Sunday, February 28, 2016

Finding Theodore Johnson, Part 3: Making Sense of Other Censuses

Note: See Part 1 here, and Part 2 here or, even better, start with this Wedding Wednesday. If not, you’ve been warned, you are jumping into the middle of a tornado of information!

Where things stand now, we believe that my great-grandfather Theodore Johnson changed his name from Steve Evans after an incident in Alabama, and that his parents were Steve and Laura Ann Evans (nee Scruggs, Strug, Screws, or something similar). I have Steve Jr.’s marriage record to my great-grandmother Beatrice Harris, and I am pretty certain that I have found him in the 1930 Census living in Majestic, Jefferson County, Alabama (near Birmingham), the same community as his future wife. Steve and Laura Ann have been named as the parents of several children on marriage and death records from 1933 – 1945, but they haven’t been found living together on any documents after 1918.

I don’t know yet what happens to Laura after 1918, but I do know what Steve Sr. is up to.

Steve Sr. appears as "Stephens Evans." Clearly the page was not scanned evenly when the original record was microfilmed, as the lines containing his and his wife's information appear super tiny!

The 1920 Census shows us that he’s living in Majestic, Jefferson County, AL, near Birmingham – the same community Beatrice and “our” Steve Jr. are living in ten years later. Steve Sr. is living in Majestic with a new wife whose name is obscured, but is short and starts with “El”. How do we know it’s our Steve Sr? The children: There’s an Anna June, whose name is new, but there are a Thomas and a Henry. Thomas’s age matched the Thomas whose death certificate lists Steve and Laura Ann as his parents (pictured in my previous post), and that Henry? Yep, same one who keeps popping up!

If we go back to the records, we find that Steve Sr. married a woman named Ella Smith in October of 1920 in Birmingham, so that’s how she ends up in the household. However, this doesn’t last long – I don’t know if they divorced or if something happened to Ella, but in January of 1924, Steve marries a woman named Florance Donovan. And it’s this family that we find in 1930:

Interestingly, Steve Sr.’s son and “our” Steve’s brother, Henry, is also listed as living in this household, even though we already know he’s listed in his sister Janie Mae’s home. Both homes are located in Jefferson County – he may have been traveling back and forth between the households for any number of reasons. Census takers were supposed to report who was residing in the home on April 1st of the Census Year, regardless of who was in the house on the day he or she actually came to visit, but different census takers did different things and it’s not unusual to see a person listed in two different households. In fact, check this out:

Steve Sr and Florence are actually listed twice in 1930, this second time with her daughter and granddaughter, as well as a boarder. Now they are in Majestic, so perhaps they had recently moved? In fact, maybe this is why we find Steve and Henry living in Janie’s home – maybe things were in flux at their own? And maybe this is why we find Marshall Evans living as a boarder in the house of my great-grandmother Beatrice, her sister Lillian and their mother Ardenia that year as well, and why there’s a Thomas Evans living as a boarder in that same community who seems to be “our” Thomas. Of course, by this time, Marshall is 19 and Thomas is 22, so both are of an age to be striking out on their own anyway.

So, what does all this tell us about our Steve Evans, Jr./Theodore Johnson? Well, it confirms that we’re following “our” Steve Sr through 1920 and 1930, and thus locates our Steve Jr.’s probable family as definitely being in Majestic, Jefferson County, AL. This makes it even more likely that the Steve Jr. we previously located in Majestic in 1930 is the correct one – not only is he near his future wife, he’s also near his father and several siblings.

But there are quite a few questions still on the table. You might be wondering, for example, why we don’t just get his birth certificate to clear things up. Well, we tried. My grandmother – Steve Jr / Theodore Johnson’s daughter – wrote to the Alabama Department of Public Health and received a letter back stating that they could not find a Steve Evans born to Steve and Laura Ann Evans between 1909 and 1919 in Montgomery County. It’s possible that the doctor or midwife who attended the birth simply didn’t report it – Alabama didn’t require registration of births until 1908 and compliance was spotty for several years. It’s also possible his birth was registered not in Montgomery County, but in a nearby county. Perhaps he filed a delayed birth certificate himself, when he was older. I’ll be exploring possibilities when I take my trip to Alabama in a few weeks, but I wish this was a cut and dry easy answer!

Other questions I have:

·         Why doesn’t Steve Jr appear in the 1920 Census? Steve Sr is, as are Thomas and Henry, so where is he?
·         Where is Marshall Evans before 1930? If he was born about 1911, shouldn’t he be around in 1920? One of Lillian Harris’ grandchildren told me that Marshall’s first name may actually have been William – is he the William Evans, born in 1913, for whom Steve and Laura Ann appear as parents on his marriage record? Or is there some other explanation?
·         In fact, where do the other children mentioned in Steve and Laura Ann’s household in 1910 – Jennette, Sarah and Jessie – go later on? Same for Anna Jane/June, who appears in 1920.
·         What happens to Laura Ann between 1918 and 1920? I haven’t found a likely marriage or death record yet.

I hope to make some progress with at least one or two of these questions when I head to Alabama. We’ll see what happens! In the meantime, my next post will be a simple timeline summarizing what I currently believe to be true about Steve / Theodore's significant life events.

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