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Census Trail, Will Martin Huff

Posted in Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Last updated on June 24, 2007

My husband’s grandfather, Ben Martin Huff, was born on February 22, 1912 in Tennessee to Will Martin Huff and his wife Sallie. Following Will Martin Huff’s paper trail has not been easy. According to his WWI Draft Card, he was born June 18, 1890. The absence of the 1890 Census has made discovering information about his parentage particularly hard. Even if he had not been born when that census was taken, it is possible his parents would have been married and appeared together on the census.

The first place I started was the 1930 census, where I very quickly found William Martin Huff, his wife Sallie, and son Ben Martin Huff, living in Williamson County, Tennessee (see their information starting on line 1; click on thumbnail to see larger image):

William Martin Huff 1930 Census

I tracked back to the 1920 census, where W.M. Huff, wife Sallie, and son Ben were living in Williamson County:

W.M. Huff 1920 Census

Will Martin Huff was 27 on the 1920 Census and 38 on the 1930 Census. Dates on the census should be taken with a grain of salt, as mistakes were often made; however, his age is consistent across both censuses, which led me to believe that perhaps the date on his WWI Draft Registration Card was incorrect:

Will Martin Huff WWI Draft Registration Card

I thought perhaps I might find him in the home of his parents in the 1910 census, but I was not able to. I did find a candidate for Will Martin Huff in Obion County working as a hired man for the Parrish family:

Will Huff 1910 Census

As you can see, he is 17 and born in Tennessee, so the details fit; however, I wondered why he was in Obion County when all of my other data seems to indicate he spent all of his life in the Williamson County/Nashville area. I am not 100% certain that this Will Huff is the one I’m looking for.

I was a little more fortunate on the 1900 Census, as I was armed with a clue. Steve told me he was certain that his grandfather Ben Martin Huff had an aunt named Verda Huff Fulghum. I located her with her parents L.R. Huff and Mary F. Huff [maiden name Price], in Williamson County in 1920, starting on line 33.

L.R. Huff 1920 Census

As you can see, Will Martin is not living in the home (he was married and had his own home), but I felt I at least had parents’ names to work with. Here they are in 1910. Again, Will Martin Huff is not in the home, but it seems reasonable to assume he was old enough to leave home (as young as 17 or as old as 20).

Lee Huff 1910 Census

Searching the 1900 census proved more difficult, as it appears the census-taker wrote over the top of L.R. Huff’s name (and every other head of household’s name, too). However, the wife is Mary, there is a step-son Willie M. Huff and a daughter Eula. I think this must be Verda based on the birthdate, but I don’t know why she is listed as Eula here. It could be a first name or middle name, or simply an error. I do feel reasonably confident that this is the correct family:

Huff 1900 Census

Because the 1890 Census was destroyed in a fire, this is as far back as I can take Will Martin Huff. Assuming he was born in 1890, as his WWI Draft Card indicates, then he probably was not even on the 1890 Census. However, his parents might have been married. Note that his birth is given as Jan. 1891 on this census. The month is the same as the draft card, but the year is off by one.


  • The 1930 Census on which William Martin Huff appears was enumerated in April. His January birthday would already have passed. He is 38 years old on this census, which would indicate he was born in 1892.
  • The 1920 Census on which W.M. Huff appears was enumerated January 13, 1920 — five days before Will Martin’s birthday as given on his WWI Draft Card (January 18). His age is given as 27. This would indicate that Will Martin Huff was born in 1892.
  • The 1910 Census I have tentatively identified as showing Will Huff lists his age as 17. It was enumerated on April 26, 1910. This would indicate that he was born in 1893; however, it should be emphasized that I am not certain I have the same person here.
  • The 1900 Census including Willie M. Huff was enumerated June 27, 1900. His age is given as 9 and birthdate as Jan. 1891. Of course, this would indicate he was born in 1891.
  • The WWI Draft Registration Card indicates his birthdate as January 18, 1890.

Because we have conflicting information, and, I might add, I haven’t yet found a birth record, I am unsure whether Will Martin Huff was born in 1890, 1891, or 1892. Because I am not sure 1910 Will Huff is the Will Huff I’m looking for, I’m setting aside 1893 for now.

I found it curious that Willie M. Huff is listed as step-son to L.R. Huff on the 1900 Census, so I investigated. I discovered that L.R. Huff is Lee Roy (or Leroy) Huff, the son of Samuel Martin Huff and Martha Harris of Williamson County, Tennessee. I didn’t know if he took the name Huff from this stepfather, but I thought it possible that he didn’t — otherwise, he might have been listed as L.R.’s son. When my grandfather was adopted, he was listed with his adopted parents’ last names and described as their son. The fact that Willie M. Huff was listed as a step-son indicated to me that he may not have been adopted by L.R. Huff, but instead had already been a Huff before his mother married L.R. Huff. My mother-in-law indicated that this was indeed the case:

“Also, you were asking about Will Martin. His mother married Will Martin’s uncle so he was already a Huff” (letter to the author from Margaret Lane Huff, August 7, 2006).

Naturally, I assumed, given the time period, that Will Martin Huff’s father had died and his bereaved mother found comfort in the arms of her husband’s brother, whom she later married. This does not seem to be the case. According to Rose Walls, another Huff researcher:

There is a divorce around 1897 I will have to look for again, Mary Price Huff was deserted by her husband William T. He took her and her child to her brothers house in Maury County and never came back for her. I did not read the whole thing. (e-mail to the author, August 12, 2006)

Update 11:34 P.M, August 14, 2006: According to a new e-mail from Rose Walls to Jackie Pace, forwarded to the author:

I looked at the divorce I told you about today at lunch: Mary F. (Price) Huff Vs William T. Huff – Dated 1893 — They had married in 1888.

I found Lee Roy Huff listed as Leroy Huff in the home of his father, Samuel Martin and mother Martha in 1880:

Huff 1880 Census

Notice that Martha’s name is written as J. Martha and her son as T. William. I looked at a few pages to be sure my hunch was right — the census taker wrote middle initials as first initials — J. Martha Huff instead of Martha J. Huff and T. William Huff instead of William T. Huff. I speculated that this William T. Huff might be Will Martin Huff’s father. Rose’s e-mail would seem to indicate that this is, indeed, the case. The 1900 Census listing for Lee Roy and Mary Huff indicated that they had been married three years, which would mean they married about 1897.

What I am wondering is why is Lee Roy Huff listed alone on the 1930 Census, clearly stating he is married:

Lee Huff 1930 Census

While his wife Mary lives in Nashville with some of her children, stating that she is widowed?

Mary Huff 1930 Census

Sometimes genealogy makes me feel like I’m shaking skeletons out of the closet, but I must say, that makes it all the more interesting.

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One Comment

  1. […] It turned out that some of my family’s tracks through time were pretty tough to find. Just one example of the kind of sleuthing Dana had to do to find anything on one particular Huff can be read here. […]

    June 24, 2007

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