The Gold Mine in the Closet: In Which We Look for Edith, Part 2

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We’re looking for Edith.

That’s all we’ve got. Her name.

Sugar has a few memories. When his family would go to Savannah to visit his grandmother, Edith would give the boys a snack, a special snack. She would present them with a wax-paper-wrapped treat.  She had taken a wedge of cornbread, sliced it open, and slathered it with butter and jelly, then closed the little sandwich, and wrapped it in wax paper. He said they couldn’t wait to unwrap it, for they were always hungry.

Edith made their Thanksgiving meal. The family went to his grandmother’s on Taylor Street, where Edith had prepared a feast. Those town houses had tiny, simple kitchens, and a good cook was the queen of her kitchen. By the time Sugar was old enough to remember Edith, he thought perhaps she was in her fifties.

Once, he remembers, they drove Edith home.  When I pressed him for more details, he thought perhaps it was east-west between Price and East Broad, which ran north and south, along a tiny lane, and that she got out of the car on the right side, so he believed that her house was on the right, so it would have been on the south side of the lane. It was a small house, very modest, in a black neighborhood. His best guess is this was about the early 1950s.

I decided to find Edith.

I asked Sugar what her last name was.

He didn’t know. He didn’t think he’d ever known.

Was she married? He didn’t know.

I suggested that I do a search on ancestry.com for “Edith” in “1940” in “Savannah, Chatham, Georgia”.

He thought there might be a thousand hits for these terms. Which sounded ridiculously high to me. So when I searched, I got 3,129,389 returns.

Perhaps I needed to modify my search.

I added “Female” and “Black”, and narrowed the search to 2,995,190. Helpful, yet not.

I narrowed yet again to “1940 Census”, and received 742,210. Oh, this was going to be a piece of cake. Heavy sigh.

Oh, hello, let’s try “1940 United States Federal Census”, and here comes 425,461.

Well, by gosh and by golly, let’s do this. The list is alphabetical, and I can scan along the list, and rule out a few as I go, too old, too young, not in Savannah in 1940, etc. The promising ones I clicked on.

The first promising candidate was Edith Anderson. The 1940 census gives the street address. Edith Anderson lived at 405 62nd Street West. Our Edith lived in the eastern part of the city, so she’s not Edith Anderson.

Name: Edith Anderson
Respondent: Yes
Age: 34
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1906
Gender: Female
Race: White
Birthplace: Georgia
Marital Status: Married
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Home in 1940: Savannah, Chatham, Georgia
Map of Home in 1940: View Map
Street: 62nd St W
House Number: 405
Inferred Residence in 1935: Savannah, Chatham, Georgia
Residence in 1935: Same Place

And somehow this Edith Anderson is white, yet has not been filtered out by my search. This might take a while.

Next is Edith Barns.

Name: Edith Barns
Respondent: Yes
Age: 31
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1909
Gender: Female
Race: Negro (Black)
Birthplace: South Carolina
Marital Status: Single
Relation to Head of House: Head
Home in 1940: Savannah, Chatham, Georgia
Map of Home in 1940: View Map
Street: Charlton Lane
House Number: 547
Farm: No
Inferred Residence in 1935: Savannah, Chatham, Georgia
Residence in 1935: Same Place
Sheet Number: 62A
Number of Household in Order of Visitation: 460
Occupation: Housework

The whole time I’m doing this searching, I’m talking to Sugar on the phone. When I said that Edith Barns lived on Charlton Lane, he said that this was his Edith. I scoffed, and said we had to keep going.

The next choice was Edith Barnes. Another Edith Barnes.

Name: Edith Barnes
Respondent: Yes
Age: 26
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1914
Gender: Female
Race: Negro (Black)
Birthplace: Georgia
Marital Status: Married
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Home in 1940: Savannah, Chatham, Georgia
Map of Home in 1940: View Map
Street: Henry Street Laue
House Number: 643
Inferred Residence in 1935: Rural, Bryan, Georgia
Residence in 1935: Rural, Bryan, Georgia
Resident on farm in 1935: No
Sheet Number: 6A
Attended School or College: No
Highest Grade Completed: Elementary school, 6th grade
Weeks Worked in 1939: 0
Income: 0

But this Edith wasn’t working in 1940.  He wasn’t even sure where Henry Street Lane was, so I found it on a Google map, and he seemed convinced she wasn’t our Edith. Perhaps she was our Edith, but Henry Street Lane was too far south from where Sugar remembered that they dropped Edith off.

We went through 15 pages with 20 choices per page until we got to the end with Edith Young. Then the choices started over with people who were living in another state in 1940, but were in Savannah in 1935, or they were listed as white, or there was some other variant.

Edith Barns was looking like our choice.

I searched for her address on Google. There was no Charlton Lane, just Charlton Street, which was not right at all, but close, very close.

This means that we have to go to Savannah.

*****

Charlton Street between Price and East Broad does not have the kind of little row houses that Sugar remembers. He insisted that it was a tiny lane, like an alley, almost, and that the houses were close together and right on the street. The street itself was perhaps wide enough for two cars.

We circled around, and he saw a little lane that fit the bill. The name was wrong, and the area has been gentrified, but the houses seemed right, and they were on the right side of the street.

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There it is! There’s 547! But did the name of the street change? Who does that?

Well, Savannah does that sometimes. Like West Broad was changed to Martin Luther King, Jr.  But that’s a big street that was changed to honor a person. Why would Charlton Lane be changed to Macon Lane?

Something is just not right…

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