Saturday, April 9, 2016

Census Record Sunday - My Uncle, The Walking Dead

Neil Brown Jr
(possibly in baseball uniform)
I've blogged about Neil Brown Jr before. He was the son of Neil/Neal and Nancy "Annie" Brown nee McCoy. He married Bridget Brown (yes, same surname, but no known connection yet) on July 10, 1908 according to my cousin, Nancy O'Donoghue, but that date is unconfirmed and Nancy has passed so I'll have to do some of my own research on that one. They had 11 known children: Nancy, Eleanor, Mary, Neil III, James, Rita, Eugene, Paul, John, Joan, and Charles. This was also information given to me from Nancy and corroborated by census records, death certificates, tombstones, and obituaries. In that previous post on Neil Brown Jr. I transcribed his obituary. It was from The Plain Speaker, Saturday, October 30th 1937.

I've found the death certificate for Neil Jr on Ancestry quite easily as well (below). The information on it is quite clear and it was given by his wife, Bridget. His parents are correct. His address looks good. My Neil died on October 30th 1937 and was buried in St. Gabriel's Roman Catholic Cemetery on November 2nd of that year. I have no doubt in my genealogical mind.

Death Certificate - Neil Brown living on South Wyoming Street, Hazleton, PA

Date and Cause of Death and Autopsy Performed
So why is he with his family in the 1940 US Federal Census? Seriously. He's there so help me reason this out. It was brought to my attention in an email recently. I had posted a memorial for Neil Jr. and linked him to family on FindAGrave. I was contacted by a fellow genealogist whose daughter-in-law turns out to be a distant cousin of mine through this line just the other week. We've talked before, but in this email she let me know that she noticed something "off". She pointed out that he was in the 1940 census so perhaps the death certificate wasn't for our Neil. The thing is the death certificate is most definitely for our Neil...but the census would appear to be too.  All the names are right on the certificate (you can see additional images from the death certificate at the bottom of this post)...and in the census.

1940 U.S Federal Census - Neil Brown household, S. Wyoming Street

Now help me through this one. I had heard recently that if no one was home when the census taker came that they could ask a neighbor for information. Could the census taker merely have asked who Bridget's husband was and made the assumption that he was alive? Or is it more likely that this Neil  was really her son? If it was her son they got the rest of the information wrong. Thoughts? In the 1940 US Census the census taker was supposed to mark an "x" with a circle around it to indicate who gave the information. Now that mark after their daughter, Nancy's, name could be that or it could be just a middle initial if no one from the family gave the information. What you can also see from the census (here) is that zombie-Neil wasn't employed and wasn't looking for work. A good thing too because he would have looked terrible after that autopsy! It does list Bridget as having an "other" source of income...but her income is listed as $0. Gosh I'm so confused.

Here's a clip from the U.S. City Directory collection. It's Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 1935 and there are THREE Neil/Neal Browns all living in or South Wyoming Street. While there are multiple Neil/Neal Browns in my tree there should only be two alive and old enough to be in a directory. They all live in the same or a nearby home though. So there's that to add to the confusion.

1935 Hazleton - US City Directory
Could there really have been another family living on Wyoming Street in Hazleton, Pennsylvania that had not only a husband and wife team of Neil and Bridget, but also had the kids with the same names? Even with taking Irish naming conventions into consideration that's a bit hard to swallow. For sanity's sake I'll be posting the obituaries I have for his family in upcoming posts. Perhaps something will appear there that hasn't been considered, but by first glance at all the ones I have they just confirm that this is the right Neil.

All I can say is that I'd love some input on this. The link to the obituary on Neil is in the first paragraph if anyone would like to take a look. This death certificate is for our Neil. I'm positive. The obituary is for my Neil. confirms everything in the death certificate. The census should be my Neil's family, but he most certainly should not be listed there. Can anyone bring some sanity to this or do I call in Rick Grimes?

The zombie, Neil Brown Jr, is my 2nd great uncle.

Neil's Wife and Occupation

Neil's Parents and Burial