Sunday, September 20, 2015

Old Stories, New Eyes; Verifying Family Lore: Tales From The Cave, part two

Sunday morning.

Labor Day weekend.

Anxious to get back in the Cave to solve the problem I uncovered yesterday.

I knew the answer was there - or at least an explanation. I needed to dig deeper.

{Palm slap to forehead} The obviousness hit me. I needed to look at every city directory between the years 1911 and 1920.

Feeling a bit stupid, I settled in for a session of flipping through electronic records, year by year, verifying my great grandfather's address.

An hour or so later, my grandmother's story was proved correct, partly. The family did move in 1911 and again in 1920. BUT that still didn't prove that the house was built in 1919 and not 1916.


Back to the city directories. This time instead of the name, I  employed the handy street index located towards the back of each directory. Looking up the house number and street, I flipped through the virtual pages, electronically unindexed, of course. Knowing both addresses all I needed to do was look for the year the address of the second house first appeared.

Tedious. Time consuming. Oddly rewarding, I must confess.

I felt a little like a time traveller, maybe that is part of the draw of genealogy for me. Anyway, another two hours passed and guess what?! Yup. The second address did not appear until 1920! The Genealogy Queen was correct!

But what about the Zillow listing? What about that?

Again I had to resist the urge to hop in the car and drive the 300 miles to Polk County to show them what I had discovered, and maybe could their be a chance that their records were wrong?

I gave myself a good talking to and decided to just let it go. For the sake of my story I had the proof that I needed. I did put it on my spreadsheet (thanks Thomas MacEntee!) for future research.

OK. On with the story. This should wrap up nicely now, I thought.

I worked my way through the 1920's. The marriage of my grandmother, the career of my great grandfather. Everything was lining up with the "family story" left by my grandmother.

Until 1929.

Oh, oh. Another discrepancy. Or perhaps merely an omission of more detailed information? Rats!

The tale was told that my great grandfather was so successful in his business that he was able to buy a house for his in-laws to retire in. That's not exactly what the records were telling me. I did find my 2nd great grandparents in the 1930 census - but they were living with my great grandparents - AND they were all living in a apartment!?!

Back to the city directories and the year 1929. Shoot. The (extended) family was living in the apartment. The 'big house" had a different family residing in it. 1929! We all know what happened that year. Could my great grandfather have lost everything? Was he forced to sell the big house and move to an apartment?


Apart from driving to Polk Co and looking at the real estate histories for the house and the apartment, I had to just let it go, for the moment. (Put it on the ol' spreadsheet for a later looksee)

OK. The Queen has been correct up to this point, why would I doubt her now? I continued to dig into those city directories.

My great grandfather remained in business, his ad ran in the city directory every year. Good.

I took a look at my 2nd great grandparents. 2nd great grandma passed away in December 1932, and 2nd great grandpa in April 1933 Hmm. The foursome was listed as living in the apartment every year from 1929 to 1933. Hmm.

Then I looked at 1934.

Well, well, well. Guess what!? My great grandparents were back in the "big house"!

This just opened up all sorts of questions.

Why did they move to the apartment?
Why did they move back to the big house?
Why, if they were caring for the elderly relatives, did they not just care for them in the house?


Resigned to the fact that I would not know the answers, at least not today from the comfort of the Cave; I accepted, grudgingly, that I had reached the end of my quest.

I still don't feel the story is "wrapped up", but the ending is a happy one. And further research revealed that the house remained in the family until at least 1960 - the last year I was able to find a city directory online.

I really need to get to Polk Co one of these days .....

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