Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tony Jim

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When I read census records I feel like I am peaking in people's windows.  It is amazing how much information is captured there.  The political purpose of censuses is count residences of each state to determine the number of representatives to congress, money for schools, taxes, etc.  Over time they have also become a tool for understanding demographics and geneology.  

Census records can be searched online easily at and, especially if you are looking for people with unique names and know their residences at the time of the census.  I like to see how each household changes over time, children grow, move out, people's occupations, and relationships.  The info is not always correct.  Spellings of names are sometimes wrong and birthdates and entry dates to the US are not exact. 

I have been trying to track my grandmother's father, Tony Jim, through census records.  This is complicated because he has such a simple and probably common name.  This is odd to me because he is an immigrant from Turkey/Armenia/Bulgaria/Hungary - it depends on which records I find and when.  Some of the confusion about his origins are probably due to changing borders of Turkey during the early 1900s as the Ottoman empire waned and dissolved in the 1920s.  This is the map of the Balkans from 1910:

So, my running hypothesis is that he was from the Balkans.  In census records, I can find a number of entries each year for Tony Jims that could be my ancestor.  Each of them are working for the Railroad and living in work camps or boarding houses with groups of other Balkans in the same work camp.  From 1900 to 1920 I there are multiple entries for Tony Jim that fit this profile across the US.  I suspect that he changed his name when he entered the US, but I don't know that for sure.  The birthdates are about the same for each of the Tony Jims and their entry in the US is within a couple of years of each other.  It is possible that they are all for the same Tony Jim, depending on how much the work crew moved around during census years.  I have found other cases where people were censused more than once if they moved while the census was being taken. I need to tabulate the names of the other people in the work crew and see which times they are in common, that way I could track better the entire group across the US from Philadelphia to California and then north to Washington. I could also parse which Tony Jims are the same/different based on similarity of the other residents.  

The story this tells me about Tony Jim, which is not confirmed since my Grandmother is dead and I can't remember a single time she talked about her past, is that he came to the US and worked for the railroad.  The last census record I can find of him working for the railroad he is living in a boarding house in Washington.  Ten years later, He is married and settled in Idaho with children. 

It is sad that I know so little about him.  I don't where exactly he is from or what he was like.  I never thought to ask my grandmother about her parents when she was alive.  Why did he come to the US?  What about the rest of his family?  Siblings, parents, grandparents.  All blank. 

What I know:
Tony Jim
Birth: Aug 1883
Entered the US: ~1900
Married Amelia Frazier: 1924 in Caldwell, Idaho - Her second marriage.  She was married to Joseph Harris, had three children, and was divorced before remarrying.
Daughter: May 1928 - Lavena Jim, my grandmother
Died: September 1969 in Payette, Idaho. 


Anonymous said...

dad said he did change his name when he moved here. He picked Toni Jim because he could spell it. He didn't speak any english. Dad said he refused to talk about his past, was ashamed about his heritage.


Bonnie said...

Dug around on Ancestry some more and not much there. Perhaps you could call the cemetery where he is buried. They often have a copy of the obituary and/or the funeral record.

Anonymous said...

Lavena Jim was my Aunt. My Father was Edgar Jim and Tony was my Grandfather. I too have been searching for information on him. My cousins are Deanna, Gary and Dixie.

Brian G. said...

George is my grandfather. I am Gary's son. Anomymous - there is even less info on Blackie Gardunia, our great grandfather. If you have anything coherent, please let me know.

Anonymous said...

Brian - I posted as Anonymous. My name is Fleda Wright. I don't know anything about the Gardunia side of my family. I have tried to find information about Tony and thought that he might have come from Romania because Jim is a common surname there but your theory was also very interesting. Did your Grandfather George ever live in the area around Idaho City?

Brian G. said...

Yes, He grew up near there. He lived in Nampa most of his life. I wish that I had asked Lavena, my grandmother about him when she was alive. My father's stories have an element of whimsy that doesn't always match reality.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, my I did not get to know any of my family very well. My Father was a rather reclusive person and I only spent about 3 years with George and Lavena. I regret not asking more questions but am trying to find out more about my family now. Tony is a definite mystery person. I was told that he came to America illegally and that he was not of the best character but can't seem to verify anything. He was just a sweet old man when I knew him!

Anonymous said...

I meant to add that there is a Judge in Boise named Theresa Gardunia and she is from the Idaho City area. I wondered if perhaps she was related to your Grandfather. Gardunia is her maiden name.

Brian G. said...

I believe Theresa is my Father's cousin's son's ex-wife. I would love to hear any stories you did have about Tony Jim or his wife. Lavena never talked about herself or her family and I can't remember any Gardunia/Jim family reunion.

Brian G. said...


I would love to talk to you and record some of your memories of Tony Jim and family.

Send me an email at bgardunia at yahoo dot com and I will send you my phone number.

Anonymous said...

I, am Blackie Gardunia's great grand daughter. As far as I know he was Basque and he was born in Louisiana Territory. He was called Blackie because he was a blacksmith.