Monday, February 5, 2018

(Not) In the Census: 52 Ancestors, #57

This week's (OK, last week's – I'm running a little behind) 52 Ancestors prompt is "In the Census." I thought about writing about my ancestors who aged erratically (or, in some cases, not at all) from one census to the next; or the ones who were double-enumerated at one time or another; or some of the folks who turned up in unexpected places. But what really fascinates and frustrates me is the folks who don't turn up at all, even when you know exactly where they should be.

My primary examples of this phenomenon are close to home, indeed – my father and his sister in the 1920 census, and my mother's entire family in 1930. These anomalies occurred in the same city: Lewiston, Maine.

Where's Your Daddy?

My father was born in May 1919, and would have been less than eight months old when the census enumerator came around in January 1920. His sister, born in March 1917, was just under three. So where, in the dead of a 1920 Maine winter, would an infant and a toddler be, other than with their mother?

And yet, the census1 reports the only members of the Kirk household (which is exactly where expected, at 30 Ware Street) to be my grandparents, Chester and Mary, and Mary's widowed mother, Kate Hodsdon (the children's only living grandparent, by the way, so they weren't off visiting granny and grampie). Even supposing that the family wasn't at home, and a neighbor answered the enumerator's questions, it hardly seems possible that any of the neighbors could have failed to mention two children in a family that had been at that address for over a year.

1920 U.S. Census, Lewiston, Maine, Chester F Kirk household
I have searched the entire enumeration district page-by-page, just to make sure they weren't in some addendum on a later page. I have also searched the Ancestry index for any Roger born in 1919 or any Geneva born in 1917, in the entire city of Lewiston, on the off chance they were with a relative that day (they did have an adult, married half-sister in the city) and got recorded with the wrong surname. Nope, those kids just aren't there. I have to assume this was a case of the enumerator leaving something out while making the final copy.

Ten years later, both children are right where they should be, with their parents. On the other hand, my mother's entire family is nowhere to be found.

The Missing Murphys of Middle Street

Bill and Glenna Murphy, with their daughter Kathleen (my mother), moved from Berlin, N.H., to Lewiston, Maine, before May 1923, when their second daughter, Theresa, was born. They moved from one rental to another for several years (they're listed at three different addresses in the 1924, 1926, and 1928 city directories, and a newspaper article indicates there was a fourth somewhere along the line), before settling permanently in a tenement apartment at 124 Middle Street.

1930 Lewiston, Maine city directory, William G. Murphy entry at 124 Middle Street
The first concrete evidence of their residence at 124 Middle is a listing in the city directory "for the year beginning October 1930."2 This probably means they could have moved there after the April census date. However, I have another piece of evidence from a somewhat unusual source: a life insurance application for William G. Murphy, dated 19 Feb 1935, giving his current residence as 124 Middle St., Lewiston, Maine, and stating that he had lived there for 6 years. That would place his move to that address in early 1929. I'm inclined to consider this accurate, because someone who couldn't recall the exact year would be more inclined to round it off mentally and say, "I think it was about 1930 – say, 5 years ago."

So in 1930, I'm expecting to find the Murphys at 124 Middle Street. Only trouble is, they're not there. 124 is occupied by the Rudolf Parent household, and furthermore they're listed as owning – not renting.3 (The 1930 city directory, however, places them at 104 Ash Street, about five blocks away.) A page-by-page search of the ED, once again, turned up no William Murphy family. I backtracked to the Murphys' last known previous address – 17 Webster Street – but they weren't there either. And city-wide searches on Ancestry for anyone named Murphy, Glenna, Kathleen born 1921, or Theresa born 1923, failed to turn up any sign of a misindexed family.

1930 U.S. census, Lewiston, Maine, sheet 13A, for 124 Middle Street. Not William G. Murphy!

In this case, I'm forced to conclude that the enumerator somehow missed them completely. They may have been a second, overlooked household at 124 Middle (a possibility, since nearly every directory around this time period lists two families at that address), or perhaps it was simply a matter of timing – i.e., they moved before they could be enumerated at a previous address, but after Middle Street had been counted. Or ... there may be another explanation.

There are some definite oddities about that Middle Street census, if you compare it to the numerical street listings in the 1930 city directory. The previous page (sheet 12B) lists several families at 118 Middle (including the "Hodgon" [sic - Hodgdon] and Banville famiies which are also listed there in the directory), and then goes on to list a household at 120 and 122, followed on the next page (sheet 13A) by the Parent household at 124. This is then followed by six households at 128 and one each at 130, 132, 134, and 136; then a line is drawn and the rest of the page (and the following page) is Ash Street. And going back one more page, sheet 12A claims to cover 178, 174, and 166 Middle Street, followed by 158, 154, and 150 Ash Street – but sheet 12B starts with 150, 151, and 148 Middle Street.

1930 Lewiston, Maine directory numerical
listing for Middle Street (part)
What's wrong with this picture? Well, according to the numerical directory listing,4 after 118 there is a plumbing supplier at 120 (no individual householders); no 122 at all; two households at 124 (McEachern and Murphy); and the Dingley School (technically it has an Oak Street address, but it takes up the whole corner lot so there are Middle Street addresses there). And after Middle crosses Oak Street, the next house number is 143. In other words, there don't appear to be any such addresses as 128-136 Middle Street. As for the supposed Ash Street households on sheet 12A, many of the names appear in the directory at the same or nearby numbers on Middle Street, which seems to indicate that the enumerator simply wasn't keeping track of where she was! If that's the case, then I have to question whether the supposed Middle Street listings on sheet 13A – including the one for 124 Middle – are really for Middle Street at all. It may be that 124 Middle was missed completely, and the 124-136 households are for some other street entirely.

All things considered, it would appear that both my father and my mother, long before they met, were completely missed in the census as children, a mere mile – and 10 years – apart.

 (This post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow's 2018 "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.)

  1. 1920 U.S. census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 17, sheet 19B,  dwelling 299, family 357, Chester F Kirk household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 30 Aug 2014). 
  2. Manning's Lewiston, Auburn ... (Maine) Directory for the Year Beginning October 1930 (Boston: H.A. Manning Co., 1930), p. 240, entry for William G. Murphy; database and digital images, "U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995," Ancestry ( : accessed 13 Apr 2012). 
  3. 1930 U.S. census, Androscoggin County, Maine, Lewiston, ED 1-26, sheet 13A,  p. 153 (stamped), dwelling 201, family 247, Rudolf Parent household, labeled as 124 Middle Street; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 3 Feb 2018). 
  4. Lewiston, Auburn ... (Maine) Directory ... 1930, p. 501, numerical street listing for Middle Street; database and digital images, "U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995," Ancestry ( : accessed 3 Feb 2018). 

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