Around Town: Opening a window on 1940

La Cañada Flintridge has finally arrived: We are listed in the free online index search of the 1940 United States Federal Census. On April 2, microfilms of the 1940 census sheets were released by the National Archives and Records Administration.

The 1940 census was the 16th nationwide census conducted by the United States Census Bureau.

The census sheets are not indexed by name, but by “enumeration district.” The trick is to remember that in 1940, La Cañada was not a city, it was an unincorporated part of the Glendale Township.

Last month, Ancestry ( completed its name index for California. We can now search the 1940 census by names. Family Search, a free Latter-day Saints website, has also indexed California, with the help of volunteer indexers (

The first name I picked to look up was “Beulah Louise Overell.” Several years later she would be charged and acquitted of the murder of her parents, Walter and Beulah Overell. How strange to see the names of the victims, along with their gardener, cook and maid. In 1940, Beulah was 10 years old. Her father was 56. Her mother was 49. The gardener's name was Albert Downard. The cook, maybe his wife, was Essie Downard. The maid was Charlotte Revell, from Switzerland.

The 1940 census also provides a window into the lives of two of our local heroes. Two of the names on the plaques in Memorial Park belong to brothers John Edmund Doherty and Joseph Connor Doherty. Both died in World War II. They were the sons of Sarah Patten Doherty and Frank P. Doherty.

The Doherty household before the war consisted of Frank P. Doherty, age 54; wife Sarah Doherty, 53; sons Frank W. Doherty, 25, James A. Doherty, 22, John E. Doherty, 21, Joseph C. Doherty, 20, Patrick D. Doherty, 16, and Robert B. Doherty, 10. There was also one daughter, Sarah E. Doherty,13, and one housekeeper named Stella Darr, 50.

John E. Doherty enlisted in the Army. On Dec. 10, 1943, he was killed in action in Italy. He was 23 years old. Joseph C. Doherty enlisted in the same unit as his brother, the 41st Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. On March 15, 1945, he was killed in action in France, at the age of 25.

It's a little disconcerting to see these handwritten names on the La Cañada pages of the 1940 census.

They all lived right here, in La Cañada.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at anitasusan.brenner@
and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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