Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Not Finding Alta
Let's face it: if I had been able to find any more useful information on Alta Barnes, the littlest sister in the photo post card I found in a northern California antique shop, this post would have been called, "Finding Alta."
Now you know that I haven't.
What I did discover about Alta was that she was born in 1909 in a little town called Newkirk in Oklahoma. Why the family moved from their residence in Cowley County, Kansas, I'm not sure, but for the brief time between the birth of her next oldest sister, Nellie, in 1904, and the loss of her oldest sister Hattie in 1911, the family had shown up in Oklahoma for Alta's 1909 arrival.
Back in Kansas, Alta's family welcomed in two more children—younger sister Helen in 1915 and baby brother James in 1920—before Alta became a married woman, herself. Not quite seventeen, Alta married Webster Wayne Williams in 1925, a man over ten years her senior.
By the time of the 1930 census, she and her husband had moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where Webster worked as a mail clerk for the railroad. There they stayed for the next five years, and there they welcomed their first child—a son—into the world.
When their daughter was born in 1936, however, the family was back in Kansas. The 1940 census showed them residing in Johnson County, where Webster was still working as a railroad mail clerk, only this time in the employment of the U.S. Postal Service.
From that point, there was little I could find on Alta Barnes Williams. I learned, thanks to the Social Security Applications and Claims Index, that her middle name was Delila, and that she lived to be eighty nine years of age. I also saw that, in a strange sort of full circle, Alta had returned to the land of her birth, dying—in 1998—in the state of Oklahoma.
In trying to trace what became of her children—in hopes of returning the photograph to family members—I couldn't find much. In fact, I couldn't even locate an obituary for Alta—something not surprising, considering her last residence was in a place with a population less than three thousand people.
After several false hopes—Williams is, after all, a fairly common surname—I did locate a small entry in a Kansas newspaper which was most certainly Alta's obituary. In the process, I was reminded of all the resources available online—both free and fee-based—for searching through newspaper archives, a list which may come in handy for anyone on the same sort of pursuit. This, along with the few facts I gleaned about Alta's family through her obituary, I'll bring up tomorrow.