Friday, September 14, 2018

The Census Enumerator
in West Point, Nebraska

Even small towns can present their research pitfalls, if one knows how to find them. I am talented at stumbling upon such difficulties.

My quest started out innocently enough: I wanted to see if Adolph Brockman's wife was a hometown girl from the same place where Adolph grew up. Since West Point, Nebraska, was such a tiny place, I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to combine a reasonable online search with a modernized version of that pre-Internet habit of flipping through the pages by the place where I found my target person.

As we already discovered, Adolphthe groom in the hundred year old wedding photo I found in an antique store in Californiawas still living in his parents' home in 1910, when the census reported his age as twenty. What were the chances, I wondered, that his bride-to-be would be living nearby?

Though I hadn't found any entries for a "Vernie"as her name had been given on the back of the photographI had located a family with an unmarried Verna in the 1910 census, living in the same township in the same county in Nebraska. Granted, she wasn't exactly the girl next doorAdolph was on page 8A and this Verna was on page 4A of Elkhorn Townshipbut I decided to flip back through the pages to see if I could find her by hand.

That's where I got confused.

It turns out that, flipping backwards through the pages, I discovered there was another Verna living nearby, too. Only this Verna was listed on page 6A. I was beginning to wonder if those codes so handily scrawled over the by-then-completed enumeration had tricked me into reading the wrong thing, once again. I took another look. And a second one. Bit by bit, the details emerged. One Verna was a marriageable eighteen years of age; the other was only two. One was in the household of John and Anna Neiman; the other was the child of Albert and Rosia Lierman.

The Neiman and Lierman surnames, in the same handwritingcomplete with the now-expected overwritten letterskept me toggling back and forth between them, wondering if there were really two versions of the same census. That's what comes from working on research after a brain-mangling day working at one's desk.

In the meantime, in all that staring, I noticed one further detail: the enumerator for Elkhorn Township was none other than Albert's father, William Brockman.

Supposing that Verna was the true name of William Brockman's future daughter-in-law, I tried my hand at placing Adolph and Vernarather than Vernietogether. The first stop at the next censusfor 1920was a rocky road, as well, thanks to the enumerator in neighboring Pierce County having a shaky hand. The entry for Adolph was rather unreadable, though I could find Vernaand their daughter, listed as six year old Velvaliving in the very county where I had found the World War I draft registration card for a married Adolph Brockman, born on August 25, 1889. Things were beginning to look up.

It's a good thing I didn't stop there. Of course, I was curious to see whether Adolph and Vernie had any other children, but I think the name change in the 1930 census for their daughter was more likely owing to correct enumeration than one child replacing another. In 1930, the Brockmans' sixteen year old daughter was listed as Viola.

Whether Velva or Viola, I had to know, mainly for one reason: I needed to figure out just how the wedding photo I had rescued in the northern California antique shop had arrived at its unlikely destination from Nebraska. Did Violaor Velvainherit the photograph, then move to California? Or was someone else the recipient of the Brockmans' wedding portrait? My next step is to trace Adolph and Vernie's daughter. 


  1. 1914 must be the year they were have lots of info!

    1. This photo seemed like it would be easier to return to family, since it had a full name written on the back...notice I emphasize it seemed...nothing is ever simple...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...