Janis Joplin

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Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

A step-by-step example of tracing.

This page copyright 2007 by Will Johnson, Professional Genealogist, Historian and Biographer. This page is locked, if you'd like to comment on it, you can email me at wjhonson@aol.com

See Also


The Official Janis Joplin site says that Janis was born 19 Jan 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas, was raised there, that her parents were named Seth and Dorothy Joplin, that she died in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 27 on 4 Oct 1970. I will not rely on these facts, but only use them as a guide, confirming them as we go along. The pictures linked-in here came from the website operated by Carolyn Hebert here: Page1, Page 2,Page 3, Page 4

1) Let's confirm Janis' death date and place. We are told that she died in California, so let's check the California Death Index. The CADI states "Janis L Joplin, born 19 Jan 1943 Texas, died 4 Oct 1970 in Los Angeles County". In her will she names her parents and two of her siblings. And here you can see a picture of the whole family, along with their names.

2) Port Arthur is in Jefferson County, Texas. Now let's check the Texas Birth Index to see if we can find a good match.

Texas Birth Index
Janis Lyn Joplin born 19 Jan 1943, Jefferson County
Father: Seth Ward Joplin; Mother: Dorothy Bonita East

Now let's see if we can find these siblings. I will search on Joplin, in Jefferson County, with father Seth.

Texas Birth Index
Laura Lee Joplin born 15 Mar 1949, Jefferson County
Michael Ross Joplin born 25 May 1953, Jefferson County

Note that Janis in her will calls her father Seth David instead of Seth Ward, and calls her sister Laurel instead of Laura.

3) Let's see if her parents are still living:

Social Security Death Index
Dorothy B Joplin born 15 Feb 1913 died 13 Dec 1998
Last Residence: Prescott, Yavapai Co, Arizona
SSN issued by Texas before 1951

Seth Joplin born 19 May 1910 died May 1987
Last Residence: Prescott, Yavapai Co, Arizona
SSN issued by Texas before 1951

So it's probable there are obits for both parents in Yavapai County.

4) Knowing that Seth was born early in 1910, we should be able to find him in the census then.

1930 Justice Precinct 1, Potter Co, Texas
24 Apr 1930, ED 188-20-1, Sheet 25B
Dwelling 486, Family 498
Joplin, Seeb W, head, rents, $40, MW, 49, married, at age 25, b TX/TX/MO, manager, stock yards
, Marisa ?, wife, FW, 40, married, at age 18, b TX/KY/TX
, Margaret, daughter, FW, 22, single, b TX/TX/TX
, Seeb W Jr, son, MW, 20, single, b TX/TX/TX

1920 Justice Precinct 1, Potter Co, Texas 
Page 123B, ED 18-19B, Sheet 3A, (no date), Dwelling 52, Family 55
Joplin, Seth Ward, Head, rents, MW, 39, married, b TX/US/TX, manager, stock yards
, Florence, wife, FW, 32, married, b TX/KY/TX
, Margrett, daughter, F, 11, b TX/KY/TX [as found]
, Seth W, son, M, 9, b TX/KY/TX [as found]

1910 Precinct 1, Lynn Co, Texas 
19 Apr 1910, ED 16-156, Sheet 4A, page 110B, Dwelling 72, Family 74
Joplin, Seeb W, Head, MW, 29, married first time, 2 years ago, b TX/TX/TX, Stock Man, Trader, Owns Home
, Florence E, wife, FW, 22, married first time, 2 years ago, mother of 1, 1 living, b TX/KY/MS, no occupation
, Margaret E, daughter, FW, 2, b TX/TX/TX

5) Now that we know exactly where Janis' grandfather was living in 1910 and 1920, let's see if we can find his WW1 Draft Card

WW1 Draft Registration Cards
Lynn Co, Texas
Seeb Winson Joplin, resident of Tahoka, Lynn Co, Texas
38 years old, born 12 Jul 1880
present occupation: Deputy Sheriff, employer: F E Redwine, Sheriff
nearest relative: wife Florence E Joplin
Blue eyes, Red Hair; 12 Sep 1918


6) I see that Gary Boyd Roberts has published part of Janis' ancestry here. Gary's New England Ancestors Article Gary Boyd Roberts citing Janis Joplin's biography written by her sister Laura states that Janis' mother was named "Laura East". But as we have seen above her name was Dorothy Bonita East. This is not only confirmed from the Texas Birth Index, but also independently from the Social Security Death Index. Gary says that Laura, Janis' sister was named "for her maternal grandmother". So we see the possible error. It was not Janis and Laura's mother who was named Laura, but evidently their grandmother, thus Dorothy's mother who was named Laura.

7) WorldConnect, database morganfield, submitted by William Taber, willgen@mac.com says that Seeb's wife was Florence Elizabeth Porter d 1956 in Truth or Consequences, Sierra Co, NM. And that her parents were Robert Ury Porter and Arminta Roberson. The Taber database, says that Robert was b in TN and one thing that Florence was consistent about was saying that he was born in Kentucky, so that throws a little doubt into this information. William Taber also says that Seeb's parents were Charles Alexander Joplin and Margaret Elmira White.

8) Knowing that Dorothy East was born in 1913, and is likely to be somewhere in Texas, I checked the every-name index of the 1930 census. I only found one Dorothy East in Texas and she is 17 as expected.

1930 Amarillo, Randall Co, Texas
Justice Precinct 4, Ward: South of 29 Ave, ED 191-5-1, Apr 7 1930, Sheet 7B
Dwelling 170, Family 181
East, C W, Head, Owns Home, $6500, MW, 40, Married, at age 20, b IL/IL/IL, Manager, Real Estate
, Clara M, wife, FW, 40, Married, at age 20, b IA/IA/IA
, Dorthy, daughter, FW, 17, Single, b OK/IL/IA
, Jerald, son, MW, 12, b OK/IL/IA
, Barbra, daughter, FW, 10, b NE/IL/IA
, Mildred, daughter, FW, 6, b NE/IL/IA

9) I then looked in the 1920 census for anyone named East, born in Illinois, but living in Texas, Oklahoma, or Nebraska

1920 Marshall, Clay Co, Nebraska
ED 5-44, Sheet 27B, (no date)
Dwelling 36, Family 36
East, Cecil W, Head, MW, 29, married, b IL/IL/IL, Farmer
, Laura, wife, FW, 28, married, b IA/IA/IA, Teacher
, Dorothy, daughter, FW, 7, b OK/IL/IA
, Gerald, son, MW, 3, b OK/IL/IA
, Barbara, daughter, FW, 6/12, b NE/IL/IA

10) Now let's see if we can find Cecil in the WW1 Draft Registration Cards

World War 1 Draft Registration Card
Cecil W East, b 31 Jul 1889, in Mason Co, Kentucky
Resident of Camarge (?), OK
Has a wife and two children
Registered in Dewey Co, OK 5 June 1917

11) And then, can we find him with his parents?

1910 Lone Tree Township, Clay Co, Nebraska
5 May 1910, ED 5-42, page 121B, Sheet 14A
Dwelling 292, Family 300
East, Cecil W, Head, MW, 20, single, b IL/IL/IL, Farmer
, Elija L, brother, MW, 15, single, b IL/IL/IL, Farm Labor

1900 Lone Tree Township, Clay Co, Nebraska
15 June 1900, 
Dwelling 131, Family 136
East, Ulysses S. G., Head, WM, May 1864, Married, b IL/IL/IL, Farmer, Owns Home
, Annie B, wife, WF, Feb 1873, 27, Married, mother of 3, 3 living, b IL/IL/IL
, Cecil, son, Jul 1889, 10, b IL/IL/IL, At School
, Floyd, son, WM, Feb 1891, 9, b IL/IL/IL, At School
, Verne, son, WM, Jun 1895, 4, b IL/IL/IL

12) Since "Cecil East" is such a unique name, I did a full sweep of Ancestry for anyone with that name, anywhere. This is what I call a "fishing" expedition, which I only do for unique names.

California Death Index
Cecil W East b 31 Jul 1889 Illinois, d 24 Jun 1962 Los Angeles Co, mother's maiden name: Bowman

We know this is the same Cecil because the birth date in the CADI matches his birth date in the WW1 Card above.

13) Now that we know that Cecil died in California, chances are greater that perhaps his wife also did. We know that she was born about 1892 in Iowa, and her name might have been Laura or Clara maybe with an M initial. So let's see. This entry in the California Death Index, 1940-97 shows : "Laura Mildred East, born 5 Apr 1890 Iowa, died 29 May 1958 Los Angeles County, father's name Hanson"

14) Using the above step as a 'basis for a guess', let's see if we can find any of the children of Cecil and Laura 'also' in the California death index. We know from the census already that they had : Dorothy 1913, Gerald 1917, Barbara 1920, and Mildred 1923/4. So in the CADI, we just enter surname East, and mother's maiden name Hanson, and 'nothing else'. And we get a hit. This entry states : "Barbara Jean Irvin, born 1 Jul 1919 Nebraska, died 13 Nov 1986 Los Angeles County, father East, mother Hanson"

We know this is their daughter Barbara based on the parents names, and that she was born in Nebraska which is relatively rare. So we have a hit and have evidence showing Laura's maiden name.

15) Now knowing that Cecil and Laura were in Nebraska, or Oklahoma and probably got married in one of those places in 1910, but that Laura Mildred Hanson was born in Iowa should make finding her parents relatively easy. So let's look in the Nebraska or Oklahoma census for any Hanson who was born in Iowa.

There are no good matches in Oklahoma, but here she is in Nebraska:

1910 Census of Lone Tree, Clay County, Nebaska
Herbert Hanson 41 IA
Stella Hanson 40 IA
Laura Hanson 20 IA
Henry Hanson 17 IA
Mary Hanson 19 ? IA
Grace Hanson 12 IA
Olive Hanson 9 IA
Floyd Hanson 6 IA
Robert Hanson 1 8/12 NE
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