© 2018, Ancestry.com.
03 February 2018
No. 5 — Jan. 26 2018
Using the census to track a family in its Dust Bowl migration
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018
When Elmer Hodge Blair married Attelia Pryor in the summer of 1914 in Oklahoma, times were pretty good and the future looked bright because Oklahoma was bubbling in oil, and its businesses and farms were thriving. He was 23 and she was 19. Elmer was a farmer, though it is doubtful that he ever owned one. He registered for the World War I draft in Muskogee County, Oklahoma where he then lived and at that time claimed he was married with two children. Apparently, he never actually served in the military.
His father died in early 1918, leaving Elmer with a younger sister as his nearest relative. He also had several half siblings via his father’s second marriage. In the 1920 census of Choctaw County, Oklahoma, Elmer and Attelia and their three sons are renting a place and he is farming. Their sons — Elmer Leroy, Marion Floyd and Paul Vernon — were born in 1915, 1917 and 1918, respectively.
By 1930, Elmer and family had moved again — to Eufaula in McIntosh County, Oklahoma. About this time there was a global economic slowdown and one of the worst and longest drought in America’s history hit. The drought created the Dust Bowl period in the 1930s with the most intense years occurring in 1934 and 1936. While eastern Oklahoma where the Blairs lived was not as severely hit by the dust storms, the area also was impacted by great economic losses and the Depression. Like hundreds of thousands of others, the Blairs joined the so-called Dust Bowl refugees and went to California.
In 1940, Elmer, his wife and two of his three sons were enumerated in Taft Heights, Kern County, California. He had been unemployed for 16 weeks, was renting a home for $15 a month, and had an income of $350. The 1940 population schedule asked an additional question that helped to pinpoint the migration of this family. It asked: “In what place did this person live on April 1, 1935?” Additionally, if it was a different place than in 1940, the enumerator was to enter the name of the city or town. The Blairs lived in a rural area (farm) in McIntosh County, Oklahoma in 1935.
So sometime between 1 April 1935 and 18 April 1940, the Blairs had made the trip along the famous Route 66 to California.
Elmer is buried in Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, and Orange County, California where he died in 1950, and Artelia purportedly died there in 1959.
However, they made at least one more trip back to Oklahoma because in 1942, Elmer is found in the “old men’s draft” of that year for World War II, living in McAlester, McIntosh County, Oklahoma. How long they stayed before returning to California I have yet to determine.
 Elmer H. Blair married Artelia Pryor, 9 Aug 1914, Muskogee County, Oklahoma.
Film Number: 001312360. Oklahoma, County Marriage Records, 1890-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
 Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Muskogee; Roll: 1851890. Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.
 1920 U.S. census. Choctaw County, Oklahoma, population schedule, Wilson, Enumeration District [ED] 80. Roll T625_1456, p. 13A. United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
 1930 U.S. census, McIntosh County, Oklahoma, population schedule, Eufaula, Enumeration District [ED] 14. Roll 1914; Page: 4A; FHL microfilm: 2341648. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.
 1940 U.S. census, Kern County, California, population schedule, Taft Heights, Enumeration District [ED] 15-59; Roll: m-t0627-00214; Page: 14A. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.
 Find-A-Grave Memorial (no sources cited). Elmer H Blair Birth 1891. Death 1950.
Burial: Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, Orange County, California, USA. Memorial ID 58489865.
Find-A-Grave does not show a burial record for his wife; and I’ve found no documentation to prove exactly when and where she died.
 World War II Draft Cards (4th Registration), for the State of Oklahoma. The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
© 2018, Ancestry.com.
© 2018, Ancestry.com.