Where was Bert Allen Roberts in 1931 & 1932 and why was Essie a “widow?”
By Don Taylor
The 1931 Polk City Directory for Terre Haute, Indiana, indicates Bert’s wife, Essie, is a widow living at 460 S 13-1/2 Street. It also suggests Bert is residing at 803 North 3rd. This appears to conflict with other records. (See Research Plan – Bert Allen Roberts (1903-1949). Can I explain the discrepancy?
1929 – The 1929 Terre Haute City Directory lists Bert A (& Essie Roberts) living at 613 North 15th.
There is also a Bert H Roberts listed as a manager with Roberts & Sons and residing at 803 North 3rd.
1930 – The 1930 Census includes Bert, Essie, and the children living at 613 North 15th. Essie’s mother, Marada, lived with them.
1931 – The 1931 Terre Haute City Directory lists Bert H A Roberts is living at 803 N 3rd. Bert A is not listed. Because of the 1929 directory, it is clear this Bert Roberts is the Bert associated with the Roberts & Sons business and not Bert Roberts, the husband of Essie (Barnes) Roberts.
Essie P Roberts is listed as the widow of Bert A, working as a cook at J Vern Stevens and living at 460 S 13½. J Vern Stevens was a retail baker and a delicatessen located at 1603 S 7th. Because Essie’s mother, Marada, lived with Bert and Essie during the 1930 Census, I presume she took care of the five children, ages 2 through 9, while Essie worked.
1932 – The 1932 Terre Haute City Directory again fails to list a Bert Roberts but does list Essie as Mrs. Essie Roberts residing at 1466 S. 11th.
1934 – The 1934 Terre Haute City Directory lists Bert A (and Essie) Roberts as a taxi driver. They live at 1354 Chestnut.
Family Search indicates that Polk did not publish Terre Haute directories in 1930 and 1933. So further searching for them is futile.
Family oral history suggests that Bert may have had a second family. If so, it could have been during this period, 1931-1933.
The city directories definitely suggest something occurred between Bert & Essie during those years. Something serious enough that has them separated and Essie claiming to be a widow rather than having the stigma of either being divorced or abandoned with five children. In 1931, the children ranged from two to nine years old. Marada died in May 1932, so it may be it became too difficult to continue as it was, and Bert and Essie got back together then. In any event, it must have been a tough time for Essie.
I have not found any records suggesting where he may have been for those years. Further research into Bert & Essie’s lives will hopefully provide insight.
- City Directory (A), Com, Terre Haute, IN (1929) – Page 411 – Roberts, Bert A. Accessed 21 Jan 2016.
- 1930 Census, Family Search, Bert A Roberts, Terre Haute, Vigo, Indiana, United States, citing enumeration district (ED) ED 22, sheet 9B, line 71, family 248, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 635; FHL microfilm 2,340,370. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X41Q-S9Z.
- City Directory (A), Com, Terre Haute, IN (1931) – Page 387 – Roberts, Essie P (Wid Bert A). Accessed 28 Sep 2022.
- City Directory (A), Com, Terre Haute, IN (1932) – Page 332 – Roberts, Essie [Barnes]. Accessed 28 Sep 2022.
- City Directory (A), Com, Terre Haute, IN (1934) – Page 323 – Roberts, Bert A. Accessed 21 Jan 2016.