Names for Pricilla McFarland Harle/Hoyle Gridiger

When a person cannot read or write, their name may appear in official records with many different spellings not just because of recordkeepers' carelessness but perhaps also because the individual simply doesn't know. Many months ago, I saw a photo shared on of a Black woman, Prisilla Gridlier, whom the 1920 US Census listed as living with two of her Pruitt grandchildren, following their mother's death in 1919. However, searches turned up no other "Gridlier", and the tree from which the photo originally came had no other clues to that surname. 

Would you be able to distinguish the surname Gridager [Gridiger] and first names Wash, Sila, Philmore, and Mamie from this 1910 US Census record? Indexers at and had it as the Nash Haidager family, had it a the couldn't make sense of it. 

I set that mystery aside and worked on other families, then came back to it after I noticed in some searches of Independence, Kansas, newspapers at, references to a Gridiger family that had children contemporary with the Pruitts. A lot of searches later, and I'm now certain that Prisilla Gridlier is actually Pricilla née McFarland (abt 1850-after 1920), who married Alex Harle (abt 1844-abt 1885) in Rusk County, Texas; moved to southeastern Kansas along with other "Exodusters"; and then, after Alex died, united her family in 1886 with that of Washington Gridiger (abt 1852-1911), also recently widowed, eventually bearing two Gridiger children. 

Pricilla or Cilla's first name sounds roughly the same through all these permutations, but the surname definitely morphs from Harle -- as her husband Alex Harle appears in the 1867 Texas voter roll and 1870 U.S. Census -- to Hoyle, at least for her son James Hoyle and daughter Lula/Lou Hoyle and from there to many versions of Gridiger. 

1870       Paessilla McFarland         1870 US Census

1871       Sylla McFarland                 Marriage record (transcript); groom’s name Harle
1880       Pricilla Harle                       1880 US Census
1885       Ciller Harl                           1885 Kansas Census
1885       Sally Hearl                          1885 Kansas Census
1886       Cilla Hoyle                          Marriage record (transcript); groom’s name Gridieur
1886       Cilla Hoyle                          Newspaper account of marriage; groom’s name Gridicus
1895       Silla or Zilla Gridiger           1895 Kansas Census
1900       Sellia Getiger                      1900 US Census
1905       Mrs Wash Gridiger             Newspaper account of visit to daughter
1910       Sila [??]idager                     1910 US Census (first letters of surname illegible)
1911       Gridigar                               Probate records for Washington Gridiger
1913       Pracilla Grittiger                  Newspaper account of Wash Gridiger estate partition suit
1913       Priscilla Grittiger                 Legal notice of Wash Gridiger estate partition sale
1920       Prisilla Gridlier                     1920 US Census
1951       Gridiger                                California death index for son James Hoyle

If you didn't have other records to work from, you might be hard put to grasp that the Garland family of 1925 Independence, Kansas, consisted of Harry, Dona (not Danel), Flossie (not Flasery), Leonard (not Limerd), and William. 

Sometimes, though, I wonder about the literacy of the census takers themselves, especially those working on the Kansas censuses. Some of their name spellings are very creative! As a practical matter, that means that a researcher may need browse through records page by page, looking for a familiar name rather than relying on the indexing done on the images. 

This article is part of a project to document the family trees of a few of the early Black voters in Rusk County in east Texas. Cilla is the link among several of these families: Her father, Orfee McFarland, and first husband, Alex Harle, were among those early registered voters. Her daughter, Alice Harle, married Pink Pruitt, son of Riley Pruitt, another early Rusk County Black voter. 

Articles in
this series

I am tracing the family trees of a few early Black voters from East Texas because in our time, when people can move many times in a lifetime, being registered to vote and exercising the opportunity to vote is perhaps the greatest active tie between people and place.