Monday, April 25, 2011

Mystery Monday: Why can't I find Grandfather in 1930 census?

I've been researching my family long enough that I remember when the 1920 census was made public in 1992, and I was especially excited when the 1930 census was released in 2002, because I better understood the significance of it. This was back when census research required using microfilm machines, and if I left my local NARA facility with nine or ten successful finds after three hours, I was thrilled!

My maternal grandparents did not marry until September 1931, so I looked for each of them separately, hoping that they were still living with their parents. Success: one of the first 1930 census records I found was for my maternal grandmother, living with her parents and two of her sisters. They lived in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania at 836 North Highland Avenue.
1930 U.S. Federal Census, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1975; Page: 23B; Enumeration District: 169; image: 246.0. Record for Percy E Hunter.

Lines 91-96 show this family. Percy E. Hunter, age 57, wife Marguerite, age 54, and daughters, Mary L., 26, Margaret L., 24, and Helen L. 23, (my grandmother). This census enumeration sheet shows that he owned his own home, which was worth $65,000, and that he owned a radio. They married when he was 24 and she was 21. They and their parents were all born in Pennsylvania. (In fact, three of my grandmother's eight great-grandparents were born in Pennsylvania, with the other five born in Scotland (3) or Ireland (2).) Percy was "President" of "Bridge Co." (More about that in a later blog posting.) The family also had a servant enumerated with them, a 29-year-old woman, Frances Kuzalecki, from "Yugo-Slavia", whose native language was Croatian. She arrived in 1923 and was still a resident alien.

I have not been able to find my maternal grandfather in 1930. And, although his parents (my maternal grandfather's parents) had been in New Trier, Cook County, Illinois in 1900, 1910, and 1920, I found them in Michigan City, La Porte, Indiana at the Sheridan Beach Hotel, Lake Ave. in the 1930 census.
1930 U.S. Federal Census, Michigan City, La Porte, Indiana; Roll: 603; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 17; image: 1061.0. Record for Lowell Copeland.

Lines 37-39 show Lowell Copeland, age 67, wife Ethel M., age 54, and daughter Ruth L, age 22. They married when he was 37 and she was 24. This census shows that it was unknown if they owned or rented, and did not indicate an "R" for owning a radio. There is also no indication of what my great-grandfather did for a living, but perhaps at age 67, he was retired. Lowell and his parents were born in Maine. Ethel was born in Illinois, and her parents were born in Massachusetts. Ruth, who was my grandfather's youngest sister, was born in Illinois. (Their middle child, Elizabeth, known as Betty, was married and living in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband, who was a professor at Princeton University.)

My mother thinks that her father would have been in New York at this time, but I have had no success in finding him. I have looked in for Lowell Townsend Copeland, born in Illinois in 1901 (actually he was born December 21, 1900) in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania with no luck. I have tried L.T. Copeland, Lowell Copeland, and Townsend Copeland. I've tried using "Copland" as the last name, as well as "*land" and even Toby as the given name, as that was his nickname. Any suggestions welcome.


  1. You've probably tried this but limit serch to an area and use age and just one of names; try reversing first and last names; use a wildcard symbol in the first part of the name and also in the second part. Sometimes there is just wild spelling / translations out there that can be quite unbelievable - using the wildcard helps with those.
    Good Luck,
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  2. Do you have access to Heritage Quest through your public library? I love HQ because you can elminiate the name all together and search a variety of other criteria. That doesn't always work well in Ancestry. I then look through the alpha listing of results to see if a "sounds like" shows up. I deal with Polish and French-Canadian surnames which are often dreadfully misspelled, and I love HQ for this very reason.

  3. Actually, I've done some additional research since posting this. I found a letter written by my grandfather dated in April 1930 with a return address of 14 East 66th Street, New York, NY. This is E.D. 31-562 (Roll 1567) in the 1930 U.S. Census. I couldn't find this address, however. Page 6A (image 11 of 31) has house# 12 and #16, but no #14.