Tuesday, March 27, 2018
What About Ralph?
Possibly discovering yet another photograph subject from Thirza Brown Cole's collection right next door to her own family in her childhood hometown was too great a coincidence for me. I had to check it out.
I decided not to go the route of "too good to be true" skepticism, but to play a research game of "what if."
What if the two year old child labeled simply "Baby Pollock" in the 1880 census turned out to be Ralph Pollock, the young man in Thirza's photograph collection? The census entry, right next door to the Thomas Brown household, put his age as two. I decided to play along and see if I could find a Ralph Pollock, born 1878 in Colorado, listed in the next census for Weld County, Colorado. Just in case the previous enumerator might have gotten Baby Pollock's age wrong, I built in some wiggle room with a two year range, plus or minus, from 1880.
As it turned out, I did find such a Ralph Pollock, but he wasn't in the home of Harvey and Mary Pollock, as he—the presumed Ralph—had been in 1880. This time, he was included in the household of someone named Franklin B. Pollock.
At least we got the Pollock right.
There, Ralph was listed as a nephew of Franklin and Susan Pollock. This being the 1900 census, I could also tell that, other than Ralph, this was a childless household; Susan had reported having no children of her own.
One other thing I discovered: this Ralph wasn't born in 1878 like Baby was. Ralph was listed as having been born about 1881.
So...who was Baby? And what happened to Ralph's parents?
I began imagining horrible scenarios befalling the hapless Ralph. We've seen these tragedies before, in family history research. Life wasn't exactly perfect in pioneer territory.
My task, first of all, would be to find both Franklin and Harvey Pollock in a previous census—hopefully even in the household of their own parents, assuming they were related to each other. Then, check all the brothers in that Pollock household to see who would be the actual father of the presumed orphan, Ralph Pollock.
Fortunately, it didn't take too long to locate a Pollock family with both a son named Franklin and a son named Harvey. Because I had already seen that Harvey's oldest son was born in Indiana, it was no surprise to locate the 1860 household of Robert and Fanny Pollock in Fulton County, Indiana, complete with sons Franklin, Hiram, Harvey, and John, as well as lone daughter Mary.
Because the 1900 census entry for Ralph Pollock had indicated that his mother was born in Maine, I fervently hoped that wasn't an enumerator error and began searching for which one of the older generation Pollock brothers married a wife from the Pine Tree State. I already knew Franklin's wife, Susan, wouldn't be the right one, but just for the record, she was born in Ohio. Hiram married another Ohio gal, Rebecca Zimmerman, as had his brother Harvey, as we'd already noticed from the 1880 census.
That left the baby of the older family, John. According to the 1900 census, John's wife, Flora, had been born in Connecticut. Could someone just have gotten their New England states mixed up, when it came time to provide those pesky details to the census taker?
As far as I could tell, there were no other Pollock sons from the older generation available to include in the tally. Taking a look at all the sons' sons before that 1900 census entry revealed that there weren't any named Ralph. The only Ralph I could find at any time was the nephew in the home of Uncle Franklin and Aunt Susan. Besides, if Ralph were actually born in 1881, he wouldn't have been showing in the 1880 census, anyhow.
But what about Baby Pollock? Who was he? I had to take a closer look at the family of Harvey and Mary, the ones we had originally spotted in the household next to Thirza's parents, Thomas and Ellen Brown. Could Baby Pollock also have been a Ralph? If so, where was the Harvey Pollock family? After 1880, I couldn't find him in any census records.
Above: Excerpt from the Weld County, Colorado, U.S. Census for 1900, showing the household of Franklin Pollock, including his nephew, Ralph C. Pollock. Image courtesy Ancestry.com.