Sunday, August 16, 2009

1920 Census records raise more questions

Following up on yesterday's post, I've been trying to answer some of the questions raised in the New York Times article about the 1921 murder of Dr. William Strother of Lynchburg, Virginia, at the hands of his neighbor Jesse Ford.

I thought a good way of putting the principle figures into context would be to see how they were enumerated in the 1920 Census.

If ye socks have not yet discovered Heritage Quest, yet, you need to check them out. Most public libraries (at least those in this little corner of heaven) offer free access to their indexed census images simply through obtaining a library card.

Here's what I uncovered in this case:

1920 Cenus, Campbell County, Virginia, page 272a
1208 Floyd Street, Lynchburg, renters:
(all white, born in Virginia, as were their parents)
* Ford, Jesse W., head of household, 28, married, engineer/contractor.
* Ford, Juanita, wife, 24, married.
* Ford, James R., 4, single
* Ford, Barbara J., daughter, 1, single.

Mr. Ford was evidently the son of a couple who owned a home nearby at 1223 Floyd Street, enumerated on the same page:

* Ford, James R., head, 51, married, general contractor.
* Ford, Barbara A., wife, 50, married.
* Ford, Abigail, daughter, 24, single, bookkeeper.
* Ford, Grace, daughter, 19, single.
* Ford, Elizabeth, daughter, 14, single.

However, I didn't find Dr. Strother anywhere on Floyd Street. Nor was he enumerated on either the preceding or following pages in Lynchburg. Instead, I found him living in the countryside beyond the city limits. Here's the extract on his household:

1920 Cenus, Bedford County, Virginia, page 87b
Boonsboro & Coleman Falls Road, Forest District, owners:
(all white, born in Virginia, as were their parents)
* Strother, William A., head, 35, married, physician with country practice.
* Strother, William M., son, 13, single, attending school.
* Strother, Paul M., son, 12, single, attending school.
* Mitchell, Lorna, housekeeper, 30, widow.

Note, the census record correctly give the murdered doctor's middle initial "A," whereas the newspaper article says "M." His middle name, as given on his tombstone at Spring Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg, was Alexander.

But, it also raises some new questions. Like, if the doctor was married, as the enumeration states, where was his wife?! Also, what prompted him to leave his "country practice" and move into the city, where he would lose his life within a year's time?

I suppose this case serves as a pretty good example of why genealogy is a never-ending project. Each new tidbit of information prompts more questions.

If any of ye socks can answer some of the questions surrounding the doctor's murder, or can suggest additional avenues of research, yours truly would greatly appreciate hearing from ye!

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