Sunday, January 14, 2018

Seeking Family in Farewells

You know I can't leave anything alone. So, even though I've concluded that the Rufus Littlejohn who dies in Pennsylvania in 1934 is indeed my 2x Great-Grandfather, I still want more proof. Something closer to a smoking gun. The obituary of Rufus' brother Ed Littlejohn was so helpful in placing Rufus in Cleveland in 1923 that I've been wondering if any of his other siblings have obituaries that could do the same thing for other years. So, I guess now I'm on The Sibling Hunt.

Based on the 1870 and 1880 Census, plus death certificates that include parents' names, I've been able to pull together the following list of Rufus' siblings, children of Strap and Eliza Littlejohn. And, because I like charts, I've been using one to track information I've been collecting on their passing.

Name of Sibling
Date of Death
Location of Death
Emanuel (Manuel) Littlejohn
3 Feb 1920
Draytonville, Cherokee, SC
Junius Littlejohn

Jilson Littlejohn
4 Nov 1940
Atlanta, Fulton, GA

Hamlet Littlejohn
28 Sept 1931
Washington, DC

Anna Littlejohn

Franklin Benjamin Littlejohn
29 Nov 1933
Gaffney, Cherokee, SC

Edward David Littlejohn
15 July 1923
Gaffney, Cherokee, SC
Henrietta (Littlejohn) Smith
2 Jun 1960
Gaffney, Cherokee, SC
Eva (Littlejohn) Fair
30 May 1942
Queens, New York City, NY

King Littlejohn

Charles Butler Littlejohn
20 July 1940
Manhattan, New York City, NY

As you can see, though I have most of the dates of death for Rufus' siblings, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to finding obituaries. And even if I do find them, there's no guarantee they will include the names of the deceased's siblings - of the three for whom I have found obits, only Ed's named family members. Still, it's absolutely worth a shot!

Also, if I'm lucky, something in this process will also give me documentary proof of what happens to Rufus' mother Eliza after 1880, and what his father Strap is up to between 1880 and his passing in 1898.

And one final note: Take a look at the places of death in the chart above. You can see evidence of the Great Migration - and the ways in which it separated families. From a hometown (county) of Cherokee, SC, the family has spread to New York City and Washington, DC, not to mention Ohio and Pennsylvania, where Rufus himself ended up. And I know that Eva lived awhile in New Jersey, while Charles had a stint in Connecticut - imagine that kind of mobility for a family whose parents and older siblings were born into slavery!

Do you have any information on these Littlejohn siblings? Obituaries, perhaps? Let's connect - drop a note in the Comments section below!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Restoring a Name for Baby Boy Littlejohn

I recently wrote two posts where I referred to a child of Rufus Littlejohn and Jane "Jennie" Alexanders. In one, I referred to him as an unnamed baby boy. He didn't show up in any of the later records I found for his parents or siblings, and I didn't know what had happened to him or how he'd disappeared.

I'm happy to say, I now know his name: Julius Littlejohn.

I wish his was a happier story, and a longer one. Unfortunately, Julius died shortly after he was born - just 2 days later.

Here is the record of Julius' birth:

Notice that only the names of his parents are given. Without his name, I'd tried finding death records using his parents' names, to no avail. Earlier this week, I decided to try again, but used only the surname Littlejohn and the year of death, 1895 (I know, you'd think I would've done that already, but I was focused on the Rufus mystery instead). After trying a few other sites and indexes, I headed to the "Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001" record set on Look what came up:

Register of Deaths, Cuyahoga County, OH. The listing stretches over 2 pages, so I've cut it in 2.

Unhelpfully, it does not list the names of Julius Littlejohn's parents. But quite helpfully, it does list Julius' address: 102 Columbus. Does that sound familiar? It's the same address Rufus and Jennie are living at in 1895, listed not just on the Return of Birth above, but also in the Cleveland City Directory for 1895-1896.

And that is how we know that Unnamed Baby Boy Littlejohn is actually named Julius.

One of Julius's uncles - his father Rufus' brother - was named Junius. I wonder if Julius was named in honor of him? Three of Rufus' other children share the names of his siblings.

Julius was buried at Monroe Street Cemetery, which bills itself as "the oldest public cemetery in Cleveland's west side." They provide gravestone photos and I've reached out to them to see if they can take a photo of his burial location. If they can get me something, I'll update this post.

In any case, at least we know his name.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rufus Littlejohn, Not Quite a Horse Thief

One of the reasons I was so excited to find a document placing my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn in Cleveland, Ohio in 1923 is because I'd recently found an interesting newspaper article about a man of the same name in the same place:

This snippet was carried in the 16 December 1922 edition of the Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram (Richmond, Indiana). Other stories from Ohio were also carried on the same page.

Given that there were no other Rufus Littlejohns in Cleveland at this time, this has to be my 2x Great-Grandfather. And, as I'll share in later posts, Rufus had a "colorful" stretch of years, so I had my suspicions as soon as I saw this article. I have so many questions about this incident! Was he actually trying to steal the horse? Is there a court or police record related to this? If so, what do they say? Who did the horse belong to? Where did Rufus take the horse? What did the horse's owner do when he or she discovered it missing?

I want the story so bad, y'all!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Differentiating Rufus Littlejohns, aka Making Charts Makes Me Happy

Spreadsheets are awesome for solving, or at least better understanding, genealogical problems. Once your information is organized, you can literally see things more clearly, make better inferences, and see where opportunities, possibilities and solutions may be. 

So as I've been trying to untangle Rufus Littlejohns to see if indeed my 2x Great Grandfather from South Carolina is the same man who passes in Pennsylvania in 1934 - or, if that PA Rufus is actually a second Rufus Littlejohn from South Carolina - I made a spreadsheet. Here is a simplified version:

“My” Rufus Littlejohn
PA Rufus Littlejohn
Other SC Rufus Littlejohn
Abt. 1867
1867 or 1868
Abt. 1866
Strap and Eliza Littlejohn

Draytonville, Union, SC

Draytonville, Union, SC



1895 - 1896

Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH



Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Limestone, Cherokee, SC
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Limestone, Cherokee, SC
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


Limestone, Cherokee, SC
Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH

Deceased (per wife’s city directory listing). Alive  (per wife’s later obit).

Deceased (per wife’s city directory listing). Alive  (per wife’s later obit).

Alive  (per wife’s later obit).
Beaver Falls, Beaver, PA
Limestone, Cherokee, SC
Dies (per wife’s later obit)


Dies in Beaver County, PA
 (per own death certificate)


Double Shoals, Cleveland, NC
Flora Virginia Woods, 1899 – at least 1911
Jane “Jennie” Alexander, legal marriage unknown, together about 1892 – 1897
Sarah “Sallie” Walker, together about 1889 – at least 1940
Known Siblings
Junius, Jilson, Hamlet, Anna, Franklin, Edward, Henrietta, Eva, King, Butler, Emanuel

Known Children
Raymond, Franklin, Gladys, Edward, Mary, Florence
Alma, Geneva (Eva), unnamed son
Edna, Alethia, Brownie ?, Eva, Clyde, Mattie, Amanda “Mandy,” Burt, Nathan, Hiliard, Govan, Myrtha or Murphy, Ethel

A couple of things stand out:

1. The other Rufus Littlejohn seems to consistently live in Limestone, Cherokee County, SC from 1900 to 1930. Even in 1940, when he lives in Double Shoals, Cleveland County, NC, all he's done is crossed the county line separating North and South Carolina - Cleveland County and Cherokee County share a border.

2. Meanwhile, my Rufus has traveled from South Carolina north to Steubenville, Ohio. Of the two, it seems much more likely that he is the one who would also spend time in Cleveland, OH and Beaver County, PA (which is along the Ohio River Valley northeast of Steubenville.

3. The PA Rufus is with his wife/children's mother Jane "Jennie" Alexander from about 1892 to 1897. In 1898, she marries someone else and in 1899, my Rufus marries someone else.

4. Meanwhile, the other SC Rufus has been with his wife from about 1889 to at least 1940. What re the chances he's living that successful of a double life, between 5 states (PA, OH, KY, SC/NC)?

5. Both the PA and SC Rufuses have a daughter named Eva. If not for the other evidence, this could be a complicating factor. But my Rufus names two of his sons after his brothers (Franklin and Edward), and...he has a sister named Eva. So if the PA Rufus is him, he's just continued this practice of naming a few children after his siblings. 

6. Finally, the other SC Rufus is still alive in 1940, as evidenced by the Federal Census. Meanwhile, both my Rufus and the PA Rufus die at approximately the same time, in 1933 or 1934, respectively. And given that 1) the year of my Rufus' death is provided in an obituary for his wife who passed 30 years later, and 2) his wife had begun referring to herself as widowed in the 1920s despite proof in other records that Rufus was still alive (she was apparently a "grass widow" or a woman abandoned by her husband), it's not unsurprising that the year would be off by a year. With likely little contact with their father so many years ago, what are the chances the child who wrote the obituary would get the exact year right? S/he was only off by 1 year.

All of this is circumstantial evidence. There is still no smoking gun. But, as there is no other death certificate that could be my Rufus Littlejohn, born in South Carolina in about 1867, and given all of the information above, I am comfortable declaring that my Rufus and the PA Rufus are indeed one and the same. 

So, what do you think? And do you, by chance, have the smoking gun? If so, I want to hear about it!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Rufus Hunt: Another Obit Strengthens the Case

In my quest to prove or disprove that a man who dies in PA in 1934 is one and the same with my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn, I've been approaching the problem from several angles. I've been researching the PA Rufus' descendants using vital records, census schedules, and obituaries; researching a second Rufus Littlejohn born in South Carolina about the same time that my Rufus was born in that state; and seeing what else I can find about my Rufus' birth family and siblings to see if that opened any doors.

It was that last prong of research that lead to a very helpful finding. 

As you can see on his 1899 marriage certificate to my 2x Great-Grandmother Flora Woods, my Rufus' parents are Strap and Eliza Littlejohn, and he is from Union County, SC.

Jumping back in time to census records from Union County, SC in 1870 and 1880, you can find Rufus with his parents.



Of course, these records also gave me the names of a number of Rufus' siblings: Junius, Jilson, Hamlet, Anna, Franklin, Edward, Henrietta, Eva, King, Butler. Note the head of household for the family immediately below theirs in both years: Emanuel (Manuel) Littlejohn - he's Rufus' brother as well (confirmed via his Death Certificate).

So, I've spent the past few days using online records to dig into the stories of my Rufus' siblings. Lo and behold, I found two obituaries for his brother Edward, who passed 15 July 1923. Note that, as is customary, each names the deceased's surviving family:

Obituary for Edward Littlejohn, published in the Cherokee Times (Gaffney, SC) on 16 July 1923.

Obituary for Edward Littlejohn, published in the Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, SC) on 17 July 1923.

See our fun fact about Rufus? In 1923, he's living in Cleveland, Ohio! This is supported by a Cleveland, OH City Directory listing from 1922:

How does this help me? It puts my Rufus in a location where I know the PA Rufus had previously spent time. You see, several months ago, I found that the PA Rufus and his wife or partner Jane "Jennie" Alexander had a child together in Cleveland in 1895:

Here's that Rufus in the 1895-96 Cleveland City Directory (he also appears in the 1896-97 Directory, at 582 Broadway):

Is this a smoking gun? Definitely not. But in addition to drawing a geographic connection between these two men - my Rufus and PA Rufus - it also makes it much harder to believe that it's possible the PA Rufus could be the other South Carolina Rufus I have been exploring. That Rufus is living in Limestone, Cherokee County, SC every census year from 1900 to 1930. What are the chances he up and moved to Cleveland, Ohio both in the 1890s and in the 1920s, and returned to South Carolina each time? It's much easier - and more reasonable - to believe that my Rufus moved north from South Carolina and stayed there. In fact, I'll explore this more in my next post.

What do you think? Am I on the right path? Do you know something about Rufus Littlejohn or his family that I should know about? Please share in the Comments section below!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Piecing Together the Pennsylvania Littlejohns

In my quest to either prove or disprove that a Rufus Littlejohn who dies in Beaver County, Pennsylvania in 1934 is the same Rufus Littlejohn from whom I'm descended, I've been seeking out obituaries to scour them for information. The hope was that the PA Rufus would have an obituary stating his parents' names - I know "my" Rufus's parents, so making the connection would be easy. But alas, I've found no obituary yet - no smoking gun, as it were.

However, I did get my hands on two additional obituaries recently. The PA Rufus was living in the home of his daughter Alma in 1930. Tracking her through records, we can find that her mother was Jane "Jennie" Alexander. The first new obituary is hers - it was published in the Beaver Falls Review on 13 May 1937:

The second obituary is for Jennie's daughter and Alma's half-sister, Madlin. It was published in the Beaver County Times on 2 December 1967:

Rufus Littlejohn was not Madlin's father, but again, receiving this obituary helps me reconstruct the family. It may be worth it to try to trace down the family tree to see if there are any living descendants who want to connect.

Do you know something about the Pennsylvania Rufus Littlejohn or his extended family that I should know about? Please drop me a note in the comments box below!

*Many thanks to the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center for doing the obituary look-up for me and mailing their findings.

Friday, December 22, 2017

No Smoking Gun...Yet

On the heels of my recent success in finding obituaries related to a person who might be my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn, I thought I'd see if my luck continued by seeking out the obituary of the potential candidate himself.

I learned two things:
  1.  The good people at the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center respond very quickly to queries (based on my sample size of 3 requests in 1 message).

  2.  Luck was not on my side.

Within a couple of hours of sending my request, I already had an email from them in my inbox. They had found 2 of the obituaries I requested (and were mailing the very next day), but unfortunately, there was no obituary for Rufus in the local paper. My hope was that such an obituary would name at least one of Rufus' parents, or perhaps a few siblings or other children, something that would connect him to - or disconnect him from - the Rufus Littlejohn I know to belong to my line. Sadly, they have no such smoking gun. Because of when and where he died - during the Great Depression and in the county Poor Farm - they don't believe an obituary was published.

On the one hand, this is surprising: he had children and extended family in the area. No one wanted to write an obituary? On the other hand, just 4 years prior, he'd been living with one of his daughters. Was there a schism in the family that resulted in him being put in the Poor House rather than continuing to live with his daughter as a man in his late 60s? If so, perhaps this explains why there may be no obituary.

If you read my last post, you know that there are a few things that point to the Beaver County Rufus being "my" Rufus:

- Similarity in year of death: 1933 in my Rufus' wife Flora's 1964 obituary, 1934 for the Beaver County Rufus.

- Similar birth year: approximately 1866-1868 for both

- Same state of origin: South Carolina

- And it's interesting that my Rufus marries my 2x Great-Grandmother the year after the woman he'd previously been with and had several children with, Jane "Jennie" Alexander, gets married. It's like they went their separate directions and each found someone new.

All of that said, there's not one smoking gun among those points, particularly when you add in the confusing fact that my Flora Littlejohn, my 2x Great-Grandmother, is listed as widowed on multiple documents, including:

1926 Steubenville City Directory

1929 Steubenville City Directory

(Yes, both of these say Flora was the widow of "John" - he is referenced as John R. Littlejohn or John Rufus Littlejohn on several of his children's vital documents as well. And yes, both of these city directories list Flora as widowed before the year her obituary says he died.)

So, I'm still searching for a smoking gun.  But I do have 2 new obituaries that help me understand this family a little bit better.

Do you know something I should know about either Littlejohn family? Please leave a comment below!