Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Funniest Census Record Ever

This past weekend, I did an Ancestry search for some version of Sanshuck.  I don't remember the exact search, but in the list of results was someone named "Purity Sincerity" in the 1940 census.  Although I knew she(?) wasn't related to me, I looked at the census record anyways--and found the best census record I've ever seen.
1940 US Census; New York City

This led to more than four full pages of women, nearly all with what must not have been their true names.  At first I thought that perhaps this was a brothel or something similar, but the majority of the women are in their 50s-70s, with the professions mostly being domestics in private homes, with a few cooks in the mix.

The first page shows that this odd household was headed by 52-year-old "Bunch of Love."  Some of the other women on this page include "Meek Humble," "Bright Sunshine," Friendship Kindheart," "Big Diamond" (could she be related to me?), and "Faith Alone."
1940 US Census; New York City
The second page has "Purity Sincerity" (definitely not a Sanshuck), two "Mary Magdalenes" (one aged 71, one aged 58), "Four Square," "Truth Justice," "Rejoice Evermore," and "Red Rose."  Somehow "Margareta Brook" lived in this home as well.
1940 US Census; New York City
The third page continues the theme.  "Promised Land Goal" lived in this home as did "Rose O.M. Heart," "Happy Angel," "Happy Smiles," and "Truthful Daylight."
1940 US Census; New York City
The next page only gets better and full of love.  We have "Baby Love," "Joy Love," "Esau Love," "Philip Love," "Rebecca Love," two different "Charity Loves," "Sincere Love," "Arabella Love," "Flowers Love," and "Anna Love," as well as "Victory O'Isreal," "Virgin Mary," "Peace Peace Mary," and "Obedient Hope."  Somehow, "Mary E Wilson" and "Bernice Edwards" also live in this home.
1940 US Census; New York City
And this odd household wraps up with women including "Missouri Harbor," "Sweet Inspiration," and "Maria Love."

So what was this household?  The addresses covered span three house numbers (32, 36 & 38) on West 123rd Street in New York City.  It appears that this was part of a cult--"Father Divine Peace Mission."  Faithful Mary testified in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in 1937 that
32-38 West 123rd Street was an "Extension Heaven" (page 216).  According to the lawsuit, Father Divine "particularly condemned private ownership of property" and ended up taking his followers' money and property.  So not so funny in the end but still worthy of a blog post.

Note:  I just joined Twitter.  Feel free to follow me (@larasgenealogy).


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8 comments:

  1. Oh, yes, Father Divine! Even though he was discredited, he still had a lot of followers who never lost faith in him.

    In the early 1960s, at my home in southern Connecticut, my mother hired a cleaning lady whose name was something like Mrs. Strong Faith (or maybe Mrs. Faith Strong), who was a follower of Father Divine. I will have to ask my sister if she remembers the name. I do recall that she was a hard worker and and my mother felt that she was very honest and totally trustworthy. My mom was a schoolteacher, and she trusted Mrs. Strong to be work in the house during the day when nobody else was home. Mrs. Strong would not even use our bathroom or eat our food.

    What an interesting find!

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    1. So interesting! Perhaps she's on this census. :)

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  2. p.s. By mistake, I used an alternate persona when posting. Shoshana = Susan.

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  3. I can only imagine what the census enumerator must have been thinking....

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  4. That is really interesting! Neat find!

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