The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 1, January 7, 2024, Article 15


E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article with a research update on Ku Klux Klan Tokens book author Dale Birdsell. Thank you! -Editor


Mistakes can happen while doing biographical research and I made a big one. As I correct that mistake, I hope to avoid compounding that with new mistakes

  Part 1: Raymond Earle Birdsell (1893-1938)

Raymond Earle Birdsell 1913 Raymond was born in Frankfort, Kansas, on August 7, 1893. His parents were Frank David Birdsell (1859-1915) and Carrie E. Ellis Birdsell (1864-1912).

For the 1910 Census, Raymond E., age 16, is living in Oakland, California. with Frank D. and Terry Birdsell. Also in 1910, Raymond F., age 9, is living in Nowata Township, Oklahoma, with Frank A. and Theresa B. Birdsell. The distinction is important as both appear in newspaper articles of the period.

In 1913 Raymond was on probation for cruelty to animals when he was charged with passing bad checks totaling $700 in Oakland, He was sentenced to a year in prison for forgery and incarcerated at Folsom Prison beginning October 17, 1913, and released on August 17, 1914.

Ray's father, Frank, died on August 31, 1915, putting the family in financial trouble. Ray was charged with forgery again and was sentenced to six years in San Quentin Prison on December 16, 1915. He was discharged on October 29, 1919.

There were some interesting statements on his 1917 draft registration card. He listed his profession as blacksmith. He stated that he had five months previous service in the United States Marine Corps in California. For his employment, he stated, State Prison working in State Prison Road Camp. Prison records indicate he was at the road camp from May 21, 1917, through December 26. 1917.

In the 1920 Census, Raymond E, age 26, was a truck driver living in Alameda, California. Raymond F., age 19, was living in Nowata County, Oklahoma.

Raymond from Oklahoma played high school football, served in France during The Great War, got married and had a daughter. None of that is important to our story.

Raymond from Oakland worked variously as a blacksmith, horseshoer and truck driver. Along the way, he developed a business model that worked for him. He drove around the country with a load of furniture. When he stopped at a business, he would show a check that he said was from a client who was paying for the move. He asked the business to cash the check for him.

Raymond hid behind several aliases. He was taken into custody in January 1932 and identified through fingerprints. He was wanted for passing bad checks in twenty communities. Authorities claimed he was one of California's most prolific passers of fictitious checks. He was returned to Folsom Prison on January 28, 1932, with the notation A.H.C. which indicated Adjudged Habitual Criminal. He was sentenced to life in prison.

He returned to court in 1937 to contend that he pleaded guilty in 1932 with the agreement that he would not be charged as a habitual criminal. His appeal was refused.

He died in Folsom Prison on August 1, 1938, and is buried in the Folsom Prison Cemetery.

  Part II – 1920-1921

The FamilySearch website has a marriage record for Raymond E. Birdsell and Ona Robinson, married on December 20, 1920 in Jefferson, Texas. This record does not mention their parents, ages or place of birth. There was no link to a family.

There is also a record for Dale Estine Birdsell, born on November 7, 1921, the son of Raymond E. Birdsell and Ona Robinson. However, this record is not a birth certificate and was not filed until after the death of Dale in 1993. Can we be sure this is the branch from which the apple fell?

  Part III - The First Mistake

I added to the listing for Dale Birdsell in American Numismatic Biographies in 2017. I added date of birth, place of birth, date of death and place of death. I don't remember but I probably got this from the FindaGrave site.

  Part IV – The Big Mistake

  Dale Birdsell 1943 Birdsall Ku Klux Klan tokens book cover

I wrote a long article on Dale Birdsell for The E-Sylum issue of May 14, 2023. I mentioned that there were confusing records for Dale Birdsell, born in Oregon in 1920, and Dale Birdsell, born in Texas in 1921. Since I already had the 1920 date in ANB, I suffered from confirmation bias and attributed the KKK book and other mischief to the Oregon Birdsell.

Bob Leonard suggested to me that I got it wrong shortly after the article was published. When I republished the story recently in Numismatic Rogues Gallery, he challenged me again and provided a timeline. I came to realize that the KKK author was probably born in Texas in 1921.

At the time of the 1930 Census, Raymond was living in Alameda, California, and Dale was living in Daisetta, Texas. Dale was ten years old when his father went to prison for what would be the rest of his life. How much of an influence did Raymond have in Dale's development?

Any father could be proud if his son followed in his profession. Raymond received a life sentence after multiple convictions for forgery. I believe Dale was more likely to write checks on accounts with insufficient funds. He got a two-year prison term for five counts of passing bad checks. He diversified into other crimes and was referred to a mental hospital.

  Part V - Observations

I looked through seven generations of the family and could find no common ancestry for Oregon Birdsell and Texas Birdsell. I did not find Estin or Estine as a family name.

In the 1930 Census, the Oregon Dale was indexed under the spelling Biedsell. In the 1940 Census, the Texas Dale was listed as Birdcell. A superficial scan of the records would only turn up one of them in each Census.

With biographical research, there are often questions that are tough to answer. There are often inconsistencies that need to be resolved. Unfortunately, mistakes can be made.

Many thanks to Bob and Pete for digging into this issue. Research is hard and time consuming, often leading to dead ends and conflicting information. This is why publishing is so important - it's how the historical record is created and improved. E-Sylum contributors and readers are the best. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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