How can a man just not show up on the census—five times in a row?
I have a friend whose father died when she was young. Recently I have been trying to find out more about her father’s family—but there seem to be more questions than answers. Her grandfather’s name was Carl Albert Wesley, and my friend didn’t know much more than that. My efforts to fill in the blanks have been, well, less than totally successful.
I started with what I knew about him: the information on his gravestone, photographed for findagrave.com by volunteer Anne Sears. The stone was found at Little Rock cemetery—the same place his wife and son (my friend’s father) are buried. But even this was complicated. There was a second findagrave.com entry for Carl in Newton, Jasper County, Iowa! Which was his actual place of burial, and which was just a memorial stone?
Next? Knowing he died in Jasper County, Iowa, I ordered a death certificate. This told me that Carl Albert Wesley was born on May 9, 1894—in Illinois. He died at 54 as a result of heart trouble—the same thing that killed his son in the prime of life. According to the death certificate, Carl was buried in Iowa, which seems to solve that mystery. Or does it? The last line of his very faint obituary—does it say the body was moved back to Illinois? I can’t tell.
The death certificate also gave me the names of his parents: August Wesley and Augusta Lifske, both born in Germany. The informant on the death certificate was his wife Lillian, who probably knew as much as anyone did.
Knowing Carl was born in Illinois but later lived and died in Iowa, and knowing his parents’ names, should have led me to some census records, probably in Illinois or possibly in Iowa. But none could be found—not for 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, or 1940—even when I tried the usual search tricks. How can a man (and his parents) keep such a low profile? All I found was a city directory for 1947 (the year before his death) for Carl and Lillian, in Newton, Iowa, where he died. Where was he between 1894 and 1947?
More questions: What about his marriage to Lillian Wallem? I haven’t found a marriage certificate (yet), and I don’t even know the year or the place. Lillian was born and raised in DeKalb or LaSalle County, Illinois, so I suppose the marriage most likely took place there. Their first and only child, Robert, was born in Iowa in 1946, so that’s a possibility as well. Another question is this: Carl had his son Robert when he was 52. Was this his first marriage and his first child? That seems unlikely.
So where was Carl Albert Wesley between 1894 and 1947, and what was he doing? I have a friend who would really like to know.