The Early Missouri Life of a California Burglar

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Hello Wikitreers!

I'm on the hunt for information on Robert Elmore "Ray" Robinson. Born on January 14, 1888, in Joplin, Missouri, Ray was a musician, a private in the United States Army, and notoriously known as the "Index Card Burglar". He spent much of his time burglarizing the homes of San Francisco's wealthy residents throughout the mid-late 1910s, and into the 1920s.

I have quite a bit of information on Ray's life in prison - California correctional records have ensured that - but I know very little about his early life. I know his birthplace (Joplin, Missouri). He didn't attend school. I also know that he enlisted in the US Army in 1909, at the age of 21. Beyond that, however, I am at a loss.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to move forward, they would be most appreciated. I suspect that his marriage record to a young Boston lady, Hester Reed Sanborn, on February 14, 1912 (in San Francisco) may hold a clue, but I haven't been able to located it yet. The only reason I know he married was an announcement in that city's newspaper.

If there are any questions, I will do my best to answer them. Thank you all in advance!

- Gillian
WikiTree profile: Robert Robinson
in Genealogy Help by Gillian Wagenaar G2G6 Mach 1 (18.7k points)
edited by Gillian Wagenaar

1 Answer

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Best answer


Looking at the WW1 Draft Registration card, I would say that Robert E Robison / Robinson _did not_ serve in the war. See page 2 of the card. It is stamped with the exemption stamp. Probably due to his age (29) and incarceration at the time, he was rejected? All men to age 30 had to register for the first draft but 18-20 year olds were the first to be drafted.

As you noted, the draft card lists his previous enlistment in the army — 4 years with the GSI as a muscian. That would seem to confirm the 1910 Census entry for Robert E Robison being him. That return is for the 20th Recruit Company (Band) of the General Service Infantry [GSI].

Since you have information on his army service, you should see if his service records are available and send for them. They may contain family information. 

One last thing that might explain why you are having a hard time finding earlier records... I think this is him in the 1900 census, living with the Hall family who took him to raise. Perhaps his parents are deceased.

by Erin Klein G2G6 Mach 2 (23.7k points)
selected by Gillian Wagenaar

PS: Have you tried to get a copy of the marriage certificate from the county assessor’s office? Should be easy to do since you have date of marriage.

Erin, thank you for all the insight! I originally missed the WWI draft card rejection, but it would make sense for him to have not served as a prisoner. I will see about getting his service files, as well as the marriage certificate.

I also agree that the Elmer listed in the 1900 census could be him - if he was orphaned (or abandoned) it would explain why his parents are never mentioned, and potentially why he joined up with the army at 21.

Thank you for your help!

You are welcome, Gillian. By the way, there is a potential family for Robert listed in the 1900 Missouri census. I don’t know how you would confirm it without something in Robert’s documents indicating his parents’ names though.

Since Robert was using the last name of Robison (apparently) until his discharge from the Army, i looked for a Robison family in Jasper County, MO and found this:

1900 Galena Township, Joplin City, Jasper, Missouri:

Head: Robison, Edwin B, born Aug 1839 in Ohio

Wife: Alice A, born Sep 1848 in Ohio

Daughter: Ella ?, born Mar 1886 in Missouri

Couple has been married for 17 years, 3 children, 2 still living but only daughter is listed with parents. (Did they farm out son to the Halls who had a farm but no children?)

Marriage record in Ohio for Edwin and Alice A Williams available. Edwin served in Civil War. Later pension records are available listing his and Alice’s death dates.

1900 census

1910 census

1920 census (now living in California)

1930 census (Just Ella and husband)

Ella’s desth record

Hope this his Robert’s family and you can hook them up! Off now to track down more Perrys and Lees in VA, KY, MO, and finally NV for my friend...

Awesome again! Thank you for this, I shall be looking into it!

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