Just past a very small Idaho city called Arco (of some international scientific fame), but not all the way to a hamlet called Moore, is a place the locals call Lost River. It’s probably called that because the Big Lost River flows through. It’s actually not a big river, and sometimes it doesn’t even flow to, let alone through, the little valley. When it does, it gets lost out in the desert somewhere downstream, between Arco and Idaho Falls. It just flows into the ground.
My mother’s people in Lost River are more constant than the river. So I thought I’d try looking them up in the US Censuses at WorldVitalRecords.com.
In the 1930 Census
First, I found them in the 1930 Census. In the image below, in household #8, Ross O. Babcock is my mother’s father. Bertha A. Babcock is her mother. Agnes J. and “Baby” Babcock are her older sister and brother, respectively. My mother isn’t there, because she was born in 1931.
Look at the record for her mother. Officially, her relationship to the “head of household” is “wife” (column 6).
There’s much more to this census record. “Yes” (column 10) in the line above, her husband’s, means the family lived on a farm. Moving right on my grandmother’s line (#27), and consulting the column headings, we see:
- column 11: “F” for female.
- column 12: “W” is for white.
- column 13: 33 is her age.
- column 14: “M” is for married.
- column 15: 30 is her age when married — rather old for that time and place, but that’s another story.
- column 16: No, she hadn’t attended school or college in the last year or two.
- column 17: Yes, she could read and write.
- column 18: Utah is her birthplace.
- column 19: Her father was born in Scotland.
- column 20: Her mother was born in Utah.
- column 24: Yes, she could speak English.
- column 25: “None” is her official occupation, despite the fact that she was constantly working.
I don’t have to look further for her parents’ family, which lived on a nearby farm. Just above her household is James A. Noble, her brother, with his wife Alice L. Just above them is her parents’ household (#6), including these:
- her father, Alexander R. Noble, a farmer born in Scotland;
- her mother, Selina S. Noble, another of those extraordinarily busy people with “none” for an occupation;
- her sister E. Agnes, a public school teacher;
- two brothers listed as farm laborers; and
- three sisters listed as students.
Ten years earlier, my grandmother is in her parents’ household.
Looking Back: The 1920 Census
The 1920 Census shows my grandmother living with her parents, in a slightly larger household than they had in 1930 — with my grandmother’s youngest sibling actually on the next page of the census record.
Note that the image is more faded, and that I had to search for my grandmother by her maiden name, Noble, because this was several years before her marriage.
I’ve also found this grandmother and her family living in the same area in the 1900 and 1910 US Censuses.
Looking Ahead: The 1940 Census
The 1940 Census shows that a lot of changes had occurred in a ten-year span. The families still lived and farmed in Lost River, but the households are much different.
My grandparents’ household shows all eight children, including “Babcock, Infant” on the next page. The rightmost column in the image below illustrates an interesting feature of the 1940 Census. Many families and individuals moved from one part of the country to another during the depression years of the 1930s. This census asks where each person lived as of April 1, 1935. In the case of my grandmother, her husband, and the children who were born by then, the answer is, “Same House.”
Her parents’ household is dramatically different. Her mother, here listed as Selina Noble, is still alive, but her father has already passed away by this point and is not listed. Three of her siblings still live with her mother, and all of these lived in the “Same House” in 1935.
Besides the thrill of finding family members listed here, there is something nostalgic about these census pages, especially from the 1940 Census. I wouldn’t come on the scene for about another quarter-century, but many of the names I see in adjacent pages are familiar. They were my ancestors’ neighbors, whom I met when I visited, and who played major roles in my family’s lives and conversations. Several of the neighbor families still live in Lost River, even after many recent years of drought forced some of the farmers to move and seek their fortunes elsewhere.
To be sure, hardly anyone amasses an actual fortune in Lost River, but I know of no better people anywhere.
Someday soon, I’ll trace more ancestors back through more censuses. I’ll do this not for the birth and marriage dates they don’t contain, but for a greater appreciation of who lived where and when, and how and with whom — and for whatever clues they provide to other people in my genealogy.