Deceased Woman found on 1940 US Census...

+11 votes
I was wondering if anyone else came across this, how common it is, and why it may have happened?

The woman I found on the Census was my 3x Great Grandmother Elizabeth (Comley) Kanatzar. She passed away April 8, 1940 according to her death certificate ( and her gravestone ( The informant on her death certificate was L.V. Ockerman (her son in law).

She was recorded on the census (May 4, 1940), as living with her son-in-law (and daughter, etc), Leonard Ockerman. (

Is there something I'm missing? Was this done because she had passed away so recently? I couldn't find information about why this had been done.
WikiTree profile: Elizabeth Kanatzar
in Genealogy Help by Luci Goodman G2G5 (5.9k points)

1 Answer

+14 votes
Best answer
Hi Lucy.  Here's a theory (not an authoritative answer).  The instruction for the enumerator in the column header of the 1940 census says to list "Name of each person whose usual place of residence on April 1, 1940, was in this household."  Some enumerators might therefore list a deceased person who died after April 1.  I think there are other census years where the same policy would apply.
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (571k points)
selected by Luci Goodman
Ah! That's probably it! I totally missed that. Thank you so much for pointing it out :)
Could there have been some sort of benefit for her son-in-law to list her?  

I like your theory and I do think that this could definitely be the reason.  The census enumerator may have interpreted the instructions to include anyone living or deceased whose "usual place of residence" was that household.
It's not just a theory, that's precisely why the cut off date is there; so that the enumerator would know which people to include.  Sometimes the enumerator didn't get around to visiting places until long after the enumeration date and if someone had died in the interim he needed to know whether or not to count him.  But you do have to check the date on each census as it varies considerably from decade to decade.
BING BING - you hit it on thee nose, Dennis; rules are such as this to try to keep from individuals being "counted twice", in two places; which on rare occasions you WILL find on older Census' - especially when "Daddy was a Carpet-bagger", (traveling Salesman).  Sometimes in older Census you'll find "Dad" listed as a *boarder* at a residence in another Town, even State, it doesn't always mean divorce &/or separation; just that life keeps on moving, even when you're trying to *count* everybody..
Thank you, everyone! This has helped me understand something I have never encountered in the past!

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