While I waited for the 1930 census to be posted on Ancestry.com, I followed several other leads in an effort to prove Lee McNeill was my grandfather. One of the first avenues I pursued was obtaining the Social Security Application for Lee as well as his parents. I don't recall specifically the date when I ordered these copies, but I recall the price was $7 each. Within a few months of my order, the price had increased to $28 each. I think I got a bargain and then some.
When I received the application I felt certain I had the right person. Lee had indicated his new last name and never listed McNeill anywhere on the form. He listed a Main St. address in Stockton, California and that he was currently unemployed as of the application date of 10 Mar 1937. He also listed his birth date as 2 Jan 1912 and a birth location of Asheville, Buncombe Co, North Carolina. He had always told my grandma that he was born in 1915 and she'd always assumed he was three years younger than the actual date indicated on this application. What I thought was probably the most telling piece of information on the entire form was how he listed his parents: father was Chas. (new last name) and mother was Anna Kate Grindstaff.
So somewhere in between lies the fact and the fiction. The facts: Lee listed his first name correctly as well as his birth date. He listed his father's first name correctly as well as the mother's maiden name. The fiction: the new surname he took on as well as the same name listed for his father, a birthplace of Asheville (that was actually his final residence in NC as far as I've been able to determine), his mother's name was Della, but his sister's name was Anna Kate. The one truth I can say with 100% certainty is that the number he was issued per this form is the one that matched the card my grandma had.
Two things are still uncertain to me. I've often wondered how he ever proved his birth as my understanding was that you had to have a birth certificate to apply. Because North Carolina didn't require this until 1913, many people applied for a delayed certificate. I wonder how he satisfied that requirement. The other reason for falsifying his name is still a mystery. My theories are far and wide but include some of the following: 1. He was evading his parents; 2. He went AWOL from the Navy (my grandma tried to obtain his military records in the 1980s to no avail); and 3. He was evading a previous spouse and/or children (this may be a little far fetched and no indication has ever been found that another spouse existed).
At the time I received Lee's application, I also received forms for his parents, Charles and Della. Their forms contained no real surprises. Charles' full name was Charles Lafayette McNeill born 18 Feb 1886 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina to Robert Nelson McNeill and Margaret Ledford. At the time he completed the application on the 29 Oct 1940, he was unemployed and living at Mountain Sanatorium in Fletcher, North Carolina. A quick Internet search didn't tell me much other than this was a place where tuberculosis patients went in the North Carolina mountains south of Asheville and that today it's a hospital under a different name. I have no idea if he was a patient or seeking work there.
Della's form stated her name was Della W. McNeill, maiden name of Grindstaff. She was born 15 Mar 1893 in Mitchell Co, North Carolina to Isaac Grinestaff [sic] and Mary Woody. Della completed this application on the 16 Jan 1952 while living in Jacksonville, North Carolina. I've been told from a cousin that Charles either owned or managed some housing for the military personnel stationed nearby.
For several years Lee's SSA form has been my primary connection, as well as the 1920 census and later the 1930 census, to a McNeill past in western North Carolina. Next stop: the 1930 Federal Census.