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Genealogists always talk about brick walls, that one family member who is not to be found where you think they ought to be. My brick wall consists of my paternal grandparents, Jack and Sophie Neff. I know they got married in 1917, because I have their marriage certificate. Because of the United States federal census, I know where in Chicago grandpa was in 1910 (grandma was still living in Slonim) and where the grandfolks and their 2 children (including my dad, Leonard, and his sister, Martha) were in 1930 and 1940 (also Chicago). But I have found neither hide nor hair of Jack, Sophie, or my aunt Martha in the 1920 census.

I first looked for them in the 1920 census back when dinosaurs walked the earth and all genealogy searches were done using microfilm readers. Now that online sources of census images exist, I have searched every few years online, using every search trick I know (and there are many). I search for Jac* Neff which should find Jack and Jacob (grandpa’s full name), with or without spouse Sophie or daughter Martha. I have searched instead for Sophie, with or without Jack or Martha. I have searched for all children named Martha in Chicago who were born in 1919.  I have searched in Chicago (based on  addresses from Jack’s World War I draft card and a 1923 city directory). I have searched in Springfield and Peoria (where the family lived briefly during my dad’s infancy. I have searched in Petaluma, California (where grandpa once wanted to buy a chicken farm). I have searched in the United States as a whole. I have looked at databases on Ancestry, Heritage Quest, and Family Search. I have consulted with search gurus at the Ancestry booth at Genealogy Jamboree. Zilch! Nada! Gornischt! The logical conclusion is that the family was kidnapped temporarily by Martians.

Any reader who has other advice that might lead me to this elusive census entry, please comment on this blog. I will be forever grateful.


3 Responses to “The 1920 Census Mystery”

  1. Liahona says:

    Hey auntie, I found the marriage certificate of Jacob Neff to one Sophie Kelbans in Cook County, Illinios, USA. It’s dated December 28, 1917. Is this your familia? I’ll keep digging. Heart you!

    • Jane Neff Rollins says:

      Hi Liahona,

      Yes, that’s my grandfolks’ marriage doc.

      Aunt Jane

      • Liahona says:

        When was your dad born? i thinking if we back track that way maybe we’ll find something. Also was your grandfather a WWII Veteran?

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