April 1, 2011
This house was in an oil field camp. I suspect it was a boarding house; I doubt company houses were anywhere near this grand. Photo credit: Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.
Remember how I said genealogy wasn’t supposed to be this easy? I take it back.
Maybe it was beginner’s luck. Or maybe it’s only easy when Shivelys are involved. In any case, the Easleys in my tree need to pull up their socks and help me smash this brick wall. After all, it was searching for an Easley (my mother’s older brother who died in infancy) that first got me started in genealogy. You could say that looking for Baby Sam was my gateway drug. So I figure the Easleys owe me.
Anyway, I had the day off work last Friday and had to run an errand in the Big City (aka Tulsa), so I decided to drop by the county health department to see if I could get Baby Sam’s birth certificate. I had previously searched for his death record without success, but I filled out the form and took a number. After waiting for what seemed like forever, I presented the form to the young woman at the window. She told me that, because I wasn’t an immediate relative, not only would they not give me a birth record, they wouldn’t even attempt to search for one. Now I understand there are privacy issues, but for pete’s sake — my Uncle Sam was born and died more than 90 years ago! I explained to the clerk that all immediate relatives were deceased, both parents and both siblings. That I only wanted the record for genealogy purposes. No go.
Frustrated, I headed back home to Sperry. As I pulled into town I noticed that there was a car parked in front of the church I suspected my grandparents might have attended. I stopped and went in to see if the church had records back that far. The car in the parking lot belonged to the pastor. I introduced myself and explained the situation. He was very nice and wanted to be helpful, but that particular church had only been in existence since the 1960s. I was 0 for 2 for the day.
But since I was there, I decided to stop by the town office again to see if I could get any more information. I know from the 1920 census that my grandparents lived in Sperry and my grandfather worked for an oil company. The state was in the middle of an oil boom during the time, and workers flooded into small towns like Sperry hoping to make a fortune. Housing was in such short supply that many companies put up camps or housing communities right next to the drilling sites. The town clerk who had helped me look for cemetery records a few months ago was in the office and very graciously spent some time answering my questions about the town and the oil camps.
I don’t know whether my grandparents lived in such a camp or in the town. I suspect from the occupations of their neighbors on the census that they lived in town. But if they did live in one of the outlying camps, the town clerk suggested, baby Sam could very well be in a cemetery in the surrounding area. She recommended that since Skiatook was and still is the next big town (“big” being a relative term) it might be a good idea to have a look at the archives of the Skiatook newspaper. There might be a death notice and possibly information on oil companies operating in the area. I thanked her profusely. Then she recruited me for the fledgling Sperry Historical Society.
Later that afternoon, I checked the website of the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City and, lo and behold, they have the Skiatook paper on microfilm back as far as the early 1900s! I see a a trip to Oklahoma City in my future. (And perhaps FTU’s Newspaper Research 101 class.) Maybe all of this is a long shot, but I don’t care. I just want to find some proof, however small, that for a brief time little Samuel Easley belonged to this world. I already know he was loved.
Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.