Friday, August 2, 2019

A Few Things About Frank

So in California, we've found an antique photograph of a Tucker family, taken over one hundred years ago in a tiny town called Wahoo in Nebraska. We're in luck, because on the reverse of the picture, someone has thoughtfully labeled the names of everyone in the photo, other than "Grand Dad." We've got plenty of clues to work on.

Naturally, the first thing to do, in trying to figure out how to return this picture to descendants of the right Tucker family, is to locate the family in Wahoo, back when the portrait was actually taken. We can build the family tree out from there.

Problem: there was no Tucker family of this size, or these given names, in Wahoo, Nebraska, back in 1900. But there was one in Malheur County, Oregon, with almost all the names the same as those in the photograph. How can we be sure we have the right family?

Fortunately, the label on the photograph included a few other details about the family. One of those facts was that the son named Frank had served during the Great War. We can already tell from the 1910 census record of this household—the closest census before the beginning of World War I—that Frank was then nineteen years of age. In other words, at least according to the census, Frank was born around 1891.

Checking to see what could be found about a Frank Tucker, born around 1891, who served in that war, there was a draft registration card that matched his description—almost. This Frank had a middle name of Ephrom, and was born on November 20, 1891. So far, so good.

This Frank also was born in Nebraska, giving the town of his birth as Yutan. A quick check revealed that Yutan was a town of less than three hundred people, back in 1900, and that it just happened to be in the same county as Wahoo—a good sign for us.

The only problem was that this Frank Tucker registered for the draft in Klamath Falls, Oregon, not the spot in Malheur County where we first spotted this Tucker family. True, this Frank registered in January of 1917, almost twenty years after that 1900 census. But even in the 1910 census, the Tucker family we've had our eyes on was still living in Malheur County, half a state away.

This particular Frank, however, did end up giving his life for his country, dying from injuries sustained in France during the war. A newspaper clipping from the Sacramento Bee, shared by an subscriber, noted that Frank died on November 25. And sure enough, there was a memorial listed on Find A Grave for a man by the same name, dying on that same date.

That's when the comparison begins to unravel a bit further. I'm not sure this is a case of an over-helpful Find A Grave volunteer, or some sloppy editing on the part of the newspapers from which the two posted news reports were drawn. What we learn about this Frank—if the articles are correct—is that he was the son of "E. W. Tucker" and that he had "come from Nebraska four years ago." Well, we're looking for a Frank, son of Samuel—at least, if we have the right Tucker family—and we already can see that our Frank, as well as his dad Samuel and the rest of the family, had been in Oregon in time to be counted for the 1900 census. Certainly longer than that mere four years.

On the flip side, the posted articles also mentioned Frank's having four brothers and two sisters. That, at least according to a combination of both the 1900 and 1910 census, proved to be true for his brothers. For the sisters, though, either the newspapers were missing that one small detail of one additional sister, or we are not talking about the right Frank Tucker.

Turning to the census enumeration directly following the loss of this Frank, though, we discover that the Samuel and Annie Tucker we had spotted in Malheur County in 1900 and 1910 had indeed moved to Klamath County, proving at least one detail in those newspapers almost correct: "His mother and father live in this city."

Is this Frank Tucker the right one? Did the newspapers slip up and include the wrong initials for his father's name or the wrong date for his arrival from Nebraska? After all, the Frank in the photo was noted to have died in World War I. Still, there are surely a lot of Frank Tuckers out there. We can't settle this issue without following up on the other clue our anonymous label-writing benefactor had provided. 


  1. Newspapers can be so helpful. They can also state two conflicting facts in the same article. I will stay tuned for more of this story!

    1. It definitely is a love-hate relationship for me with newspapers, Miss Merry. Hard to cover it up!


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