Posts Tagged ‘Edith Barnes’

The Gold Mine in the Closet: In Which We Look for Edith, Part 5

December 18, 2014

We drove by where Edith’s house used to be.


And after we went home, we kept thinking about the Edith that we are looking for.

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We realize that we need to go back to the Library and look at a series of the Savannah City Directories.

So we do.  But it takes us a while. The blogging doesn’t show that we’ve been working on this project for over a month, probably closer to two. We are a bit obsessed with giving our Edith a last name, and finding out more about her.

We think her last name is Barnes.

So we look for Edith Barnes.

We start with 1940 because that’s when we find her on the U.S. Federal Census.

She’s not in the 1940 Savannah City Directory. So let’s guess that means that she wasn’t living there in 1939 when the information was gathered for publication in 1940. But when the 1940 census was taken actually in 1940, she was living there. Make sense?

We do find Leslie Basinger Lawton in 1940 living at 101 Huntingdon, West. We don’t know anything about her living on Huntingdon, so we’ll need to check that out.

1940 LawtonLeslieB 101 Huntingdon W

Here’s Edith in 1941 at 547 East Charlton Lane. She’s a maid for L. E. Orvin.

1941 BarnesEdith


Here’s Leslie Basinger Lawton in 1941.

1940 BarnesEdith

In 1942, Edith is still at 547 East Charlton Lane, and is still a maid for L. E. Orvin.


1942 BarnesEdith


By 1942, Leslie Basinger Lawton is at 122 East Taylor Street.

1942 LawtonLeslieB


In 1942, Louis E. Orvin is at 213 East Gaston Street.

1942 OrvinLE


Let’s jump to 1948. We’ve established that Edith Barnes is at 547 East Charlton Lane for years. We’ve learned that Leslie Basinger Lawton went from East Gaston to West Huntingdon to 122 East Taylor Street.

In 1948, Edith is at the same address.

1948 BarnesEdith


And so is Leslie Basinger Lawton.

1948 LawtonLeslieB


Let’s make a bold leap and jump into 1970, where we find Edith Barnes still at 547 East Charlton Lane. The times they are a’changing, and the city directory is not divided into a “white” section and a “colored” section any more.

1970 BarnesEdith

1970 LawtonLeslieB

We can’t find Edith in 1975.

When I get home, I check one.more.time. And I find a death record for Edith Barnes on November 27, 1969. I also find a death record for Edith Barnes in January 1969.

Is this a mistake? A typo? A glitch in the system?

Someone? Anyone?

The Gold Mine in the Closet: In Which We Look for Edith, Part 4

December 14, 2014

It feels like we’re getting close.

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This is Edith who worked for Sugar’s grandmother at the house at 122 East Taylor Street, Savannah, Georgia.

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We’re looking for more information about Edith. Sugar doesn’t even know her last name, but he knows that once his family drove her home, and it wasn’t far from his grandmother’s house. He has a vague, shadowy memory that it was east of his grandmother’s, perhaps between Price and East Broad, on an east/west street.

I found an entry on for Edith Barnes who lived at 547 East Charlton Lane, and that address fits exactly with his memory.

I can’t find a death record for Edith Barnes in Savannah, so perhaps she was buried back in South Carolina where she was born. Truly, I can’t find a death record anywhere, but this is not an obstacle, only a challenge.

East Charlton Lane doesn’t exist any more. We drove aroundaroundaround and couldn’t find it. If only we had a good map.


I remembered that there are the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Georgia, and, glory hallelujah, they are online. They are not user-friendly, so it involves a lot of panning left/right/up/down and zooming in to read the street names. And some cursage on my part.

I discovered that I can save the image to my computer for your viewing pleasure here on the blog.

Because I found East Charlton Lane on the map. The most recent one was for 1916, and there’s 547 East Charlton Lane.

BarnesEdith 547CharltonLane 1916


A little zoomage showing East Charlton Street. East Charlton Lane is just south.

A little zoomage showing East Charlton Street. East Charlton Lane is just south.

If the Edith that we want is truly the Edith that lived at 547 East Charlton Lane, we know that she most likely didn’t live here in 1916. She was born approximately in 1908 in South Carolina. It’s POSSIBLE that she moved here with her family.

And you know what, even if she’s not our Edith, she was SOMEBODY. She was a person that lived and died even if we can’t find her death record.

BarnesEdith 547CharltonLane1916 (zoom)


So it’s time to go by Edith’s house.

We find where East Charlton Lane should be, but it’s an alley now.

Right about where Edith’s house should be, there’s nothing.


Except a sunbeam through the afternoon trees to say hello.



Don’t give up, Edith. We’re still looking for you.

The Gold Mine in the Closet: In Which We Look for Edith, Part 3

December 13, 2014

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Here’s Edith.

She worked for Sugar’s grandmother until she was old enough to retire.

Sugar remembers that she was a great cook. He doesn’t remember her last name, or even if he ever knew her last name.

We think that we have found her as Edith Barnes by looking through the 1940 Federal Census on She’s listed as living at 547 Charlton Lane, but we can’t find Charlton Lane. It doesn’t seem to exist any more.

I can scroll through all the pages of the Savannah City Directory by using, which is tedious, time-consuming work. We decide to go to the Library on Bull Street instead, and look at the directories in person.

There’s a genealogy/history room there. You don’t even have to sign in, unless you want to use the computers. I can take photos of the city directory pages using the digital camera.

We decide to randomly start with the 1957 volume. Sugar would have been old enough to remember Edith, and would remember that they drove her home once to an area east of his grandmother’s that would be close enough for her to walk.

And she’s still at 547 East Charlton Lane, which matches the 1940 census. There are two Edith Barnes, just like the 1940 census, but the second Edith Barnes lives at Fellwood Homes, and we don’t know where that is, so we’re still going with the first Edith Barnes as being our Edith.

While photographing the pages, I wrote the year, name, and address on a plain piece of paper and inserted it into the book, as a way to help me identify the photos during the editing process.


I also used a handy little library pencil to help me locate the entry.

Then I cropped the photo for easier readability.


His grandmother is still at 122 East Taylor Street, which is the only place Sugar remembers her living at.



In the 1965 City Directory, both women are living at the same addresses as in 1957.




Do you see how Leslie B. Lawton is listed at the Widow of Edward P. Lawton and residing at 122 East Taylor Street? Edward never even lived at this address. He died in 1929 when they were living at East Gaston Street.

Right about now we’re flagging, from the researching and the driving around. (We had a list of places that we went to that I haven’t shared with you yet, but it was a long list, and our heads are full.)

So what happened to 547 Charlton Lane? If only we had an old map.

Then I remembered the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

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

December 11, 2014

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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 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.






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…

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

December 10, 2014

Sugar’s grandmother lived at 122 East Taylor Street in Savannah for as long as he knew her.

We found several photos of the house in the gold mine.

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We also found one of Edith.

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Edith worked for his grandmother. I don’t know how to properly describe what Edith did for his grandmother.  I know that she cooked and cleaned. I don’t want to call her a maid, even though that’s the descriptor we found in the city directories. I’m uptight like that, not wanting to put labels on people, even though her “job” description in the city directory says “maid”. Sugar just says Edith worked for his grandmother for a long, long time. He doesn’t call her a maid either. I suppose we could call her a housekeeper, but I think now that her role was much greater.

We were discussing Thanksgiving, and I was talking about the food that my mother made, and I asked him what his mother made, since there are differences in local dishes.  Like stuffing. Do you call it stuffing, or dressing? And is yours cornbread based, or would it be local with oysters? And did you help in the kitchen? What kind of pies were made?

He really couldn’t answer those questions, because Edith made their Thanksgiving dinner.

So now we have to know more about Edith…

But all we have is her photo. And a few Sugary memories.