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.