A closer look at the records sheds light on a forgotten family history of interracial marriage and a fascinating hop scotch back and forth across the color line.

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A few months ago my cousin asked me to look into her father, Lloyd Harris Jr.’s, family history.  He died in his early 20’s when my cousin and her siblings were still all under ten years old, leaving them very little by way of family connections or history.  I dug a bit on Ancestry.com and found a record of his death on 15 May 1951 at Santa Cruz, California.  His birthdate was given as 31 October 1925 and his parents surnames were Harris and McAndrews.  A little more searching found his birthplace was Alameda County, California.  With this information I began to search for his parents.

Lloyd Harris Sr. and Laura Evelyn McAndrews

I found an entry in the 1940 Federal Census that fit:

Oakland, Alameda County, California

Lloyd Harris, age 35, born in Wyoming, Warehouseman

Laura E, age 33, born in Wyoming

Margaret P, age 17, born in California

Lloyd Harris, Jr., age 14, born in California

 

I found this family again in the 1930 Federal Census with some conflicting information:

Oakland, Alameda County, California

Lloyd Harris, age 25, born in Montana, Steam Railroad Clerk

Laura, age 25, born in Colorado

Margaret, age 7, born in California

Lloyd, age 4 4/12, born in California

Lloyd Sr. and Laura have been married 17 years (marriage date circa 1923).

Lloyd Sr.’s parents were both born in Montana.

Laura’s father was born in Ireland and her mother was born in Kansas.

Laura provided the information to the census taker in 1940 – it is interesting that her birth information has changed this much.

A search for Laura’s death record led to an index entry:

Laura E Hoff, born 01 February 1909 in Colorado died 17 June 1981 at Santa Clara County, California.  Mother’s maiden name is Dubois, father’s surname is McAndrews

The approximate marriage date of 1923 for Lloyd and Laura led to a marriage record:

Lloyd Harris, age 21, born in Montana, son of E. Harris and Grace Wood of Minnesota, clerk at the Santa Fe Railroad Depot married Laura McAndrews, age 18, born in Colorado, daughter of C. H. McAndrews of Pennsylvania and Margaret (unknown) of Pennsylvania on 05 December 1921 at Oakland, Alameda County, California.  Witnesses were John Pera and Nellie McAndrews

 

Laura McAndrews Marriage Record Detail
Harris – McAndrews Marriage Record, Alameda County, California, 1921, detail

 

Further searching of the marriage records found two possible siblings for Laura.

Leonard Joseph McAndrews, age 29, born in Colorado, son of Charles H. McAndrews of Pennsylvania and Margaret Walker of Kansas married Ruby Elizabeth Murdock at Oakland, Alameda County, California on 18 April 1923.

Nellie Louise McAndrews, age 25, born in Colorado, daughter of Charles McAndrews of Pennsylvania and Margaret Walker of Kansas married James Hugh Morrison at Oakland, Alameda County, California on 06 September 1926.  Witness was Carl E Hagstrom.

 

With this information the search for Laura Evelyn McAndrews as a child in her parent’s home begins in the 1920 Federal Census.

Denver City, Denver County, Colorado

Address: 4011 Mariposa

Charles H McAndrews, age 71, widowed, born in Pennsylvania, father born in Ireland, mother born in Scotland, brickmaker in a brickyard

Harry Gordon, age 24, born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born “unknown”, chauffeur with auto company

Ellen Louise, age 19, born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born “unknown”, forelady at laundry

Laura Evelyn, age 16, born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born “unknown”

Edith Anna, grand daughter, age 8, born in Colorado, parents born in Colorado

McAndrews 1920 Census 2_edited
1920 U.S. Census, Charles H. McAndrews Household, 4011 Mariposa, Denver City, Denver County, Colorado, detail

 

A search for Charles H. McAndrews after 1920 led to a California Death Index entry:

Charles H McAndrews, age 74, born abt. 1849, died 13 October 1923 at Alameda County, California

So far it looks like Laura Evelyn McAndrews was born in California to Charles H McAndrews and Margaret (Dubois or Walker).  She had one sister named Ellen “Nellie” Louise McAndrews and two brothers, Leonard Joseph and Harry Gordon.  They were all born in Colorado.  Charles H. McAndrews was born in Pennsylvania and Margaret was born in either Pennsylvania or Kansas. The conflict to be resolved is the maiden name and birthplace of Laura McAndrews’ mother – Margaret Dubois or Margaret Walker from Pennsylvania or Kansas.

Charles H. McAndrews and Margaret Walker

We can estimate Laura McAndrews’ birthdate as 1904-1909, based on the records above.  She should appear in her parents household in the 1910 U.S. Census:

Precinct 6, Denver City, Denver County, Colorado

Address: 4011 Mariposa

Charles H McAndrews, age 48, born in Pennsylvania, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Canada, Brick Molder

Margaret, age 49, born in Kansas, father born in New Mexico, mother born in Kansas, Laundress – Own Account

Leonard M, age 17, born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Kansas, House Carpenter

Harry G, age 15, born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Kansas, Apprentice Bricklayer

Edith M, age 13, born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Kansas

Allen L, age 10, born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Kansas

Laura E, age 7, born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Kansas

Charles and Margaret have been married 32 years (married circa 1878)

Margaret has had 11 children with 7 still living in 1910.

McAndrews 1910 Census_edited
1910 U.S. Census, Charles H McAndrews Household, 4011 Mariposa, Denver City, Denver County, Colorado, detail

The big news here is that Margaret’s racial designation is “Black”, Charles is “White” and all the children are “Mulatto”.  None of the records we’ve looked at so far have given any indication that this family was anything but “White”.  Was this a random mistake made by the enumerator?  Was he given bad information from a neighbor?

The 1900 Census should make the situation clearer:

8th Precinct, Denver City, Arapahoe County, Colorado

Address: 4011 Clifton St.

McAndrews, W, age 48 (born April 1848), born in Pennsylvania, parents both born in Scotland, Bricksetter

—, Margaret, B, age 39 (born June 1860), born in Colorado, parents both born in New Mexico

—, Roy, B, age 14 (born September 1885), born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Colorado

—, Frances V, B, age 12 (born August 1887), born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Colorado

—, Valentine, B, age 10 (born February 1890), born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Colorado

—, Leonard, B, age 7 (born February 1893), born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Colorado

—, Harry, B, age 5 (born Mary 1895), born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Colorado

—, Edith, B, age 3 (born April 1897), born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Colorado

—, Nellie, B, age 1/12 (born April 1900), born in Colorado, father born in Pennsylvania, mother born in Colorado

Margaret and all of her children have been given the racial designation “Black” while Charles McAndrews is designated “White”

McAndrews 1900 Census 2_edited
1900 U.S. Census, McAndrews Household, 4011 Clifton Street, Denver City, Arapahoe County, Colorado, detail

 

Well, it would appear that there was no mistake, Charles McAndrews and Margaret Walker were an interracial couple who married in the decade following the Civil War.  They had 11 children, 7 of whom were alive in 1910:  Unnamed Child #1, Unnamed Child #2, Unnamed Child #3, Roy, Frances V., Valentine, Leonard Joseph, Harry Gordon, Edith M, Nellie Louise and Laura Evelyn.  Sometime between 1910 and 1920, Margaret died and the children’s racial designation changed from “Black” to “White”.  Did this racial ambiguity extend beyond the census?

Crossing the Color Line

I haven’t found a marriage record for Charles and Margaret yet, nor have I found the 1880 U.S. census record that would have followed it.  I was able to locate them in Denver City Directories, however:

1885 Charles H. McAndrews, 446 24th, Brick Moulder

1895 Charles H McAndrews, col’d, 1411 Clifton, laborer

Charles H McAndrews 1895 City Directory Detail
Denver, Colorado 1895 City Directory entry for Charles H McAndrews, detail

1899 Charles H McAndrews, 4011 Clifton, Brick Molder

1902 Charles H McAndrews, col’d, 4011 Clifton, laborer

1903 Charles H McAndrews, 4011 Clifton, Brick Molder

Charles H McAndrews 1903 City Directory Detail
Denver, Colorado 1903 City Directory entry for Charles H McAndrews, detail

So Charles McAndrews’ racial designation changed randomly over the years in the city directories.  What about the children?  One city directory entry in particular was fascinating:

1906  Roy McAndrews, 4011 Clifton (Mariposa), laborer

…and three entries down:

           Valentine McAndrews, col’d, 4011 Clifton, apprentice G.J. Kindel

Roy and Valentine McAndrews City Directory Detail
1906 Denver, Colorado, City Directory, Roy McAndrews and Valentine McAndrews, detail

 

It would seem that while Margaret (Walker) McAndrews was alive her family would go back and forth across the color line.  After her death they did not retain their biracial heritage.  Instead her children appeared to have distanced themselves from their mother through omissions and misrepresentations on census and vital records.

 

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