The Genealogist and B.B. King: A Little Riff on Census Records

Guitarist B.B. King has an interesting family history. With census records, our RecordClick genealogist
finds some information that shows how census records must be studied for the full picture of a family tree.

The genealogist who searches census records must always check the actual pages. That’s because the abstracts are not always correct. In the case of guitar legend B.B. King’s genealogy, the census records yield a lot of information for the genealogy researcher. But some of that information is confusing. This leaves the genealogist who looks at the records with a lot of correcting to do.

From published reports, the genealogist will find the basics pretty easily. B.B.King, was born Riley B. King, September 16, 1925, in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He was the son of Albert and Nora Ella King (b. 1910, d. 1935). They were farmers who rented their home. Some reports say they were sharecroppers living on a plantation. The census reports for King’s ancestors indicate only that they were farmers, renting their homes.

It is reported that Riley B. was named for his father Albert’s brother. When he was 4, his mother left. When he was 10, it is reported that she died. He then went to live with his mother’s mother, Elnora Farr. She appears as Elnora, Elna, and Lenora in different Census versions.

But did he really live with his Grandmother? Or was she his Great Grandmother?

The music legend B.B. King has interesting information in his family's census records.

The music legend B.B. King has interesting genealogical information in his family’s census records.

That’s where the census records are very interesting—leaving some questions for the genealogy researcher.

Let’s take a look at the genealogy of B.B. King’s mom and her family.

His mom, Nora Ella, first appears in the 1910 Census as Dora Ella Pulley, age 2, and it says she was born about 1908.

Her mother is Elnora Pulley and father is Jasper Pulley. That’s what the extract says.  Looking at the actual page, we see:

Jasper Dulley     22            can read/write    farmer

Elnora Pulley     22             cannot read/write

Wm Pulley           3

Nora Ella Pulley  2

In the 1920 Census, Nora Ella Pulley (b. about 1909 in Mississippi) is listed as Mulatto (Black) and as a granddaughter in the household.

BING!  Save that info.

When we look at the actual Census page, we see the family:

Romie Farr   35 Head

Elna Farr       27 Wife

Ora Lee Farr 13

Vernia Farr   11

(The abstract indicates perhaps this is a 17. But verification on the actual page indicates 11.)

Milton Farr   10

Edword Farr   8

Flora M.          6

Noralem Pulley 11 Granddaughter

Neviater Pulley  9   Granddaughter

(Neviater later appears as Nevada in the 1940 Census indicating that the 1920 writing was likely illegible.)

This family was living in Sparta, Chicksaw, Mississippi. Elna Farr was listed as Mulatto/(Black)

By the 1930 Census, Elnora Farr (here it says b. 1890) was 40, a widow, a renter and working on her own account.

Then in the 1940 Census, Elnora Farr (here it says b. about 1881) was a widow, that she still lived on a farm and that she rented.

We can delve further into these census records, but when we find something like this, it makes the work of the family history researcher just so  interesting. We become the genealogy researcher-detective!

The questions to be answered include deciphering the Grandchildren designation. Were they children of one of Romie and Elna’s children or were they Elna’s children from a prior marriage or is it a mistake. Lots to search for!

As B.B. King recovers from his recent hospital stay, we wish him well and let him know that his family history uncovered by the genealogy researcher from RecordClick is fascinating! When you hire a genealogist from RecordClick, you get interesting family history from your family tree.

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