1940 Census Taker Doesn’t Let 3 Vicious Dogs & 50 Stitches Stop Her

It was a sunny day in Sonoma, California, on April 6, 1940, and census taker Alice Davis was off on her rounds enumerating the people of Sonoma, California, for the permanent record of the 1940 U.S. census. Little did she know that she was about to become “the first census-taker casualty in northern California.”

Three Dogs Attack Woman Census Taker, San Diego Union 7 April 1940

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 7 April 1940, page 11

As this old news article reports: “The enumerator was attacked by three large Airedale dogs when she attempted to take the tab at the Sonoma home of Carl Bergfried, retired San Francisco merchant.

“Bergfried, who was not at home at the time, returned to find Mrs. Davis battling valiantly against the enraged animals. He took her to Ferndale sanatorium where 50 stitches were required to close her wounds.”

Published in the San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 7 April 1940, page 11.

The determined Alice completed the enumeration, and Carl Bergfried and his wife Ida were recorded in the 1940 census. But the formal, dry federal census pages do not tell us of the sacrifice that Alice Davis made that day.

1940 census form for Carl Bergfried of Sonoma, California

1940 census form for Carl & Ida Bergfried of Sonoma, California

1940 Census. Sonoma, California. FamilySearch.org https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-27793-626-28?cc=2000219&wc=MMRS-PP1:786740582

Fortunately, the census enumerator’s story was recorded in the pages of a local newspaper. And thanks to GenealogyBank the pages of the San Diego Union have been indexed, digitized and put online—so we can learn that despite three vicious dogs and 50 stitches, Alice Davis saw it through and got the job done.

When doing your family history research, don’t rely just on the data provided by census and other government records. To really get to know something about your ancestors’ lives and the times they lived in, read their stories in the millions of newspaper articles contained in GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives.

Just Released! 1940 Census Records Are Now Available Online

1940 U.S. Census Newspaper Articles from the Marietta Journal April, 2 1940

1940 U.S. Census Newspaper Article from the Marietta Journal April, 2 1940

The 1940 census began 72 years ago when census enumerators covered the streets of America, documenting every person. This was a very large United States government project; for example, it took 29 census takers just to cover the population of the city of Marietta, Georgia.

Today the 1940 U.S. census was released online completely free to the public. This census release gives genealogists and family historians a fantastic new ancestry research tool. With information on 132 million U.S. citizens, these historical census records are flush with clues we can use to research our genealogy and learn about the lives of our recent American ancestors.

As you dig into the 1940 U.S. census records while doing your own family history research, take some time to read about the great effort it took the U.S. federal government to create this valuable genealogical resource.

The historical newspaper article shown in the graphic above, detailing the work the 29 U.S. census takers did in Marietta, was published by the Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 2 April 1940, page 1.

Find this old newspaper article and other 1940 census articles in the Marietta Journal, or search our entire historical newspaper archives to discover similar articles about the 1940 census from newspapers all across the United States.

Of course, the 1940 census gives us a snapshot of our ancestors at just one point in time: April 1, 1940. Use GenealogyBank to read about every day of their lives—with newspaper articles from our collection of just under 6,000 newspapers, from all 50 states, going back over 300 years—as well as historical books and government records and documents available at our website.