Finding a Family, part 2: From Missouri to Iowa

by on September 17th, 2016

In my last post, I’d found my grandfather Carl in the 1925 census. I also found out that his father and his grandfather were born in Missouri, which came as a surprise to me. For as long as I’d known them, my father’s family of aunts, uncles, and cousins were all in Oelwein, Iowa, and I’d never thought to ask if they’d moved there from somewhere else. Oelwein can kind of seem like a place where, the people who live there, they’ve always just been there and nowhere else. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, just that it’s a small town and community, everyone knows everyone and all their family members, all of their stories, and the stories of their parents and grandparents. They know where everyone works, who built what, who lives where, who everyone’s children got married to, etc. Oelwein is familiar and self-contained.

So, just who were these Missourians that came to Oelwein?

Now that I know when and where Ferd was born, it’s easy to find records for him. In a 1915 state census, he is living in Harlan, Iowa, and has been there one year. He’s single. In this same census, I find cards for Effie, Dolly, Ray, and John Smith as well. They all moved to Iowa in 1914. John was a farmer. In 1920, Ferd is living in a rooming house in Oelwein, and has a job as a brakeman for the Chicago Great Western Railroad. I have to do a little searching to find him in 1930, because he was listed as F.D. By this time, he is married to Mauna, and they have five children under the age of seven. He is still a brakeman. By 1940, Ferd (then 49) was a railroad conductor, and now married to a woman named Roena, who was 24. While I never met Ferd, I do remember Roena; during some family gathering when I was about 10 or 11 she unceremoniously announced to my mother that my sister and I used to be thin. The name Roena has forever been linked in my mind that memory, and although I can’t remember exactly what she looked like, I picture her in the most unflattering way. Anyway, moving on…

Working backwards, Ferd’s parents were John and Effie, and according to the 1910 census, before moving to Iowa they were living in the town of Date, Missouri. John is a farmer, and they have five children between the ages of 10 and 22. John was born around 1861 in Missouri, Effie around 1866 in Illinois.

I am able to find them in the 1900 census, where the information is all pretty much the same. Their marriage record also shows up, and while the scan is pretty illegible, it says that they married in Missouri in 1884, and that Effie’s maiden name is Casey. It kind of goes cold from there; the 1890 Federal census records were, for the most part, destroyed in a fire, and there isn’t a Missouri census for the time period in Ancestry, so I can’t find anything about John and Effie for those earlier years. Going back to the census, it says that Effie is widowed by 1925, and living with Ferd’s family. Next, I looked to see if I could find anything else about them in Iowa; using Newspaper Archive, an extensive collection of digitized newspapers from across the nation, I was able to find the obituary for Effie. She died in 1934, and her body was sent to Mountain View, Mo., for burial.

I was curious about Mauna, Ferd’s first wife. I asked my father if could remember Carl or Ferd ever talking about her, and he said that it didn’t happen often. I used Newspaper Archive again, and was able to locate the obituary for Mauna–she died in September, 1936, at the age of 32. She gave birth to eight children, seven of them survived. Her last child was born 23 days before she died; this was Robert, my father’s Uncle Bob, who I remember quite well. The obituary goes on to state that her family and home were her greatest joys, and that she also enjoyed participating in the Ladies Auxiliary of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. She was buried in one of the two cemeteries in Oelwein, and on a somewhat sad note, I happen to know that Carl and Roena are buried in the other.

MaunaNewspaper Archive database is a great resource; while reading through newspapers from 1930s Oelwein might seem like a small, personal hell to some, for others it’s a goldmine of details mixed with local prattle. I find little things like the fact that, when John and Effie’s daughter Dollie died in 1960, Ferd (and Roena?) was living in San Diego. I also find seemingly unimportant, but no less interesting/perplexing facts like Roena winning a prize for playing canasta in 1953. Good for her! The database isn’t comprehensive, there are some definite gaps in coverage and span, but many times you can find something you’re searching for.

Next time: the Smiths from Texas county, Missouri.

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