Tag Archives: census records

North Carolina in the 1920’s

Life in the 1920 is not life in the 2010’s.  I went searching for information in the 1920’s, specifically about North Carolina, to try and gather some perspective about the life of Jennie Elizabeth Payne and how her life was different than mine.

I know that prohibition began in the 1920’s and women were given the right to vote.   I wonder if my grandmother voted in the 20’s? Warren G Harding and Calvin Coolidge were the presidents in the 1920’s.  What did she think of them?  And did the family respect prohibition or was it just something they had to work around?

I found an interesting site NCpedia which had a article Women in the 1920s.  It is interesting to note that NCSU began accepting women in 1921 but didn’t actually have one graduate until 1926.  UNC also allowed women to attend in 1921, but “the student newspaper headlined, Women Not Wanted Here. ” Yikes!  I know that grandmother worked as a nurse at one point, so she probably had some education.

Crowder Mountain was a rural area, and electricity was not the norm and bathrooms were usually outhouses.  I would not have done well.1 Life could not have been easy on the farm.

I know that I saw that some people were working in Mills in the 1930s in the surrounding houses. I need to do a survey of the census and see what people did for a living and how that changed from 1920 to 1930s. Another task for the to-do list.

The Library of Congress does not have any North Carolina newspapers digitized.  I’ve had a lot of luck with Virginia newspapers.

GenealogyBank has digitized images of the Charlotte Observer in the 1920’s.  I doubt I’ll find any of my Payne’s in there, but it would be good just to get a feel for what was important.  I’ll put that on the list for another day.

I’m going to tackle the survey of the census next to try and understand the neighborhoods they live in.  And I think it is time for a timeline.  Nothing puts details together like putting them in chronological order.

1. Government and Heritage Library at the State Library of North Carolina,”Women in the 1920s in North Carolina, NCpedia.org (http://www.ncpedia.org : accessed 3 Jun 2012).

The Questions a Record Begs Us to Ask

Census records are great for giving us birth events, names and relationships (stated or presumed) and depending on the year other various event and identity information.  But I do believe that every census tells a story, with the questions it begs us to ask.

My grandmother was Jennie Elizabeth Payne and she was born in North Carolina.  In 1930, I find her living in Crowder Mountain, North Carolina with her brothers and sisters.1

I think too often we gather the names, the vitals and the relationships and move on.  Or maybe we transcribe everything off the record.  But what is the story that this document tells us?  What are the questions that it is begging us to ask and then answer?

A quick look tells us that  particular census is not the basic family unit we expect to see.  Where are the parents?  There are some fairly young children in this household; Otto B is only 8.  Where are his mother and father and why have they left their youngest children to be raised by their oldest.

Floyd R Payne, Jennie’s brother, owns the house.  This is not typical for a 20 year old single male in this area. Floyd is listed as a farmer on a General Farm, and his two brothers, Thomas and Robert, are listed as laborers on a Farm, presumably the family farm.  None of the sisters are working and Lela and Jennie are in their 20’s.  So it would appear that the family is not destitute.

So how did they end up in this situation?  Are the parents dead? Is there some other reason for this family setup?  It’s not that they were living here in this particular time and place, the story will come from why were they living here in particular time and place and where are the people we expect to be there.

The story begins by asking the right questions.

1. 1930 U.S. census, Gaston County, North Carolina, population schedule, Crowder Mountain Township, p. 133 (stamped), enumeration district(ED) 9, sheet 18A, dwelling 280, family 314, Jennie E Payne; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 May 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1691.