Mystery Monday: Searching for Lewis Chappel (Part 2)

Taking a Closer Look

Even though I did not find my great-grandparents enumerated as a family the first time I looked for them in the 1920 Census, I just could not dismiss this gut feeling I had that I really needed to visit that record AGAIN! When I think about everything they experienced in 1910 — the loss of a child and moving two or three different times — another look for them in the 1920 census just seemed so necessary. Well, I’m glad I did! I found them, not as I expected to find them, but . . . I found them!

In the city of Houston I found my great-grandmother Carrie and my grandfather Joseph together . . .

Carrie and Joseph Chappell in the 1920 US Census
Carrie and Joseph Chappell, 1920 US Census


Enumerated on the 20th day of February 1920, this  U. S. Federal Census reports living in the Pinehurst Addition of Houston, Harris County, Texas dwelling #454 was: [1]

Line 22:  Carrie Chappel, head of household, owner of the mortgaged home she lived in, age 35, a widow, born in Texas as were her parents, works as a Laundress for a Private Family

Line 23: Joseph Chappel, son, age 17, single, born in Texas as were his parents, works as a Laborer for a Railroad Company

In another Texas city, I found my great-grandfather  Lewis . . .

Lewis Chappell in 1920 Census
Lewis Chappel, 1920 US Census


Enumerated on the 3rd day of January 1920, this  U. S. Federal Census reports living as a boarder at 2426 Avenue J, Galveston, Galveston County, Texas was: [2]

Line 38:  Lewis Chappel, black male age 36, married, born in Texas as were his parents, works as a Laborer in the Compress Industry

Reviewing Ancestor Data
Review Data for Clues and New Information

WOW . . . this is interesting stuff!

As I take a closer look at both of these 1920 census records, I cannot help but think there may be “trouble” in the marriage of my great-grandparents!

  • Widow?!
    My great-grandmother obviously told the enumerator that she was a widow! But that wasn’t true at all because my great-grandfather was very much alive and well living just 50 miles away (by car) in the city of Galveston, Texas. Not to mention that I have not been able to find, to date, any record of my great-grandfather’s death in Texas between 1910 – 1920!
  • Married boarder?!
    My great-grandfather either told the enumerator he was married, or the owner of the boarding house where he lived did. Either way, my great-grandmother and grandfather are not living there with him and it seems my great-grandmother may see this separation as a, “death,” where my great-grandfather is concerned – YIKES!
  • Something else I’ve noticed is that my great-grandfather has gone from working as a Pipe-fitter/Gas Plummer for a Gas Company in Houston in 1910, to a Laborer in the Cotton-Compress Industry in Galveston, Texas by 1920! According to The Handbook of Texas Online, [3]

The cotton-compress industry developed in antebellum Texas because of the need to lower the cost of transporting cotton on sailing vessels. . . Compressors, which reduced bales received from cotton gins to roughly half their former size, were first acquired in port. By 1860 more than $500,000 had been invested in the industry at Galveston. As cotton culture spread into the Texas hinterland after the Civil War, compresses were built in many Texas towns in addition to the port cities. The development of communications and the extension of railroads into the state’s cotton-producing regions revolutionized the Texas cotton trade.”

With “widow” and “married boarder” being the key words that jumped out at me in these two records, I’m starting to think that my great-grandparents may have separated by this time! When did this separation take place and is it permanent? I’m not sure. But what I do know is that I will need more evidence than what was reported in this record to validate a legal separation, or divorce between them.

So what’s my next resource?

I think it’s time I use city directories to track them more closely between the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census decades! Hopefully this resource will help me pinpoint the year they arrived in Houston and when my great-grandfather left for Galveston. I also hope this directory will shine a HUGE spotlight on other Chappels living in Houston at this time who just may be immediate family members of my great-grandfather!

Based on information from this 1920 census record, what new information have I added to Great-Grandfather Lewis’ profile as I continue my search for him?

o Names (given, middle, and nicknames) – Lewis Chappel, or possibly Louis Chappel (1910 Census)
o Occupations – Pipefitter for a Gas Company (1910 Census); Gass Plummer (son’s 1910 birth certificate); Laborer in Cotton-Compress Industry (1920 Census)
o Birth date and place – abt 1883, Texas, USA (1910 Census), abt 1884, Texas, USA (1920 Census)
o Age – 27 yrs old (1910 Census); 36 yrs old (1920 Census)
o Residence – 1607 Saulnier Streeet, Houston, Texas 77019 (1910 Census); 815 Schwartz Street, Houston, TX (son’s birth & death certificate); 2426 Avenue J, Galveston, Galveston County, Texas
o Family structure – married to Carrie Blanton and has 2 sons, Joseph Chappel (1910 Census); Lewis Blanton Chappel (1910-1910); separated from Carrie & Joseph (1920 Census)
o Marriage – Married Carrie Blanton abt 1903 (1910 Census)

Think we have a family connection?
Let me hear from you because  . . . I’m Claiming Kin!


Source Citation:

1. “United States Census, 1920,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 May 2013), Carrie Chappell, 1920.

2. “United States Census, 1920,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 May 2013), Lewis Chapel in entry for George Parish, 1920.

3. L. Tuffly Ellis, “COTTON-COMPRESS INDUSTRY,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed June 09, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


11 thoughts on “Mystery Monday: Searching for Lewis Chappel (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Charles Lewis Chappel

    • Thanks for adding the link to your post “Lie to Me” — that is exactly what these 1920 records regarding my great-grands were doing too . . . with the help of my ancestor of course – LOL!

      No, my great-grands have definitely called it

      I’m almost done tracking them in the city directories and did see some great info in those records that was very helpful too.

      But another conversation with my mother revealed some more new info that required me to modify my search. That modification has prompted some new leads that I’m tracking now. It looks like I’m about to have a breakthrough where great-grandfather Lewis is concerned!

      I’ll be blogging about those findings real soon!!


  2. Liv, Very perceptive and most likely conclusion. Until recent history, the word “widow” often indicated “separation.” This term was often used for marriage dissolution for religious reasons, or in lieu of “separated” due to the negative social implication. Both men and women used it in this way, but I’ve noticed a wider use with wives. Often we never find a legal divorce, will, probate or guardian record, etc. to suggest death. Whenever we see the term “widow” we must try to attempt to locate a legal death reference. Glad you took the time to re-explore the census open to a fresh possibility.


    • Kathleen THANK YOU so much for your excellent input and guidance! What you say about the word “widow” is so true. Since posting this information, I still have not been able to locate any type of document that offers any proof that my great-grandfather even died in the state of Texas!


      • Yum…I love scandals. In one case I was able to find annulment papers (actually was a divorce with cause). Wife had an ongoing affair. It named “the lover” and where the wife and lover engaged (in the woods, in the house, etc). Descendants were told the the man had abandoned them. Kinda embarrassing, but the details were great. So just like “widow” the meaning of “annulment” has evolved. Love your research!


      • LOL! Yep, scandals are the best and I must say there’s definitely “trouble in paradise” with my maternal great-grands. I’m bound and determined to find out all I can too – LOL!


  3. Our ancestors always leave us clues and it looks like you are putting the pieces together as you gather. You are right about the directories it can be a benefit. Wish you Well.


    • So true, so true @minkyadoo:disqus and thank you too! I’ve learned a lot these past two years that I’ve been using to breakthrough this brick wall I’ve had regarding my great-grandfather.

      Blogging this way is a “first experience” for me (something I promised that I would do more of this year) that has helped keep me focused and organized throughout this process . . . woo-hoo!

      So stay tuned; this journey for Lewis is just getting revved up . . . LOL!


  4. This is excellent tracking and so exciting! I’m guessing you broadened your search for them to Texas in general? You are being so thorough even to explore exactly the job your great-grandfather had. That is so intriguing, that she says “widowed” and he says “married.” I suppose a person can say whatever they want to the census taker, in some respects. Maybe this discrepancy means that he, Lewis, holds out hope for getting back together. I hope you find many other Chappels living in Houston that can shed light on this mystery and the whole picture.


    • Thanks @MarrianSRegan. Oh yes, a much broader search of Texas was exactly how I found them. I happened to be at the Clayton Library recently where I decided not to use a computer but blew the dust off an old fashion research method (the soundex code) and it wasn’t long before those sitting no far from me heard me say – “Gotcha!” The ancestor hunt came be quite invigorating for me at times – LOL!

      Yes, what was reported by my great-grandmother in this census reminds me of Robyn’s blog post last year titled, “Lie to Me” where she talks about how records lie . . . and in this cause where ancestors are not forth-coming with the truth sometimes.

      I’m hard at work scouring all of the Houston city directories for more information right now. So stay tuned, because this journey I’m on . . . gets better!


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