Long Lost Family

Kristy adored her grandfather. Only upon his passing did she discover he had a sister, who she never knew; her aunt told her about Catherine E. Barfield, who was rumored to live in a “home” near near Ocala, Florida, and that her brother, John D. – Kristy’s beloved grandfather – visited her on Sundays and took her to church and lunch. Kristy further learned that Catherine died when her brother John was in WW2.

Kristy conducted some online searches for her long-lost family member Catherine E. Barfield but lost track of her after the 1920 Census. The 1930 Census turned up no results. She asked Traci for help through additional genealogical research.

Family Research

Catherine E. Barfield appears in the 1920 Census in Crenshaw County, Alabama, with her father, Lucius C., age 21, her mother, Dollie, age 20, and her brother, John D., age 3. Catherine’s listed age is 9 months. As this enumeration of the Census was conducted on 20 and 21 January 1920, Catherine’s estimated birth is April 1919. Lucius and Dollie were able to read and write; Lucius was a farmer; and all four family members were born in Alabama.

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In the 1930 Census, Lucius and son John appear in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, as roomers. Lucius is listed as widowed and a lamp lighter for the railroad. Dollie is not listed with them. An “LC Barfield” and “Dolly Barfield” appear in the Florida Divorce Index as divorcing in Hillsborough County, Florida, in 1931. Dollie was not found in the 1930 Census in either Florida or Alabama. Family confirmed they were divorced in 1931 and that Lucius was not, in fact, widowed, as listed in the 1930 Census. Dollie lived until 1955.

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State-Run Homes In Florida

What types of “home” could Catherine have been in, and why? In the 1930s, the Ocala area hosted two state-run homes: The Industrial School for Girls in Ocala and the Florida Farm Colony in Gainesville.

The Industrial School for Girls opened in 1917 for delinquent females, initially for girls ages 9-17 then 12-17. Most of the girls were considered to be “mentally disturbed” and came from broken homes and underprivileged families. The school trained the girls in home economics and traditional curricula to try to “rehabilitate” them. The Census Population Schedules for the school in 1930 and 1940 list no residents with the surname Barfield.

The Florida Farm Colony for Epileptic and Feeble-Minded Persons was Florida’s only public institution for individuals deemed as “feeble-minded” for a variety of underlying reasons, from epilepsy, to delinquency, to mental retardation of varying degrees. The Colony consisted of 3,000 acres in Alachua County where patients who were admitted lived full time. Due to the contemporary thinking surrounding epilepsy, intellectual deficiency, and social and political pressure, children—mostly girls—were committed for a wide variety of reasons. They were discharged (or detained) for inconsistent reasons, with even the Colony staff concluding that many patients admissions were unsubstantiated.

Family Clues in the Census

The 1930 Census Population Schedule for the Florida Farm Colony was enumerated on 5 April 1930. The Schedule includes Eline/Aline Catherine Barfield, age 12, born in Alabama, and whose father and mother were also born in Alabama. She did not attend school any time since September 1, 1929, but could read and write.

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The 1940 Census for the Colony, enumerated on 8 April 1940, includes one Elaine Barfield. She is age 21, had no school completed, and was born in Alabama. This Census states Elaine Barfield lived at that same place on 1 April 1935. Why she was institutionalized from before the age of 12 until after her age of legal adulthood has not yet been discovered.

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Kristy's StoryCatherine? Or Elaine?

The Montgomery Advertiser, 5 April 1943, includes an obituary for Miss Elaine Barfield, age 24. The obituary states she was a resident of Gainesville and died following a brief illness. It lists John D. Barfield of the U.S. Army as her brother and Mrs. Nannie L. Gowans of Montgomery as her grandmother.

A grave marker at the Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama, is inscribed with Elaine Barfield, 1919-1943, and Nannie Barfield Gowan, 1876-1959, her grandmother.


The obituary, grave marker, ages and birthplaces listed on the 1930 and 1940 Census, seem to confirm that Catherine Elaine Barfield went by the name Elaine. The inmate Elaine at the Florida Farm Colony is likely her. She was institutionalized before the age of 12 and died following a brief illness in April 1943 at the age of 24 at a hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Elaine is buried with her grandmother Nannie Barfield Gowan at the Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.

Kristy and her family still long for a picture and more information about Elaine. If more information is found, we will update this story. If you want to find a long-lost family member, contact us today.

Kristy's Story