Monday, 22 February 2016

Who in the World is Flora B. Caviness?

Census records are so interesting!  They help to tell the story of a family's journey through life by tracking residence, immigration, and birthplace.  They also hint at the approximate date a family member gets married (and moves away), dies, or becomes widowed.  And sometimes rare valuable information is included that can help solve mysterious family situations!

In the last two weeks I have revisited a problem area in my family tree that I identified several months ago.  While attaching sources to various individuals of my family tree on, I noticed that many children in the Caviness family were missing almost at random from census records.  After some research, I found that it wasn't as random as I thought and I learned many things about this unique family.

On the United States census records of 1900 and 1910 Jesse C. and Sarah Amanda Caviness state that they have 11 children - all of which were living at the time.  But on my FamilySearch tree there were 12 children listed in this family: Walter, Laura, William, Andrew, Ada, David, Flora, Ernest, Crecie, Clyde, Eva, and Hubert.

I made a chart to keep track of each family member as I sifted through census and other records, trying to follow each one from the 1880 census up until the 1940 census or until death.  I needed to make sure I wasn't missing any valuable information that could help me understand what was wrong with this family's size.  Go ahead and follow along as you read!

Caviness Census Tracking Record 1880-1940
Click to view larger size image.

Meet the Caviness Family

Jesse was born in Chatham County, North Carolina, USA in 1858.  His future wife, Sarah Amanda Wrenn, was born in Pulaski County, Virginia, USA in 1860.  By 1870, Jesse's family had traveled approximately 130 miles northwest to Carroll County, Virginia.  By 1876, Jesse had made it another 40 miles north to Pulaski and married Sarah on May 3.

map of Virginia, USA
Map of Virginia, USA
All of their children were either born in Carroll or Pulaski.  The map I include here shows the three main areas that significant family events occurred at.  Some documents have conflicting information as to birthplaces and many details are missing, but it suffices to say that all events occurred in very close proximity and therefore are acceptable.

Walter Andrew (1878) and Laura Blanche (1880) appear with their parents on the 1880 census in Black Lick, Wythe County - not too far from Carroll County where they were born.

United States census, Virginia, 1880
United States census, Virginia, 1880

William Harvey (1881), Andrew Neal (1884), and David Price (1889) were born in Carroll County while Ada Lou (1886) was born in Pulaski County.  All should be included as well on the 1890 census, but those records for Virginia are not currently available (or weren't completed - I don't know).

Ernest Graham (1891), Eva Mae (1898) and Hubert Clarence (1900) were born in Carroll County and Crecie A (1893) and Clyde Stanley (1895) were born in Pulaski County.  All children are included in the 1900 census shortly after Hubert was born (he wasn't even named yet!).

United States census, Virginia, 1900
United States census, Virginia, 1900
(Jesse is listed on the previous page.)

By 1910, Walter, Andrew, and Ada are presumed to be married and living with their new families.  Walter died before the next census was recorded.

United States census, Virginia, 1910
United States census, Virginia, 1910

By 1920, William, David, Crecie, Clyde, and Hubert are also presumed to be married (some found with their families elsewhere for the 1920 census).  Ernest is married too but he and his wife Lillian are living with his parents.  Laura and Eva were single their entire lives but yet Laura is nowhere to be found in 1920 census records (perhaps boarding elsewhere).  And then something else strange... a daughter named Flora B. (born around 1891) is listed with the family.

United States census, Virginia, 1920
United States census, Virginia, 1920

By 1930, Ernest and his wife have moved out and Hubert has moved in as a widower.  A newborn grandson, David, is also listed but I haven't yet figured out who his parents are.  I suspect he belongs to Hubert but I haven't figured out who his first wife was.  I assume that if Hubert is his father, his mother likely died in childbirth.  Also, guess what?  Flora B. disappears as quickly as she appeared.

United States census, Virginia, 1930
United States census, Virginia, 1930

By 1940, Jesse has passed away, leaving Sarah Amanda a widow.  Laura, Eva, and the mystery grandson, David, live with her.  Hubert remarried and is found elsewhere with his new wife and their 6-year-old son, Billy.

United States census, Virginia, 1940
United States census, Virginia, 1940

The Main Issue

"Flora B. Caviness" is listed as a daughter on the 1920 census but is not mentioned anywhere else.

Why?  Who is she if she is not the daughter of Jesse and Amanda?  Where did she come from?  Why is she listed as part of this family?

Flora is about the same age as seventh child Ernest Graham (born in 1891).  Yet, Ernest first appears on the 1900 census, again in 1910, and then in 1920 (still living at home but married this time).  Therefore, she can't be a child born after the 1910 census when there were only 11 children in the family.

I doubt Flora is a biological daughter in this family - but could she maybe be adopted or welcomed in as one of the family?  Could she have been the illegitimate offspring of another family member kept secret for many years?

Of course, if a child dies or gets married it is unlikely to find them listed in the same household as the parents in later census records.  But what other reasons might a child not be listed?

I've learned from experience with doing family history work and indexing handwritten records that there are times when names aren't recorded correctly.  So "Caviness" sometimes appears as "Caveness" or "Caviners," for example.  Sometimes individuals go by a different name or their middle name instead of their full given name or the census recorders may have had horrible spelling.  Mistakes happen.  Could Flora have been listed as a daughter by mistake?

My Conclusion

In the end, I decided to remove Flora B. from my family tree.  It would be nearly impossible to find out who she might be if her last name wasn't Caviness.  But I still wonder who she was and why she came to live with the Caviness family.  If I can track down journals or letters maybe I can find out for myself - and for poor, lost Flora B.

But now I really want to find out Hubert Clarence Caviness's story.  And where David Caviness fits into all of this!

Do you have an idea as to who this "Flora B. Caviness" might really be?  Or, do you know who David Caviness belongs to?

Next week's topic: [Protect the Rights of Children in Alberta Schools!]

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