When I decided to trace my great-grandfather’s journey from West Virginia to Malden, Missouri, I never realized what a long and winding road his path would take! Malden was his family’s final destination, but by no means was it their only one.
I had already found a 1930 US Census that showed my grandparents had already moved to my home town of Flint, Michigan. As my grandfather was their youngest child, it was likely all the children were married or out of the house. Once I found the 1930 census, it confirmed my suspicions:
My great-grandparents were living by themselves. I knew where my grandfather was at this time. Where were all of his siblings?
I did learn a few things from this survey. My great-grandparents owned a home, valued at $1,500 (not bad considering that this was after the start of the Great Depression). While you cannot see it from this except, my great-grandfather was not working, nor had he ever been a veteran. There was a discrepancy between the 1900 US Census and this one: back in 1900, my great-grandmother had been listed as being born in West Virginia like her husband, William Henry. However, on this census, she was listed as being born in Virginia! Which one was correct?
I decided to keep working backwards, and found them again in 1920 in Malden, Missouri, this time with one child still at home.
Georgia didn’t seem to know which side of the state line she was born on. This time, not only is she born in West Virginia, but so are her parents! In 1930, they, like her, had crossed over the border to be born in Virginia.
As I continued research on this and other parts of my family tree, I would learn over and over again that records can contain inaccurate and sometimes misleading information. I also began to distinguish between primary source data, and secondary source data.
The US Census contains a mixture of both. It is a primary source for where a person resided on the date that the census occurred. Much of the other data though is a secondary data source. Ages and birth year and month, places of birth, and places of parent’s birth are second-hand information on these records. Other records (like a birth certificate) would be a primary data source that could confirm the information on the census.
For now though, I would continue one more decade back and fill in the last gap. With the information on the 1910 US Census, I would be able to see the movements of my ancestors over a 40-year span.
- 1930 – Malden, Missouri
- 1920 – Malden, Missouri
- 1910 – ?
- 1900 – Daviess County, Missouri
My working theories were:
- The family would still be in Daviess County.
- The family would be somewhere in Missouri between Daviess County and Dunklin County, where Malden is.
- Since some of the children had been born in Nebraska prior to 1900, the family might have moved back there for a time between the two locations in Missouri.
- The family would have already moved to Malden.
It’s nice to have theories, but of course it is the facts that will show where their path had really taken them. And, once again, the path led to a place I didn’t expect.
Here’s a copy of the 1900 Census too:
It didn’t faze me in the least that in 1900 my grandfather was listed as Floyd R. and in 1910 was listed as Ralfa. Ralph was his middle name, and Ralfa I am sure, was a misspelling on the part of some well-meaning census worker. The M in Anna M. stood for Maud, so again, they had been easy to match up. Of course, Hazel and Ethel were pretty obvious matches.
What of the other children? Well, I knew from 1900 that my great-grandmother had nine children and eight were living. I noticed in 1910, the number of living children had dropped to six. Two of my grandfather’s siblings had died. We knew for sure the four children listed on the 1910 Census were alive. The four not on this census were Millard D., Oscar R., Boyd, and Lucy D.. Which two had lived, and which two had died?
I wondered what had brought my great-grandparents to Arkansas. You could almost draw a line straight down from Daviess County to Sevier County. What had sparked their southern migration? And why, within 10 years, had they returned to Missouri, this time settling in the southeast corner of the state?
It was certainly a long and winding road I had discovered on my great-grandparents’ journey to the West. From the information I had gathered so far, they had left West Virginia some time prior to 1885 (the approximate year their oldest known child was born in Nebraska). They stayed in Nebraska long enough to have at least five children. From there, the family traveled to Daviess County, Missouri, which is likely where my grandfather was born (and possibly at least two other siblings as well). The unknown 9th child could have been born in any of these locations. All we know for now is that as of 1900, the child no longer was alive.
By 1910, the family had lost two more of its children, and gained one new family member, a mother-in-law (which means this would be my great-great-grandmother). The name is listed as what appears to be Luveza Olaker (Ancestry.com listed the name as Luvcza Olaker, but I think my interpretation of the handwriting is closer to the truth). Two of the children had also moved on to their own paths in life. The family had also moved south and slightly west to Sevier County, Arkansas, a county just to the east of the Oklahoma border, and not too far away from the northeast border of Texas.
Ten short years later, the family returned to Missouri, this time residing in Dunklin County in the town of Malden. The 1920 Census only shows my grandfather residing in the home with his parents. There is not information given on this Census to indicate whether there are fewer living children now; we only know that by 1920, my grandfather’s remaining siblings had left their parents’ home. In 1920, I also learned that my great-grandfather was running a furniture store, and my grandfather was listed as being in sales (was he working for his father?).
By 1930, my grandfather had already moved out on his own and was working on raising a family of his own in Flint, Michigan. His parents, still residing in Malden, were no longer working. They lived in a house they owned.
I had exhausted this path for the moment, and so I turned to yet another detour. However, a surprising piece of information would soon come my way that would confirm much of the research I had just done.