Thursday, January 11, 2007

Desperately seeking the Thompson family

I've been trying to find a certain Thompson family in the 1930 census for two weeks now. They are really well hidden...

The family is composed of:

* Robert Leroy Thompson (born 12 Aug 1880 in TN, died 1965, if you believe his head stone);
* Lillian Russell (Daniel) Thompson (born 1900 in TN);
* Gwen Margaret Thompson (born 1922 in TN);
* Lois Elizabeth Thompson (born 1926 in TN). Lois is still living and provided much of the information I have. She was born in Kingsport, Sullivan county TN, and thinks the family resided in either Sullivan County or Knox County in 1930.

I have tried all of the obvious census index gymnastics - using wild cards extensively to search using:

1) surname Thomp*, Tomp* Thoms* in TN
2) given names Rob*, Bob, R, Lee*, Ler*, L, Lil*, Lel*, Gwen, Loi*, Lou* in Sullivan and Knox counties.
3) families in TN with father Rob* (or Lee*, Ler*, R, L); wife Lil* (or Lel*) - not just Thompsons.
4) families in the US with the parents in 3) and Gwen or Loi* as children - not just Thompsons.

For these, I often clicked on the index name to survey the family names listed.

After exhausting those, I then defined other searches that might cause the family to be missed using the 1) to 4) searches above:

5) Line-by-line search of Kingsport, Sullivan County, TN, looking for families with the given names and approximate ages (on the theory that the enumerator got the given names right but messed up the surname badly). I also looked especially for the families where the parents might not be heads of household (and therefore not showing up in the 3) and 4) searches above). There were 244 pages of data - 11,914 names in all - in Kingsport. I haven't done the other 1,000 pages (approximately) of the remainder of Sullivan County.

6) Knox county has over 155,000 names, or about 3,200 pages, so a line-by-line search isn't really feasible.

7) Were the surname and given name exchanged? I didn't find any likely candidates in TN.

I posted a message board note on the Sullivan County TN Genforum board asking if City Directories for Kingsport in 1930 were available. If so, I want to identify neighbors and then go back to the census records. I'll do this for Knox County too if they aren't in Sullivan County.

To show the magnitude of the problem, there were:

* 9,189 people with surname Thomp* in TN
* 164 were Rob* Thomp* in TN
* 6 were Ler* Thomp* in TN
* 71 were Lil* Thomp* in TN
* 14 were Loi* Thomp* in TN
* 0 were Gwen Thomp* in TN
* 17 were Gwen (no surname) in TN
* 19,224 were Lil* (no surname) in TN
* 100 had the given name Thomp* (no surname) in TN

It may be that the family did not live in Tennessee, but all of the family data indicates otherwise.

Of course, I can't find Robert Leroy Thompson in the 1920, 1910, or 1900 census records either! He must have made a concerted effort to hide from the census takers.

Any more suggestions?

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