Census Sunday- New Clues Concerning Little Johnny Beerbower

1910 US Federal Census for Josephine Janis (Jane Elizabeth Cockrell Beerbower) showing the number of children born to her and still living.
1910 US Federal Census for Josephine Janis (Jane Elizabeth Cockrell Beerbower) showing the number of children born to her and still living.

We can’t say this issue is solved yet, but asking the question prompted more research in a different way, and gave us a few more pieces of data.

In my Mystery Monday post of 17 Nov 2014, a newspaper story generated two questions:

1) What is the actual birth date of the little Johnny Beerbower named in the story?

2) Is this another, unknown child of the Beerbowers who died before or in 1884, or is this actually John Percy Beerbower, born 18 Jan 1885?

Census information would be one of the few places I could document this child, but since the parents married in 1881 and little Johnny possibly died before 1885 (before John Percy Beerbower was born), he would not be listed with the family in any decennial census. But there is one very useful piece of data in only 3 censuses- in 1890, 1900, and 1910, the census asked all women the number of children born to them, and the number still living. (In 1940, only married women who were part of those getting the supplemental questions were asked this.)

Over the years, I had not been able to find any censuses for Elsie Janis and her mother after Elsie’s birth in 1889, even though I searched for years in various places. I wanted to verify the number of children born to Josephine in the 1900 and 1910 censuses to answer the questions about Johnny Beerbower, and wanted to find later censuses to see what information could be gleaned from them. (Josephine died in 1930 so the 1940 census would not have even been a possibility for more information about the number of children born to her.) The reasons these other censuses have been elusive are many:

1) As Elsie was in the theater, it is hard to know where they might have been on census day.

Elsie Janis in The Hoyden, 1897, age 16.
Elsie Janis in The Hoyden, 1897, age 16. From an unknown magazine.

2) There is no available 1890 census in Ohio that can give us clues as to where their home may have been that year when Elsie was just 1 year old, and her brother Percy 5.

3) Since Elsie was just 11 in 1900, we would need to search for her parents. The Head of Household would probably have been her mother, as her parents separated though we do not know exactly when. Her mother traveled with Elsie as her Stage Manager, while her father continued at his job, possibly in Marion, Ohio. I have searched unsuccessfully using both her mother and father’s names.

4) Searching for Elsie’s mother was also a challenge- she herself had wanted to be on the stage, and had many names throughout the years. She was born Jane Elizabeth Cockrell, went by Jennie E. Cockrell when she was married, and settled on Josephine Janis once Elsie became famous.

5) Spellings of course varied widely, as did indexing of these family names: Beerbower vs Bierbower, etc.

Yesterday’s look on FamilySearch.org happily turned up the family in the 1920 census, and I was then able to find the image on Ancestry.com. (Why this time? I was using the same terms previously used.) Knowing some of the servant’s names from 1920 helped me to actually find the 1930 image- it did not come up in a search for Elsie nor Josephine. The chauffeur’s name, Frank Reme, from the 1920 household was the clue that led me finally to the 1930 census for Elsie and her mother, as he still worked for them. (Gotta love the FAN Club research concept, and loyal employees.)

I was still looking for 1900 and 1910 census entries for Elsie and Josephine Janis. The search engines smiled favorably, possibly because of the other hits, and I found their 1910 enumeration. In 1910, Josephine was listed as having had two children, with only one surviving. John Percy Beerbower died in 1907, so he would be the child not living per this census. So more questions: Was the 1910 census information provided by a servant in the household or neighbor, or even Elsie (head of household at age 20) who only knew of the two children since she was the last born? Or did Josephine not include a previous child, possibly the “little Johnny Beerbower” of the newspaper article, because the pain of the loss was so great, or maybe he was born a ‘bit early’? Or do we have an incorrect birth date for John Percy, and “little Johnny” is really John Percy (who was called Percy)?

Still searching for the family in the 1900 census… newspaper articles of the birth of little Johnny might also be available, though they have not yet turned up in any searches I have done. Maybe the search engines will smile favorably again when the planets align properly.



Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Original post: http://heritageramblings.net/2014/11/17/mystery-monday-what-is-the-birth-date-of-little-johnny-beerbower/

2) Bucyrus, Ohio, where John E. Beerbower and Jennie Cockrell were married, is just about 18 miles north of Marion, Ohio.

3) Excellent write-up concerning the censuses that ask about number of children born and still living: “What census years asked women about childbirth?” on Genealogy Today at http://www.genealogytoday.com/genealogy/answers/What_census_years_asked_women_about_childbirth.html

4) 1910 US Federal Census for Elsie and Josephine Janis: Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Columbus Ward 12, Franklin, Ohio; Roll: T624_1183; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0176; FHL microfilm: 1375196. Accessed via Ancestry.com on 11/20/14.

5) 1920 US Federal Census for Elsie and Josephine Janis: Source Citation: Year: 1920; Census Place: North Tarrytown, Westchester, New York; Roll: T625_1276; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 68; Image: 599.  Accessed via Ancestry.com on 11/20/14.

6) 1930 US Federal Census for Elsie and Josephine Janis: Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California; Roll: 124; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 0822; Image: 258.0; FHL microfilm: 2339859.   Accessed via Ancestry.com on 11/20/14.


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