Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Gone to California?

When we're seeking a man who spent most of his teen and adult years living either in Oregon or just across the state line near his wife's family in Idaho, it doesn't seem likely that he'd have a daughter born a considerable distance to the south in the state of California. But that is what the census records tell us for Norma, only daughter of Jim and Edith Tucker.

It would be a simple thing to locate the Tuckers in the 1920 census—that is, if we could locate their entry in that enumeration. As it stands right now, I can't, so we really have no way to tell whether their work requirements—or maybe just their wanderlust—led them to a new residential location.

There are, however, other ways to find the Tuckers. Though they apparently ended up back in Oregon—Jim was buried in River View Cemetery in Portland in 1962, with his wife following in 1966—clues provided after their final days give a glimpse of the rest of the story.

Edith Jones Tucker's memorial at Find A Grave happened to include a transcription of her obituary. Disappointingly brief, it did reveal two clues: that she had a daughter, identified as "Mrs. Jan Lilly," and that Edith's obituary was originally published in The Oregonian. Checking that entry in a digital copy of the original at GenealogyBank, we can verify that it did indeed state those few facts, though nothing more of genealogical interest.

If Edith's obituary was published in The Oregonian, perhaps the same would be so for her husband, who predeceased her. Sure enough, on November 18, 1962, there was the funeral notice, confirming that this James Tucker was husband of Edith. Instead of "Mrs. Jan Lilly" from Edith's own entry, James' daughter was identified as "Mrs. E. T. Lilly."

The entry, however, continued far beyond that. This is where we need to double-check names and relationships with that 1900 census entry where we first found the Tucker family in Oregon, after their stop in Nebraska when the original family portrait was taken.

Jim Tucker's obituary continued listing relationships of those who survived him at his 1962 passing. There was a brother named Elmer, born in Nebraska in 1883, who was now living in Capitola, a town close to Santa Cruz on the coast of northern California.

Next mentioned in Jim's obituary was younger sister Clarice, whom we need to find in the 1910 census, as she wasn't born until 1901. By the time of the 1930 census, Clarice was still in Oregon, by then living with her husband and three children—none of whom, incidentally, were born in California. But by the 1940s, she was listed as a housewife living in the same downtown area in Modesto, California, soon to be immortalized in George Lucas' classic American Graffiti. And by the time her brother James had died, his obituary showed us that she was still living in that Stanislaus County city.

The final mention in James Tucker's obituary was that he was survived by his sister Eva. Eva, one of the older sisters appearing in the Tucker family portrait, was listed in her brother's 1962 obituary as Eva Thomas. At that time, she was living in a more northern location in—yes, once again—California. However, though Chico, California, was her home in the 1960s, in both the 1930 census and as recently as the 1940 census, she was still living in Oregon.

With all these California connections for James Tucker and his family, it is quite possible that he and Edith had moved south to check out the opportunities near his siblings in California—and while there, their late-life surprise baby made her appearance. If that is so, however, why was she Norma I. Tucker in the census records, but Jan Lilly in her mother's obituary? Furthermore, if Norma and Jan are one and the same, can she—or one of her descendants—be located and gifted with this photograph of the young man, James Tucker? That, of course, is the goal of all these musings.


  1. 2 thoughts: names beginning with I and J were often indexed together in old records, and not because they were in order. There is some other reason - now I’m at a loss as to what that reason was but I will check. I think it had something to do with how the letters are written. I know that sounds ridiculous. The other thought is maybe her middle name was Imogene and Jan became her nickname.

    1. Interesting point, Wendy. I had noticed that when I was researching my mother-in-law's Ijams line in Maryland and Ohio; sometimes it was listed as Iams...but that was back in the late 1700s. There was some connection with that I/J reason then, too. And I've seen handwriting examples showing a capital "J" written entirely above the line, which did indeed look like an "I."

      Of course, it would be much easier if I could find any trace of her under either name...or even her husband's frustrating initials. This is definitely going to be a case requiring us to cast the research net further out.

  2. I had the same thought as Wendy. I wonder if Norma Jan or some variation was her original name. It is so amazing how you are able to trace this family.

    1. And she seemed to fall in the cracks, research wise, on several accounts. Believe me, I'm struggling to find another way to research this...not sure I want to wait until the 1950 census comes out!


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