Monday, August 26, 2019

What We Can't Find About Jim Tucker

Reuniting abandoned century-old photographs with family is not that much of a challenge, as long as you know at least a few details about the subjects of the portrait. A name or two is definitely helpful, but the location of the studio where the picture was taken can also help. From that point, with two or three facts, all it takes is some time and genealogical grunt work to produce the results—and then the serendipity to locate the family's descendants.

We have most of those initial requirements for working with the photograph I found in northern California of a young James Tucker. For one thing, someone had thoughtfully labeled the reverse of the cabinet card with his name and the additional detail that he was "Maud's brother." This agreed with the research I had already completed for another photograph—that time, the entire Tucker family, taken before 1900 in Wahoo, Nebraska—so it wasn't much of a surprise to discover the watermark on the card itself told us the location of the studio was in Oregon.

There are, however, some missing links in James Tucker's story, and those missing elements may be just what we need to locate a descendant interested in receiving this rescued photograph.

What we can find does flow nicely from the 1900 census entry for Jim's family in Oregon; we can see him there as the oldest child of Samuel and Annie Tucker. Six years later, we learn that this twenty-one year old had already married a woman from Missouri by the name of Edith May Jones. Since the location of the wedding was in Bannock County, Idaho, we can presume Edith had moved there with her parents. Indeed, by the time Jim had registered in 1918 toward the end of the Great War, he stated his employer was someone named Wilbur Jones—possibly a relative of his wife.

That, however, is getting ahead of ourselves. One key stopping place in this research rundown would be the 1910 census, right after the couple was married on December 18, 1906. We can see from the census the corroborating detail that Jim and Edith were married for at least three years—agreeing with the fact that the census was taken in April of that year, only four months past that third year. And we can also see that, though they've been married for at least three years, there are no children in their household. Edith claims no descendants, whether alive or deceased.

Fast forward to the 1930 census, and we see the Tucker household enlarged to three occupants: Jim, Edith, and a daughter named Norma I. Tucker. Though Edith lists her age as forty five, this daughter is only one year of age. Agreed, that age could easily be misread, as it appears that a lightly-inked fraction was crossed out in a bolder stroke, but fast-forwarding another ten years bears out that detail: in 1940, Norma was listed as twelve years of age.

There's another unexpected detail about Norma. Unlike her father who, though born in Illinois and captured in a family photograph in Nebraska as a boy, spent most of his adult life—as far as we know—around the border between Oregon and the Idaho home of her mother, Norma was apparently born in California.

California? Where did that come from?

The challenge is to find just where Norma's parents were in the decade preceding her birth. But there's a problem with that: no matter how I search, I haven't been able to find either James or Edith in the 1920 census. Not in Illinois, where Jim was born. Not in Missouri, place of his wife's birth. And certainly not in the two states where we've already found them, Idaho and Oregon. Could they have made the big move to California, leading up to the stock market crash of 1929?

If there's no way to directly answer that question, at least there are ways to work around this missing census record. We'll see, tomorrow, what can be pieced together about the details we can't otherwise find about Jim Tucker and his family.

Above: Difficult to spot in the original, enlargement of the scanned James Tucker photograph allows us to read the studio imprint clearly enough to determine its location in Ontario, Oregon; photograph currently in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant.

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