Who were these people?

Jul 25, 2013

I’m about midway through the 1910 Census report for Pasadena.  Learned a lot of things; most of the things learned are accompanied by even more questions.

I began looking in the 1910 Census to get a feel for the number of blacks and Latinos that were in the city at the time.  Wanted to use the numbers to help set a context for myself.  These aren’t the only groups that I like to learn about, but they are certainly among those who aren’t included in most of the histories that focus on Millionaire’s Row.  I guess I like to explore and fill in gaps.

To say the enumerators’ handwriting varied in legibility is like saying the sun is hot.  Oh, my.  Mostly easy to read, but some wrote in a manner similar to the student who answers in a mumble hoping that their wrong answer won’t be heard.

In one case, the name Martinez (a good Spanish last name), has three different spellings on the same page.  There are similar creative interpretations for folks whose names and languages came from other countries.  I could recognize some of the French and German corruptions, but those that occurred with those of  Swedish, Norwegian, Chinese or Japanese origin, would take a skill set I don’t have.  I suspect a native speaker of those languages would just shake their head as they read the names.

I was surprised by the number of folks whose mother and father came from another country and who a generation later were simply white Americans or in some places considered “real” Americans.  The west coast was magical that way for many groups from distant lands.

I was also surprised by the number of young Swedish women who were identified as servants or domestics.  It still is hard to believe that so many of those working as maids were all named Anna Anderson.  True, a huge number of Scandinavians moved to the U.S. and many to Pasadena; but still.

I’ve shared some of my discoveries with folks at the Pasadena Museum of History and on facebook.  At the PMH, Laura Verlaque, ever at the ready, directed me to a thesis.  Its focus was the author’s great-grandmother who had worked as a domestic at about this time period in Pasadena.  She left a detailed journal – of sorts.  It was exciting to recognize the names and some of the addresses from the 1910 census.  Familiarity breeds familiarity.

Janet Graff, a teacher with a deep love of history, shared that there was a church that was established as a place of worship for these young women.    The church still exists though the congregants and the mission have changed in some respects.  If you’ve driven down Lake to the 210, you’ve driven past the church.

I was surprised at the number of the Chinese and Japanese that were a part of our community in 1910.  Much more than is ever mentioned.  Many names seemed like random sounds – will need more study.

Courtesy of Archives, Pasadena Museum of History

This image above is from a yearbook, “The Item”, Throop Polytechnic Institute, from this same era.  Based on some initial research it looks that this young scholar becomes Tetsuji Tschuchiyama, Bishop of the Free Methodist Church of Japan.  The quote by his name in the yearbook is, “What’s in a name?”

The answer can sometimes be, “A lot”. 

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