 1940
- Primo Frighetto, found with parents in Chicago, enumerated 12 Apr 1940, 1935 residence was Venice Italy (long absence!)

So Sara could have arrived in Chicago in plenty of time to be enumerated. [I had already considered that she might have visited with relatives in Pennsylvania and Ohio during her trip].

  • Frighetto and the Gillett family appear on the regular population schedules? Do the Gilletts appear to be in the regular sequence in the visitations, or are they at the end of the ED? (Sometimes tracing the route the enumerator walked can provide more clues.)
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 6, 2013 at 18:47
  • To clarify: are there any clues in those two census records that might reveal whether Primo Frighetto was part of the regular enumeration on the 1st, or the special transient population on the 8th?
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 6, 2013 at 18:57
  • So far, all the 1940 census matches to the NY arrivals (11 so far) have been on the regular Population Schedule, and only 1 couple (Hosford, in New Jersey) were on a later page in the ED. Not all the Illinois-born were found in Illinois. The Gilletts owned their home; Primo's parents were renters. Not seeing any patterns yet.
    – bgwiehle
    Dec 6, 2013 at 19:08
  • So no one has turned up on a non-residential schedule? Bother. No one else with a destination farther west than Chicago?
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 6, 2013 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


How many people are on Sara's passenger list for that arrival dated 28 Mar 1940?

How many of the entries have addresses for the destination / going to meet a relative or friend?

Think of what happened after the people arrived. Perhaps not all of them will actually end up at the destination that was given out on the list, but work with that information, because it is what you have; just keep in mind that some people may have changed their minds, etc. so it's not going to be 100% accurate.

So: people arrive, and they all travel to their own destinations. How do they travel? How long does it take? The arrival is like a stone thrown into a pond and they are ripples traveling outwards. What pattern shows up if you search for ALL of them in the census?

What I would expect is that people whose destinations were close by would have a greater chance of being listed in the census; they would be more likely to have reached their destination by census day. People whose travel took longer may end up on non-resident schedules. And people in the middle may have fallen through the cracks, like your Sara.

Can you learn anything from looking at what happened to the other people on that arrival list? Is anyone else on that list traveling to Chicago or other parts of the Midwest, who might have traveled along a similar path?

With this search, I was trying to construct an equivalent of searching for neighboring households in different census decades, when you can't find your subject by name. Also, it was a coverage test -- if you have a compiled database and you search for all the listings in Chicago for 1938 and you get no results, then the 1938 directory may not be in the collection at all, or there may be something wrong with the index. So to 'search nearby', I revise the search, and ask -- can you can find ANY Chicago passengers from that arrival? And to broaden the search: Can you find any passengers from that arrival for other destinations?

Things to consider: economics might determine different modes of travel for different passengers. Apply your present-day experience: how do you choose a mode of transportation? Do you consult schedules? Do you look at advertising? What other finding aids would you use to choose a mode of transportation?

Can you find 1940's equivalents in archives? Any of these things might hold a key that unlocks the puzzle.

  • Any differences to the suggested strategy for U.S. citizens (like Sarah) vs. new immigrants?
    – bgwiehle
    Dec 5, 2013 at 18:32
  • A search may start from a different place of knowledge for the researcher ('knowledge' = 'sum of assertions in all sources collected so far'). But once people were in the US, they'd be using the same transportation systems no matter what; the big divide becomes white vs. non-white. E.g. you wouldn't expect a white immigrant to be staying in a hotel that catered to a black clientele and vice-versa. If there are other passengers bound for Chicago -- are they all missing from the census, or can you find some of them by name? What schedules are they on?
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 5, 2013 at 22:30

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