Who Are You?: Gus Steward, Mystery Man

I call these posts “Who Are You?” because for these ancestors there’s a crucial component unknown to me: parents, marriage, and so on.

But Gus Steward pisses me off.

I know next to nothing about him. He was born, he married (twice), had some kids, died and was buried. For every piece of information I have, it’s a twenty to forty year gap to the next shred of information. Everything contradicts everything else. He’s the honest to goodness brick wall. He’s the ancestor who’s been dropped off by aliens. Thank God he’s not mine.

No, I don’t treat all my clients’ ancestors like this. Because they don’t make me this angry. Susanne, it’s a good thing we’re friends, because I probably would’ve walked away by now. Sometimes I really wish I didn’t love a challenge so much because that’s how I got into this.

Gus Steward defies all logic. It shouldn’t be this hard. It really shouldn’t. But it is.

So just who is Gus Steward?

Gus Thomas Steward was born on 1 January 1878 in Jefferson County, Alabama, I think. There is no record of him until 25 years later when he married wife number one Leola Jenkins on 23 August 1903 also in Adamsville, Jefferson County, Alabama. At least there’s a piece of paper with that one.


Seven years later, Gus and family were enumerated in Pontotoc County, Mississippi in the 1910 census.

1910 Enumeration of Gus and family
1910 Enumeration of Gus and family

When it was time to register for the draft during the First World War, Gus was back in Adamsville, Alabama.

Gus' World War I draft registration page 1
Gus’ World War I draft registration page 1
Gus' WWI draft registration page 2
Gus’ WWI draft registration page 2

Two years later, in 1919, Leola died in Adamsville. September 1920 found Gus getting married again to a widow, Belle Jennings Goodwin, in New Albany, Mississippi. From this point until the day he died in 1950, Gus is pretty easy to trace because, for once, he seems to set down roots.

You cannot fail to notice the back and forth between Alabama and Mississippi. It makes Gus difficult to trace because you never know which place he’s going to be or which family he’s going to be with. He could be at any point in between, so you should see me pulling out the maps and trying to figure this out. The blank first 25 years of his life make it difficult to gather information that can be used to confirm his identity later on.

Point is, he loved to move and he could be anywhere.

Every lead we chase fizzles to nothing. We chase prospective Gus Stewards (and every variation thereof: Stewart, Stuart, Stuard, and even Augustus and Tom) into the future and he never turns out to be our guy. Never. It’s frustrating.

We know he has one brother, Earl Marion, and one sister, Mary Estelle. As they were born after 1880, the missing 1890 census denies us a crucial piece of information. Estelle married young and can be found with her husband consistently. Earl gives us the same problems as Gus — missing information from his younger years.

I know it seems like I’ve just used this post to vent but I tried to also share the information I have, which is very little. Maybe I’ve spent too much time with this and now I’m too close to the information, easily overlooking something crucial. So maybe I need some fresh eyes.