Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Looking For Bessie in 1940

Bessie Mae Eargle Price (1884-1943)
 When the 1940 Census was released in April, I immediately began searching for my people. I was lucky to be able to quickly find all but one family.  Although I had an address in Richland County,SC for my Great Great Grandmother Bessie Mae Eargle Price  (3 July 1884-1 Aug. 1943) and tried all the search techniques offered on line, on blogs and in webinars I still couldn't locate her!
 I was thrilled when the census was finally searchable and I could just plug in her name and see what I could find. What I found was a great example of how census records could be misleading or have completely wrong information and how important it is,whenever possible, to look at the original record.
 At first I thought I once again was going to hit a dead end. Looking on the search results the only Bessie Price I could find was a married woman with a husband named Frank.
 Now I knew that Bessie had been widowed (actually her husband "disappeared" in the early 1920's-but that's a future blog post!) and that she was most likely living with one of her sons. Then it hit me! Bessie had a SON named Frank. Could this be the right family with the wrong relationships listed? Could it have been a indexing error?
 I clicked on the link and took another look.  The head of household was Frank Price 57, with a wife Bessie Price, 56.  Hmmm.   Bessie, it said, was the informant so how could this be the wrong information?  On closer inspection I discovered that the original record actually had "Mother" written for Bessie's relationship to the head of household. Someone had crossed it out and written "Wife" instead. Then I noticed that "Wd" for widowed had also been marked out and replaced with the M for married.  What on earth had happened?  I believe that the cause of the problem most likely came from two mistakes. The first being Frank should have been about 27 at the time and his age is written as 57 and the second was he was marked as married. Frank Price did not get married until 1942.  I think when who ever looked over this page after the census was taken saw the ages written-57 and 56- and decided that they must have been married instead of Mother and Son and changed the record.
  Could this newly written in information be the correct information and not my family? I don't believe so. I have the address where Bessie would have been living from a couple of different sources. This address on Wilson Blvd where Bessie and Frank are living is the correct one. The crossed out information fits the family in 1940.  Even the occupation for Frank Price as a Textile Worker for a Cotton Mill is in line with what is known about the family..
  Finding Bessie in the 1940 Census reinforced two important principles.
 1 The census is not always right or recorded correctly.
 2 .Always check the original source. In this case I was able to view the original in digital format on the web.
Frank Price (on right) with brother George and sister Beulah

Finally I had found Bessie Mae Eargle Price in the 1940 Census! Now to figure out what really happened to her husband Campbell Bertrand Price ( 27 July 1876-1922?).  Did he run away with the family fortune, die in a storm and his body never found, or, as another family story goes, did he get beaten and robbed for the money he was carrying with him and never seen again? Only time and research will tell!