Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Jersey City mystery deepens

Remember that among the New York Times clippings about Walter Ruby that I discovered last year there was one that reported an auto accident taking place in Jersey City on June 14, 1936. A car driven by a Walter Ruby, age 41, of 110 Cottage Street in Jersey City, collided with another car, resulting in six injured people. One of the injured was Evelyn Ladd, 52, of the same address listed for Walter Ruby.

This article has been a continuing mystery. Perhaps it is a different Walter Ruby, though the age is about right. If it is our Walter, why does he have an address in Jersey City? I had came to the conclusion at that time that the reporter had made an error and gave the Cottage Street address for Ruby, particularly since I had interpreted the article as suggesting that Mrs. Ladd had been a passenger in the other car. My explanation was that our Walter was passing through Jersey City, perhaps on business, had an unfortunate accident, and that the news report was mistaken about his address.

So today I am looking at census records available at Earlier I already described the 1930 census record for the Ruby household at 685 West End Ave. Now pops up another 1930 census record for a Walter Ruby, listed as a boarder in a Jersey City household with Edmund and Evelyn Ladd.

This is six years before the accident at a different Jersey City address, but obviously if Walter Ruby were a boarder with Evelyn Ladd in 1930, the same Mrs. Ladd must have been in his car in the accident. So my explanation about the mistaken address is not correct. The obvious explanation is that it is a different Walter Ruby.

The one thing that continues to raise an eyebrow is that the Jersey City Ruby lists his industry as "jobber," the exact term listed for the West End Ave. Ruby. Is there any possibility that our Walter conducted business in Jersey City and kept a room there for occasional times that he needed to sleep over? If someone kept a part-time apartment in addition to his family home, is it possible he could have been counted twice in the 1930 census?

But there are a few more anomolies about the Jersey City listing. This Walter Ruby is listed as being 36 years old on April 30, 1930, which would have been correct for our Walter. However, he is listed as being unmarried. Also, it says he was born in New Jersey and that his mother and father were born in the U.S. Those facts are obviously wrong. Also, going back to the newspaper clipping, his correct age on the date of the accident would have been 42, not 41.

So what are we to make of this? Almost certainly we are looking at another Walter Ruby. I will go back into the records and see if I can document an earlier history for this other person. But we can't yet entirely rule out the possibility that our Walter Ruby kept an outside apartment in New Jersey for at least six years in the 1930s, and that if so he evidently fictionalized some details about his life despite using his real name.

I'm going to see if I can find anything else that would bring some clarity.

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