In the World War I draft, everyone had to register. One of the people who registered as Native in Brooklyn, NY was Elgin Russell, Born Oct. 4 1892 in Chicago Illinois. He is an artist, and he is paralyzed from the waist down. So many questions come to mind.
I wondered if I could find anything at all about him. I googled his name, but nothing that connected the name to this Elgin Russell. In the 1920 census, I found him living with his mother in New York, in a common household with what appears to be a married daughter/sister, age 30, her husband and children.
Elgin’s mother, Elizabeth Russell is age 53 and widowed. She was born in Canada as were both of her parents, and she came to the states in 1889 and is naturalized. Her daughter, age 30 would have been born the next year, about 1890. Elizabeth has 4 children with her, the married daughter and 2 sons and a daughter at home, all adults. The children were born in various places, 2 in Illinois, the oldest ones, then one in Canada (1895) and one in New Jersey (1901). All family members, including the daughter’s husband and children are listed as mulatto.
In the 1910 census, Elizabeth is living in NY, is already widowed, but has 6 children, all living, and all with her. She is a dressmaker, same as in 1920. Elgie is already paralyzed at age 17. She says she would have been married 23 years, so 1887 and she gives her immigration as 1896. She does not say she is naturalized. Her children ages 20-17 were born in Illinois, age 15 in Canada and ages 9 and 7 in New Jersey. Unfortunately, with no 1890 census, we lose Elizabeth Russell, as I couldn’t find the family in 1900.
In 1930, we find this family again. Elizabeth is aging, age 65 now, first married at age 18, immigrated in 1890 and is an alien, so not naturalized. Elgin is now listed as the head of the household. His younger brother and his wife and 2 children also live there. Elgin’s paralysis is not mentioned, but if he truly was paralyzed, he would need assistance with daily routine things that his mother might no longer be able to physically provide. She is no longer listed as a dressmaker. The family is again listed as mulatto.
But Elgin seems to be doing well. He is still listed as an artist, but now for a “Decorator Company.” I’m so glad to hear that. Let’s hope that it’s his artistry that defines Elgin, and not his paralysis. I wonder if we’ll find him in the 1940 census.