On the search . . . .

For many years now I've been searching my past in an endeavor to unfold the tales of my family. I've traveled (via the internet) to England, Denmark, Norway, Ohio, Nebraska, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. I've spent time personally visiting historic Boston and their wonderful cemeteries and, or course, visited my ancestors right here in California. My ancestors have touched the world in many places... and I hope to enjoy some of their experiences. I want you to join me as I travel through my past... and uncover their stories..

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Theodore Harold Moe ~ A Family Mystery Uncovered?

While there are some documented facts about Theodore Harold Moe there is much more we don't know about him.  I'll begin with what I do know.  

Theodore is my grandmother's (Bertha Moe Rasmussen) older brother and they were raised in a Catholic orphanage in Los Angeles, California since they were toddlers.   The orphange's records show him as "Harold Moe" and on Aug 27, 1908 he was 6 years and 9 months. That would make his birth date November 27, 1901*. Bertha Moe at 4 years and 11 months would have had a birth date of September 27, 1903*.   While his orphanage records indicate his name as Harold Moe subsequent records refer to him at Theodore Moe.  I will refer to him as Theodore Moe.

We also know his father died on August 27, 1908 as indicated by the Application for Admission and a copy of a letter I received by directly contacting the orphanage's archives several years ago.    We can only assume that both Theodore and Bertha were brought the the orphanage prior to that date to be cared for and the date of August 27, 1908 was the date on the application as that is when they were officially awarded to  Los Angeles County.  Both Theodore and Bertha could have been brought to the orphanage sometime between 1901 and 1907. There has been no information as to the mother of Theodore or Bertha except some records indicate she was Indian.

I frequently asked my grandmother, Bertha, and my mother Norma, for information regarding Theodore Harold Moe "Ted".  While I gleaned some information they both didn't seem very forth coming with information.  It appeared to be an emotional topic for my grandmother and while I pressed the issue she would just state small facts and then share she was unable to discuss it. 

Through the years I did obtain some photos of  Ted.
Theodore Moe & my mother Norma
Theodore Harold Moe - date unknown
The two photos I have here are the only two photo's I had of him for most of my research years.   In the first photo (to the left), I don't have the year but Ted looks to be in his late teens.  The photo to the right, is with my mother, Norma Rasmussen Booth.  She was born in 1927, and based on the appearance of her age, I would date this photo to have been taken around 1930.  Theodore would have been 26 years old.

Both my cousin and I kept researching Ted's history.  My cousin then discovered, through newspaper archives,  the information I posted here.   Wow!  Ted had been charged and convicted of stealing a phonograph and radio set from a patient at a private sanitarium.    While this occurred in Los Angeles, California, Ted was ordered to serve his time at San Quentin prison. 

This shows the newspaper article and some additional information regarding the sanitarium and it's location. 

So now my thoughts go to my grandmother and why she didn't want to discuss her brother.  I'm sure she was embarrassed. We didn't discover this information until after my grandmother's death therefore it wasn't a topic we could approach with her.   That probably was for the better. 

As one thinks about Ted, and the charges that were filed against him, in today's time it really would not have warranted any kind of prison term. It might not have even landed him jail. Fines yes, but jail time, who knows.  

Recently, as ancestry.com released more documents, my cousin found his mug shot and the initial documentation of his entrance into San Quentin State Prison.   It certainly is amazing that this document was found.   I search for information on Theodore Moe has taken decades.  I began inquires with the orphanage where they resided in the 1980's.  There was no internet.  It was mostly via phone calls and some written letters to them.   

Here is the last record that has been found on Theodore Harold Moe.  I find that the photo is very crisp and detailed, taken in 1924. In that photo he looks a lot like my grandmother.   I learned he had a prior record of being drunk and was in L.A. County jail.  The year that this took place, in 1920, was during prohibition - certainly an interesting time in history. 

So the photo I have above of Theodore (my mother's uncle) and my mother we had seen for many years. What we didn't know was that that photo was taken after his release from San Quentin. 

What I was told, by my Mother, was that Theodore struggled through life. She believes he had one child but had no idea what happened to her and his girlfriend.    She added that Theodore had worked part time as a barber and did other odd jobs for money.  He lived with my grandmother (his sister) and her husband off and on but they finally told him he had to leave, learn to take care of himself, and find work.     

Theodore's life ends with this death certificate.  It shows his father's name as Martin Moe and mother is unknown. Theodore was employed as a "cook".  He died of pneumonia and chronic alcoholism.  He was buried, via the county, at Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles.  I recall my grandmother telling me she had no money for his funeral, and didn't claim him, therefore the country placed him in an unmarked grave.

A family member, since then, did purchase a marker for him which I believe gave my grandmother some peace.

So, it appears, my great uncle Theodore was a pistol.  Caused a bit of trouble and paid the consequences.  In today's day, he would not have gone to prison.

Rest in peace, Theodore, you are not forgotten.

Warm regards, 


* Their birth dates are calculated using this birth date calculator:  http://www.searchforancestors.com/utility/birthday.html


  1. Hi Liz,
    I may not always comment but I am a regular reader and have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award.

    1. Hi Sharon,

      I went to the link as I'd like to participate in your Lovely Blog Award. I'm not sure where I'm supposed to go to type in my answers such as 15 blogs I enjoy, 7 things about me, etc. I very much appreciate your notice. :) Maybe you can direct me as to what I need to do next.

  2. Thank you Sharon for the nomination! :)
    Warm regards,