Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lee and the 1930 census

By the time the 1930 census was released on, I felt I had made decent progress. I had found the 1920 census for the Charles McNeill family; the 1910 census for Charles McNeill and Della Grindstaff shortly before their marriage; the Social Security applications for Lee, Charles and Della; and I knew tentative dates and locations of the deaths of Charles and Della.

After I had not-so-patiently waited for a searchable index to be put together, I typed in Charles McNeill in Buncombe Co, North Carolina. I think I was nervous and worried that I wouldn't be able to find the family. After some digging, they were found listed as McNeal living in Asheville, renting a home at 44 Ormond Avenue (1). The household consisted of the following: Charles L, age 43, married at age 25, and working as a clerk in a rayon mill; wife Della, age 36, married at age 18; Lee W, age 18, working as a stock room clerk in a department store; Anna K. age 16; Ora B. age 14; Riley B. age 6; Robert N., father, age 71, widowed. Later communication with a cousin indicated the family had hit financial hard times living in the mountains of Mitchell Co, so they relocated to Asheville for work.

Lee's age for two consecutives censuses matched a birth year of 1912. So he lived his entire married life saying he was born in 1915, but lied about his age to join the Navy, when in reality he lied about his age to his wife and children. This also proved that he was still living at home in April 1930 and had yet to join the Navy. This census proved the old family chart I had that listed the two sisters and a brother. I knew that Margaret (Ledford) McNeill had died prior to this but didn't know if it was in Buncombe or Mitchell counties.

What I've done since finding this census:

I have determined that no death certificate appears to exist for Margaret who died in about 1927 or 1928. I had a fellow researcher and friend visit the Mitchell County office where these are house and she couldn't locate it. I've scoured the online database at for the death certificates and can't find it. I've come to the conclusion, sadly, it's just not to be found. Robert died a couple of years after this census. They are both buried at Silver Chapel Baptist Cemetery in Bandana, Mitchell Co., North Carolina.

I've corresponded with Lee's first cousin in Hickory who shed some light on the circumstances surrounding Lee's disappearance. Charles was a stern man and probably some stubborn pride on both sides led to Lee fleeing out the cousin's bedroom window to avoid his father and consequently was never seen or heard from again.

I've learned a little about each of the sisters and their families. Anna went north to the "big city". One cousin told me they didn't exactly know where, I've heard from another that it was New York City. She apparently married a Starrett and had one child named Charles in about 1941. Ora Belle, or Belle as she was known, married a Lee Roy Simerly and had three children. I've recently come into contact with the two surviving children. They have been kind enough to share a few stories and a couple of photos.

Lee's brother married, had several children, and moved away from North Carolina. As a result of a message board post I did several years ago, a husband of Lee's niece contacted me and we've shared quite a bit of information, including pages of the family bible that led me to the above information on Anna and Belle. This man has been most generous with his time and research. He has also been incredibly helpful with issues of Y-DNA and help with researching genetically. He runs two surname projects through FTDNA so he knows his stuff. In a later post, I will discuss our Y-DNA findings.

(1) 1930 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Asheville, Buncombe Co., North Carolina, Dwelling 274, Household 287, Charles McNeal household, jpeg image, (Online: The Generations Network, Inc. 2002) [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], subscription database,, accessed ca 2003.

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