Needle In A Haystack

I found my maternal grandfather in the 1950 US census using my patented needle in a haystack method. I knew that my grandfather, James Monroe Dobbs, Jr., and his second wife, Helen Mewhinney Dobbs lived somewhere in Temple Texas in 1950.

A few days ago I did find my great-grandmother in the 1950 census in the city of Temple residing in a convalescent home shortly before she died. I had completed the search of the enumeration district (neighborhood) where I found my great-grandmother and did not find Jim and Helen in any of the households in that ED. So, as a next step, I figured I would visually scan the neighborhoods surrounding ED #14-34. I could have started with the neighborhood to the south, east, or west; instead, I chose the one to the north (ED#14-29).

Each enumeration district has approximately 40 pages of images of US Census forms listing exactly 30 individuals grouped by household. It was in ED #14-29 that I was able to locate my grandfather. For this ED there were 43 images and I found them at the top of page 40 which was marked as sheet #80.

I estimate that 1-in-10 of the images are poor quality scans and the image that I found Jim and Helen on was of very poor quality. The image is so bad that I could not read the street address. I could read only the street number “1111” and I could barely read their names and occupation.

“Dobbs, James M.
_____ Helen M.”

My grandfather’s occupation & employer reads “Executive Officer US Soil Conservation Service.” This was a New Deal political appointment within the Department of Agriculture. As I have written before my grandfather’s family had a long history of involvement with the Democratic Party going back to the days of Andrew Jackson.

“Executive Officer US Soil Conservation Service”

My next stop: the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC, to look for my mother in a boarding house somewhere near the US State Department.

Update: I was able to determine the street address of my grandfather’s home in 1950. I realized that they were listed on an overflow sheet marked #80. It seems that when the census taker originally stopped by they were not at home and that is indicated on an earlier sheet marked #30 which listed households along Third Street a few blocks north of downtown.

To find where they would have been listed if they had been home, I needed to backtrack through images I had looked at earlier until I found a line that referenced “Sheet 80 Lines 1- 2.” I randomly picked sheet 35 to start with and worked my way back five sheets before I found what I was looking for. Here is what I found on the sheet marked #30:

This points to sheet 80 lines 1 and 2 where Jim and Helen were listed. On that same line was the street number “1111”

The street name was written side-ways in the first column; making the street address on this line is “1111 North 3rd Street”

This address is located on Third Street between W. Lamar Ave. and W. King Ave. in Temple. Here is the Google Street view of 1111 N. 3rd St., Temple, TX

2 thoughts on “Needle In A Haystack

  1. My name is Helen Dobbs Sutton and I was named after Helen Mewhinney Dobbs, they lived in Holland Texas and Mr. Dobbs started the first bank in Holland which is still there. Please feel free to reach out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Helen, thank you so much for visiting GatheringLeaves. My name is Mike DeBacker. My maternal grandfather was James Monroe Dobbs, Jr. He worked for the US Department of Agriculture. It is my understanding that it was Helen’s father, Leonard Mewhinney, who founded the First National Bank of Holland Texas.
      I grew up in Houston, and since my grandparents were divorced many years before I was born, no one ever told me that my grandfather was buried near Temple. Had I known I would have visited back then. Now unfortunately I live too far away.
      I recently found a letter written by Helen to my mother shortly after my grandfather died.
      Here is the link:


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