I need some advice from long time genealogists out there with an exceptionally “odd” set of circumstances that I’m investigating and I’ve hit a weird roadblock and have no idea where to proceed from here. We all have strange tales we come across in our genealogy hunts but this one is particularly twisty and difficult to investigate. So I’m calling on you all for help, guidance and advice.
There has been a long standing story in my husband’s family that they were actually “Clarks” instead of Moores but he didn’t have any real verification of this. When I began doing his tree, this was of course, one of the first things I looked into just to see if he was right. He was, must to my surprise!
(Some background before you start reading: the Moore & Clark families I mention are from Licking, Pike and surrounding counties in Ohio primarily. They never really strayed from this area and are still present today.)
My husband’s grandfather tells this story that as a little boy, his father Charles Lloyd & his brother Cecil Ben, were sold/given away at the Ohio State Fair in 1915 following some kind of argument/issues between their mother Bertha May Wheatley and one of her sisters. (He says that the mother was the sweet one and the sister was just plain “mean & nasty”) After the fair, the children supposedly went with a man named Ran Moore from southern Ohio, near the Kentucky border. (Their younger sister and middle brother, Logan, apparently stayed with their mother – which is a mystery as well. Why only 2 of the children taken away?)
To verify this was the family, I found the children’s birth certificates and/or death certificates to ensure this was the correct mother and father I was chasing. Additionally, in the April 1910 census, Clark household members are William H, Bertha May, Cecil “Ben”, Frances Ethel and Logan Wayne. Charles Lloyd Clark wasn’t born until December that year.
A 1915 census shows both William H & Bertha M Clark in Schenectady, NY with no children listed at all so perhaps Frances Ethel Clark, the younger sister, was with relatives in Ohio at this time. I have no idea what they were doing there. It’s an oddity and not really relevant other than to show that their children were not with the couple at this point.
By the 1920 census, Bertha had remarried to Leo Cruikshank (William had died in 1915) and already had a 1.5 year old daughter by him. The two boys, Charles Leroy & Cecil Ben, are missing from the census but 12 year old Logan remained listed still. Frances Ethel is 17 by this point and is also missing from the census but she marries in 1921 and reappears in the 30’s census with her own family. Where was for the 20’s, is beyond me.
Coming back to the man from the fair that bought/took the boys – there are several Ran Moores listed but I believe it might be Ran & Hallie Moore from Gallia County in Southern Ohio. He was a farmer off Trace Creek Rd, Greenfield Twp. (based off geographical evidence & ages) This places him near the Kentucky border which matches what my husband’s grandfather recalls from his father’s childhood.
Cecil Ben keeps the surname Clark for himself throughout his adult life. However, Charles Leroy adopts the surname Moore, in respect to this Ran Moore man who raised them. I cannot find any official documentation of a name change though but Charles Lloyd Clark lived out his adult life as a Moore and passed on that family name instead of Clark.
My question is this…. as it sounds so scandalous and shady, how do you go about investigating the “sale” or give away of children at the Ohio State Fair for that time period? My husband’s grandfather says they were taken from the mother forcefully, as in, some form of children’s services intervention. Keep in mind what’s going on in this time period – the Great Depression was rolling into town and money was tight. There are several stories/pictures about women trying to give away children so they wouldn’t starve to death. I half wonder if that’s what happened to these children. Perhaps whatever agency took them away, couldn’t afford them any more? I’m just not sure. But how do you investigate this incident? Where do you look for possible records?
In investigating Ran Moore, I did find several censuses but none of them list these children. They’re practical ghosts until they get married, in the case of Charles Lloyd or in the case of Cecil Ben, nothing on him till the 1940’s census. They are phantoms during the 20’s and 30’s.
I contacted the Piqua County Library, which is where the family lived during this time, and talked with the genealogy person there who found no references to this family story at all. Newspapers.com didn’t net me anything good either. Where do I head from here? Or is this a dead end to even try to investigate the sale/giveaway of the children?
I presented the grandfather with his father’s birth certificate which showed he WAS in fact, a Clark, and not a Moore and his face lit up. It was verified proof in his hands that he wasn’t making up the story or had heard it wrong all those years ago. As he’s approaching 80 himself, I wanted him to know who exactly he was and where he came from. I only feel sad that there was a whole family out there he’s missed out on because of this separation of these children from their parents. I’d just like to give him tangible proof of what happen to Cecil Ben and Charles Loyd during those years. I would even like to find the real Ran Moore family and see if they know perhaps or have pictures of Ran and the boys.
So yes, any directional clue as to where to look further, I’d appreciate!