Laurance & Mildred Harmon & the 1920 Census

Census Sunday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.One of my normal processes is finding an ancestor during all of the censuses during their lifetime. I had looked for Laurance and Mildred (Swain) Harmon several times, in several ways, without success. Also, a reasonably exhaustive search should explain why I can’t find someone.

In doing an advanced search, it is essential to understand where the family is likely to be and what it should look like.

    1. When Laurance and Mildred were married (1 October 1917), Laurance and his parents, Louis and Lucille Harmon, lived in Gorham. Mildred and her parents, Milton and Emma Swain, lived in Westbrook.[i]
    2. When Laurance enlisted in the Army on 28 August 1918, the young couple lived at 7 Grace Street in Portland.[ii]
    3. The 1922 Portland City Directory lists Lawrence L. and Mildred Harmon living in Westbrook.[iii]

Consequently, I might expect Laurance and Mildred to be living in Portland, Westbrook, or possibly Gorham with Laurance’s parents in 1920.

A review of the 1920 Census records looking for anyone with the surname Harmon or Swain (even Swan) did not reveal any candidates for the Harmon family in the 1920 Census. As such, I’ve come to the conclusion they were not enumerated during the 1920 Census. My alternate source for families for any particular year is City Directories.

City Directories

1919    A review of the 1919 Westbrook City Directory found 13 Harmon households, but none of them appeared to include Laurance.  A review of the 1919 Gorham directory lists Lawrence L Harmon in the US Army. Laurance served from 28 August to 5 December 1918.[iv] Additionally, the 1919 Gorham Directory includes the Gorham Roll of Honor, “a list of the Sons of Gorham who served their Country in the War for Humanity.” Lawrence L Harmon appears on that list.

1921    The 1921 Westbrook City Directory available on Ancestry only includes four pages. Their version jumps from page 100 (Hansen) to page 184 (Welch)[v]. The 1921 Gorham City Directory says that Lawrence L Harmon moved to Westbrook.

1923    Lawrence L and Mildred S Harmon appear in the 1923 Westbrook City Directory (Page 102), living at 23 Chandler Ave.

1924    Laurance and Mildred are not listed in the 1924 Westbrook City Directory. However, The 1924-1925 Gorham City Directory list Lawrence (and Mildred) Harmon as a farmhand that boards at L C Harmon’s Bar Mills rd. Louis C. (and Lucy M.) appear listed with Louis being an employee at SDWCo (S. D. Warren, Co.), home in Portland, but p.o. Westbrook, rfd1.

Conclusion

It is unclear where Mildred and Alton were while Lawrence was in the service in 1918. They likely lived in Gorham in 1920 because the 1921 Gorham Directory wouldn’t have mentioned they had moved to Westbrook if they hadn’t been living in Gorham. Because of this evidence, I believe Laurance and Mildred were in the process of moving during the 1920 Census and were not enumerated. That explains why I haven’t found any evidence of them in the 1920 Census records.

Endnotes:

[i] “Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q24N-SHR3 : 16 December 2020), Laurence Harmon and Mildred R Swan, 01 Oct 1917; citing Westbrook, Cumberland, Maine, United States, multiple sources, Maine; FHL microfilm.

[ii] . “Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KG9Q-67X : 11 March 2018), Laurance Or Lawrence Louis Harmon, 28 Aug 1918; citing Military Service, United States, State Archives, Augusta.

[iii] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1989, Portland, Maine – 1922 – Harmon, Lawrence L. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/791282728:2469.

[iv] “Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KG9Q-67X : 11 March 2018), Laurance Or Lawrence Louis Harmon, 28 Aug 1918; citing Military Service, United States, State Archives, Augusta.

[v] I reported the problem to Ancestry. Hopefully, they will consider redigitizing the book.

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