The Evasive Norris

10 May

After spending several weeks on the Hastings side of our tree, I decided to switch gears and see if I could trace back my mom’s side (Norris) the same number of branches as I had the Hastings. After knowing for sure that I’ve gone back to my great-great-great-grandfather Hastings (and as you will soon find out, probably my great-great-great-great-grandfather— that’s a lot of greats), my next step will be to get to my great-great-great-grandfather Norris. Once you say great that many times, it no longer looks like a word. Try it!

Starting out, the only Norris’ I knew the names of besides my own grandparents were my great-grandfather and grandmother and his mother (my great-grandmother Norris).

Samuel Ernest Norris, known as “Doc,” for he was a dentist was married to Genevieve Paul Norris. Genevieve’s mother, incidentally, was also named Genevieve, and oddly enough my Grandma Hastings is ALSO a Genevieve. There have not been any Genevieve’s since. Doc is my great-grandfather and, as I’ve been told, came to Colorado when he was quite young. His mother, Minnie Lee Rose, my great-great-grandmother was from Alabama and lived at one point on a place called The Rose Plantation. This is really all I know. 

Below is a photo of Doc, Genevieve, and my Grandpa as a boy.

Doc, Genevieve, and Grandpa

In doing some census research, I first found a 24-year-old Doc (listed as Ernest instead of Samuel), a 23-year-old Genevieve, and my Grandpa who wasn’t even a year old in the 1920 census living with Genevieve’s mother, Genevieve Paul, 53. Genevieve Paul has listed her profession as seamstress, though I know she was also a very talented painter. Doc is listed as a dentist. Click on the census record to make it larger.

1920 Census Record for Genevieve Norris

Incidentally, Minnie Lee Rose Norris, 51, was also on the 1920 census for El Paso County, Colorado. She was living by herself at this point, leaving me no clues as to the name of my great-great-grandpa. Click on the record to make it larger.

1920 Census Record for Minnie L. Norris

Next, I tried looking forward to the 1930 census to see if I could find my great-grandpa and my grandpa in the house I know he lived in most of his life. However, though the 1930 census has been released, it seems as if Heritage Quest, where I’ve been doing my research (for now), doesn’t have the census roll I need digitized just yet. I’ll find them eventually, but for now, let’s go back farther.

By searching for “Norris” in the 1910 census, I found a listing for Minnie L. Here, at age 41, she’s listed as the head of household and has three sons living with her. My great grandpa, Samuel (Doc), at age 15 seems to have been working for a florist at a greenhouse and his brothers William and Elmer were working as a clerk at a real estate office and salesman for (well I can’t read it, but it looks like cooking utensils) respectively. All of the boys and their mother are shown to have been born in Alabama. Her mother is also shown to be born in Alabama, while her father was born in Mississippi. Click on the census record to make it larger.

1910 Census Record for Minnie L. Norris

So… At this point I’m thinking this is all REALLY cool, but where is great, great-grandfather Norris? I don’t even know his name! I try the 1900 census for El Paso County, Colorado. There is no sign of them in Colorado in 1900. Shoot!

At this point, I have two ideas. I can either begin searching for them in 1900 in Alabama in hopes that they moved straight from Alabama to Colorado OR I can try looking for obituaries and cemetery records in Colorado Springs in hopes that Minnie L. Norris’ husband is listed somewhere in one of those. First, I try finding her obituary in Pikes Peak Newsfinder, which is a really cool database available from the Pikes Peak Library District’s site. There are tons of local articles and obituaries digitized. Unfortunately, Minnie’s isn’t one of them. But then, I’d never heard whether she was buried here, so it was a long shot anyway. Afterall, I couldn’t trace her past 1920, and she was only 51 then. She could’ve been anywhere when she died.

I decided to search the Colorado Springs cemetery records, though, on the off-chance that she stayed in Colorado Springs. By going to the cemetery records at this site: http://www.springsgov.com/cemetery/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabindex=1&tabid=2,I was able to search for Minnie Norris and BINGO! I found her.

According to the cemetery record she was buried 12/30/1958, making her about 87 years old when she died. This record, however,  just directs you to the grave itself and offers key birth, death, and burial dates (though in Minnie’s case the record only had a burial date). There were still no clues as to who my great-great-grandfather was. Perhaps he never made it to Colorado?

I decided to try one more thing before checking the Alabama census’ or making a trip to a microfilm station to find Minnie’s obituary. In many cases, there are people who go out with the sole purpose of transcribing gravestones and going to the arduous task of typing them out and posting them online. From what I understand it is both to preserve what they say on them before the stones become hard to read, and also a means of sharing them for genealogists who aren’t near the stones to read them in person. This is a cool site I found that has links to many different transcription sites as well as official cemetery records. http://www.deathindexes.com/colorado/index.html.

By clicking on El Paso County Cemetaries from the Colorado Tombstone Transcription Project, I was directed to this site: http://usgwtombstones.org/colorado/elpaso.html which allows you to search by cemetery and date. By looking in the cemetery book from 1972, and scrolling down to Norris, I easily found this entry for Minnie L. Norris.

NORRIS               MINNIE L.                             1868               30 DEC 1958 T-060 (Bur w/William Robert)

Ch-ching! As you can see, here it says that Minnie L. was buried with William Robert. Looking down the page a very short distance, I can see a William Robert Norris. His entry reads:

NORRIS               WILLIAM ROBERT                        1859               12 FEB 1908 T-060 (Bur w/Minnie L.)

As you can tell, William Robert Norris died in 1908, according to this transcription. This would explain why he didn’t appear in the 1910 census, which could be the first census record for the Norris’ in Colorado. Clearly, they moved here before then, though, since we now have him buried in Colorado Springs in 1908.

After finding these transcriptions, of course I want to go find the gravestones for myself. I had no idea my great-great-grandmother and grandfather Norris were buried here. I knew that my great-grandmother, Genevieve Norris, and her mother, Genevieve Paul, were buried here, and I’ve been meaning to find their stones. Now, it seems I have a surplus of tombstones to find, and this, I believe will be my next mission.

For now though, I’m quite satisfied to have traced another generation back on the Norris side. Heck, I even have a lead to  Alabama where I hope to pick up the trail. Hopefully William Robert Norris, will be the only evasive Norris for a while…

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