Monday, March 13, 2017

Finding an Unnamed Baby

It's a long way from the 1749 wedding of my sixth great grandparents Jane Strother and Thomas Lewis to the moment at which Susan Gay Estill said "I do" to Scottish immigrant Charles Spittal Robb in 1907. Five generations, in fact.

Suffice it to say, as well, that that name which tickled my memory—Charles Robb—could not possibly have aligned with a date as far back as 1907. That hardly mattered, of course, because—you know me, the procrastinator—I never bothered to listen to that nagging voice in the back of my mind. I didn't take the time to do a search on it—then. I needed a few more nudges, first.

I did, however, think something should be done about it. So when I found verification of the couple's children's names, I gave the list the once over. And—oh, look! They had a son named Charles.

Charles junior, I thought, would be the name that would hit pay dirt and clue me in to whatever it was in the back of my mind urging me to look it up. But no. As it turned out, a search through available genealogical records on Gay Estill Robb's third child, Charles Stuart Robb, failed to turn up any verification as to his whereabouts, subsequent family relationships, or, for that matter, claims to fame. While I could come up with confirmation of the dates and locations of his birth and death—and the fact that he served in the army—there was little else I could discover about him.

Apparently, this was not the Charles Robb I was looking for. So, I reverted to my standard research procedure: start from the oldest child, find all documentation I could on him, his wife, and children. And move on from there.

That was how I got back on track and started—thankfully—with the Robbs' oldest son, James. Born in 1908, James was bestowed with his paternal grandmother's maiden name as his middle name—the same middle name his father had carried. Arriving on the first of November in Randolph County, West Virginia, James Spittal Robb continued to call that place home until sometime after the arrival of his brother Charles in 1912, but before his sister Margaret's birth in 1918.

By the time of Margaret's arrival, the family had settled in Bethesda, Maryland, where their father, the Scottish immigrant, had become involved in real estate. By the time of the 1930 census, James' father's business concerns turned to "investments" in the "coal and timber" industries. According to the 1940 census, the elder Robbs had moved into Washington, D.C., where the senior Charles Robb listed himself as a member of the committee of H.O.L.C.—Home Owners' Loan Corporation, the New Deal creation under President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed to provide refinancing options to homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

That, of course, was long after the Robb children had left home to strike out on their own. In fact, by the time of the 1940 census, their son James had already been married for nearly four years, and was the proud father of an infant son.

Lest you thing that was the prompt that sent me, finally, scurrying to Google that well-known name, think again. Not only was James far removed from his hometown in West Virginia—not to mention, his high school stomping grounds in Bethesda, Maryland—but he and his wife had failed to reveal just what they had named their baby. As far as the 1940 census went, that firstborn son was called, simply, "infant."

Above: "Pleasant Game in the Yard," by German portrait painter Theodor Kleehaas (1854 - 1929); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I thought about you the other day when we went to Tybee Island for lunch. We drove down "Estill Street."

    1. Interesting, Wendy! Wonder if it was named after a distant relative.


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