And now, another tale of Chaotic Genealogy, when the records lead us into unexpected directions.
Family Tree Maker recently gave me a Shaky Leaf icon for William M. Watts, a son of James Madison Watts and Sylvannia Bohannon. A Shaky Leaf indicates that FTM has found a potential record match. I clicked on the leaf to review the potential match, and was shown a hit in the recently added 1940 census. I was surprised to see that the census record was for Chicago, Illinois. Upon opening the record, I saw another familiar name: Lawson Scott, who was the husband of Birley Evelyn Bohannon. There was an unfamiliar name, too: Louise Watts, wife of William.
The house number for this entry, and the entries before and after, was 1518 Wilson Avenue, apparently an apartment building.
One nice thing about the 1940 census is that it also recorded where people lived in 1935. As shown below, William was living in Marshall, Arkansas, which helps reinforce that this was indeed one of “our” Watts. Lawson Scott was living in “same place,” which meant Chicago, but not necessarily at this same address.
Who was Louise? I had not previously recorded a spouse for William, so she is a new person to me. I haven’t been able to find any other records that mention her. All I have is what this census tells me. She was born in Massachusetts around 1920. In 1935, she was living in Boston, which suggests that she and William were married between 1935 – 1940, but where and exactly when? What was her maiden name? She is a mystery.
William and Lawson were both employed as “wreckers” in the “building wrecker” industry, with Lawson apparently having left behind his wife to find work (Where was Birley in 1940?). Louise was a maid in a private home.
William’s Social Security Number was issued prior to 1951 in Illinois, so it’s possible he was living at this address when he applied for his number. Lawson’s number was also issued prior to 1951 in Illinois, but this census’ supplemental questions indicated that he did not yet have his number in 1940.
In trying to answer some of the questions raised by this census, I went to Find A Grave and searched for William Watts. I knew he died in 1988 in Yuba, California, so I concentrated on other Watts there hoping to find Louise. I came across eight Watts buried in Sutter Cemetery in a small town also called Sutter, which itself is located directly west of Yuba. William was there. None, however, were Louise.
One of them was William’s brother, Vernon Lee Watts, and there was a photograph of his grave marker, which gave me his birth and death dates, and also his wife’s name, Mildred. A search of the local newspaper’s web site turned up Mildred’s obituary, which I have previously published.
With one record, we went from Searcy County, Arkansas to Chicago and Boston and then out to California. But, I still haven’t found anything else on Louise.
Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census. Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T627_1015; Page: 66B; Enumeration District: 103-3002. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index. Name: William M. Watts; Death Date: 9 December 1988; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before 1951. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index. Name: Lawson Scott; Death Date: August 1971; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before 1951. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
Find A Grave. “William M. Watts,” created by Celeste Wideman. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
Find A Grave. “Vernon Lee Watts,” created by Vicalina. Retrieved 26 December 2012.