A great-granddad appears to have been the marrying kind, which may explain why records vary on when and where he was born.
Dear Professor Gates:
I’m curious about the origins of an elusive family member, my great-grandfather Schofield Love. There were rumors of Native American and Jewish ancestry, but an Ancestry.com DNA test of his son (my grandfather Milton Love) came back with 74 percent West African and 25 percent European heritage, and no European Jewish or Native American ancestry. It did show traces of Polynesian DNA, oddly.
Records show that Schofield was born in approximately 1885, yet there is a World War I record with a birth date of 1877. From my research, I found that Schofield was married about three times and possibly lived in several states. Grandpa Milton says that Schofield was from Enfield, N.C., but a 1910 census record shows California as his place of birth. Schofield appears to have been married and had a family in New Jersey, Philadelphia (this 1930 photo shows his wife, Louisa Boddy, and their children, my grandfather’s half-siblings) and, ultimately, Virginia, where my lineage comes in. Schofield married my great-grandmother Claudine Campbell.
I’d like to know: Was Schofield Love from California or North Carolina? Did he have siblings? Is there any information about his parents, who are listed on his death certificate as John and Jane Love? —Sherilyn Morgan
You’ve already done an excellent job of chipping away at the legends around your great-grandfather Schofield Love to get to the truth of his origins. Indeed, the DNA test results you sent us for his son Milton Love show no evidence of Native American or Jewish ancestry. We consulted genetic genealogist CeCe Moore about the results, and she told us in an email that either heritage definitely would have been picked up by AncestryDNA if Milton had substantial ancestry from either population.
As for the trace results of Polynesian admixture that you saw in his AncestryDNA test, Moore said that such a small amount is probably not meaningful. If you would like to explore it further, she recommended taking an additional DNA test using 23andMe to see if Polynesian ancestry (called “Oceanian” there) is detected in those results as well. “I would recommend testing the oldest living generation possible on that family line,” she added.
Like you, we encountered varying information about Schofield’s birth year and location, even in records that were otherwise largely consistent with each other. It is possible that in some instances the informant for the record was incorrect about details of his birth, or that Schofield himself may have been unclear on the details or even had reasons for changing them over time.
One thing that emerged during our research was the fact that Schofield may have made more trips to the altar than those of which you are aware. We also noted that in censuses recorded in between weddings, his marital status was frequently listed as “widowed.” Keep in mind that in those days, the term “widowed” was sometimes used by people to indicate a separation, abandonment or divorce and not always the death of a spouse. However, it would not be a stretch to suggest that someone with a complicated past might have an interest in obscuring details of his or her origins.
Given the challenges, we decided to work backward along Schofield’s timeline. Schofield Love’s death certificate (on Ancestry.com, subscription required) indicated that he was born Feb. 29, 1893, in North Carolina. It says that he was a carpenter by trade and his parents were John and Jane Love.
However, Schofield F. Love was buried in Crewe, Nottoway County, Va., and his headstone records his birth in 1880 and death in 1958. Findagrave.com also includes a burial for Claudean C. Love, who appears to be your great-grandmother, in the same cemetery. She was born in 1900 and died in 1972.
A Social Security life claim was made for Schofield Farrane Love on Nov. 17, 1950. A life claim is taken when a person is still alive but needs money for his or her care, so this would still fit with the timeline of your Schofield Love, who died eight years later. According to this, his birth date was Feb. 29, 1878, in San Francisco.
You indicated that Schofield Love lived with your great-grandmother Claudine in Nottoway County, Va. We located this family in that county in the Winningham Magisterial District in 1940; your grandfather Milton Love (age 8) was in their household. This record indicates that all the members of the household were born in Virginia. However, be wary of information in census records because they can vary based on who provided the information to the census taker.
Ten years earlier, “Scorefield Love” was recorded as a “widowed” Negro farmer residing alone at 96 Mountain Hall Road in Winningham, Nottoway, Va. Based on the ages of his children in the 1940 U.S. census (all age 10 and under), the 1930 census may have been recorded just prior to his relationship with Claudine. It seems likely that Schofield, as head of his own household, provided the information about himself to the census taker. He claimed that he was born in California and that both of his parents were born in Virginia.
You mentioned that Schofield Love registered for the draft in World War I. The draft registration for Schofield Love was dated Sept. 12, 1918, and recorded his nearest relative as Ella Love, residing at 610 Warren St. in Essex County, N.J. This was also his permanent home address, suggesting that Ella was his wife.
Here, Schofield’s date of birth is listed as Feb. 29, 1877. It also states that he was occupied as a carpenter for the Ward Baking Co. in Ampere, Essex, N.J. The day and month of the birth date match those provided on the Social Security Life Claim that we found for him in 1950, meaning that this is almost certainly the same person.
The draft record helped us locate Schofield in the 1920 census. His address in 1920 was the same one provided on his draft registration, 610 Warren St., Newark, Essex County, N.J., in 1920. According to this record, Schofield was born in San Francisco, which was crossed off and replaced simply with California.
The record also tells you that he was a 39-year-old widower, placing his birth about 1881. It also records that both his parents were born in California. His occupation was carpenter and he had three boarders residing in the household who were all born in Virginia. The fact that Schofield was a widower by this date suggests that Ella either died or separated from Schofield between 1918 and 1920.
You said that you have a photograph of Louise Boddy and her children dating to the 1930s. This would indicate that she separated from Schofield at some point beforehand, since we know that in 1918 he was with his wife Ella, was recorded as a widower in 1920 and 1930, and was with Claudine in 1940.
Because Louise Boddy appears to the earliest wife of the three you know about, more information on her and her children may help you sort out Schofield’s younger years. The 1910 census records Schofield as the head of household with wife Louisa W. Love and six children, all under the age of 10. Tracing these children may provide you with more clues about Schofield, including their father’s birthplace (which in 1910 was listed as California).
Louise may not have been his first wife, however. Curiously, there is a marriage record for Schofield Love in Nansemond County, Va., to an Annie Lee Jones on Dec. 4, 1898 (pretty much ruling out the 1893 birth year listed on his death certificate). According to the index, his parents were Edward J. Love and Annie Lee Jones.
There is also a marriage record for Schofield Love in Petersburg, Va., on May 24, 1921, to Josephine Scott. Here, his parents were E.J. and Eliza Love, and his birthplace was San Francisco.
Neither wife appears with him in any census records, though the Schofield Love who was residing at 431 Harrison Ave. in Petersburg, Va., in the 1921 Petersburg City Directory was a carpenter, which matches what we know about your Schofield Love around this time. The originals of these marriage records are available on microfilm, and examining the originals may provide you with more clues than you can gather from the index alone.
Interestingly, there is an Ed. J. Love and his wife, Eliza, residing in Enfield, Halifax, N.C., in 1880 with several children, though none are named Schofield. This is the same location where your grandfather Milton claimed that Schofield was born, and the parents’ names match the two marriage records we located, though they do not match the parents’ names provided on Schofield’s death certificate. Perhaps he is one of the children in the household but assumed a different name later in life. You may want to investigate the members of this household further to see if you can connect them to your Schofield Love.
Furthermore, we searched the 1870 and 1880 censuses for individuals with the surname Love residing in San Francisco, but the results returned only white families. This should be around the time of Schofield’s birth (based on the wide variations of his birth year). However, we did note that there was a Richard Schofield, described as mulatto, who was residing in San Francisco in 1870. If this is the same person, then perhaps your great-grandfather later adopted his surname as a first name.
We did not locate any records for this Love family that mentioned a Eugene Love. We also checked the U.K. census collection for a Eugene Love born in America and did not have any positive results, so we were unable to confirm or deny the claim that you had a great-granduncle Eugene Love who left the United States for England.
What we were able to do is fill in additional details of Schofield Love’s long and colorful life. We discovered that he may have been married up to five times; the 1893 date of birth on his death certificate is probably incorrect, and he was more likely born between 1870 and 1880; and North Carolina and California are still both possible birth locations, though for most of his life, the latter was reported to be his place of origin. We wish you luck with your continuing search to uncover the details of your great-grandfather’s early life.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also chairman of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Send your questions about tracing your own roots to TracingYourRoots@theroot.com.
This answer was provided in consultation with Meaghan E.H. Siekman, Ph.D., a senior researcher from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Founded in 1845, NEHGS is the country’s leading nonprofit resource for family history research. Its website, AmericanAncestors.org, contains more than 1 billion searchable records for research in New England, New York and beyond. With the leading experts in the field, NEHGS staff can provide assistance and guidance for questions in most research areas. They can also be hired to conduct research on your family. Learn more today about researching African-American roots.