William Larkin Capps
I slammed the car door and skipped barefooted to the backyard; eager to spy my grandfather toiling his garden of pimple-faced potatoes and redheaded radishes. Certain of my secret presence, I slinked from behind, giggling at my sleuthing flair. His soft, brilliant eyes smiled with playfulness as he gave tickles to my side. I was a five-year-old granddaughter, awe-struck with the sweetness of a gentle, simple man.


I sat on the mettle stool, pushing against the wooden workbench as I twirled in circles. My eyes caught my grandfather's wink as he entered the little workshop and I grabbed the bench to a sudden stop, eager to jump to his side for a shared embrace. I melted into his belly and he tossed his brown felt cap to the chair. At ten, I could now reach my face to his soft-shaven cheek and brush him a kiss. I watched as he and my father tinkered their grease-slicked screwdrivers on old radio parts.


I sat at the Sunday table, a teenage mind distant in thought and bored with the adult conversation passing to each end. Suddenly, my eyes reached across the table to gaze at my grandfather's face. His thinned hair now gray and his bald spot broader to the sides, I imagined few men as handsome as he. A life void of higher eduction, the pitch in his voice sparkled with interest as I discussed my college goals.


I was called home from college, my grandfather abruptly scheduled for heart surgery. I leaned against the flat gurney as he lay, turning his face to smile and give a charm-filled wink. I brushed my hand across his and he clasped hold, still sweet and kind and beautiful.

And that was my last memory of a gentle, simple man.


I new my grandfather labored years in the Oklahoma oilfields; a hard-toiled job with rough-talking men and sweat-drenched days. I presumed he was a roughneck; an uneducated sort, but with a heart and mind that gave competition to the best.

I was content with that; left with a memory of the kindest grandfather God made.

And then I searched his 1930 Census record. Ancestry.com's latest beta device provides clear pictures of your grandparent's records, highlighting fascinating details. I clicked the zoom to read my grandfather's employer:

"Oil company."

And then occupation:


My heart contracted as I realized my simple grandfather quietly spent a career in charge of the Reno Oil Company in Nowata, Oklahoma.

Or perhaps I was told, but failed to give his history my attention.

Become reacquinted with your grandparents and give their life the attention you give to ancestors you never knew. Find them on the 1930 US Census and discover if they had a radio in their home or served in the military.

Or lived a life you never knew.

Keep searching for answers,

(Only 36 days until the 1940 US Census is searchable for free!)