Great Grandfather is a Mystery


I'm writing to try to understand a mystery I've been trying to untangle for 35 years. My great-grandfather

Charles Albert Nelson. What he says and what is provable will send you chasing your tail.

He states the following: he's born in Clifton, West Virginia, on February 22, 1898. There is no Clifton, West Virginia. On his marriage record, he states his father is James Nelson, born in Pennsylvania. Mother Maria Gallagher was born in Pennsylvania.

He does die in North Carolina in 1926 May. He was a marine. He's only on one census record, and that's from 1920. In the last 20 years, I have researched West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and a small town in Ohio that borders Pennsylvania. There are 100% no records that show Charles with James and Marie Nelson.

He should have been in the 1900s and 1910s, but he was not there. I have his military file. He lies a lot. First, he has no friends or family, they are all dead. Then Dad is alive in 1920, dead in 1921, and alive again in 1924. and died three times after that. Mom is dead in 1917 on his marriage record, but I have a declaration of facts that a family friend states mom passes away after he enlists.  I am trying to obtain his Navy Yard record to see if there is any information in it.  So how does he miss two censuses with mom and dad? 


Carol Ann Haughey

  • I assume you have seen his listing:  You are referenced for the photo of Charles Nelson on the memorial.  Note the memorial states there is a Clifton in Mason County, West Virginia.  It's an unincorporated community.   Who is "kw" who contributed the memorial for findagrave?   As to the census reliability..... it's not perfect.  The census enumerator might even get their sheet information from neighbors rather than the actual residents of an address.

  • Hello Joel, thank you for reaching out. I do indeed know who "K.W." is, and that is the photo I took. Clifton West Virgina did not exist in the timeline I needed, according to the West Virgina Archivist.

    As for the Census, they did not appear at all in 1900 or 1910. He does appear in 1920 and dies in 1926. Nobody checked for I.D. back then. He may have never been born in West Virginia 

    However, no death, marriage, census, or tax records exist—not one shred of paperwork exists to prove any of it. He does indeed lie to the Marines when he signs up. James Marie and Charles is a pretty common name, and is there anything to prove it?? So again, what I need to do is try to figure out why they are nowhere. Thanks for your help, hon." Grinning