I could as easily have titled this post “Do as I Say, Not as I Do.” I say to always search census records with multiple spellings, and then, if you still don’t succeed, try searching for neighbors. Apparently, I did neither of these things the first time I searched for census records for Washington Magruder and his wife May. I was also under the sway of Alice Maude Ewell’s 1931 memoir, in which she wrote that Washington and May had been free for many years before the war, and that after the war they moved to Washington.
Well, on a second try, I found them still in Prince William County, Virginia, in 1870 and 1880. So if they did “follow their children to Washington City,” as Ewell put it, they did so at a very advanced age. I found no records for them prior to 1870. In 1870, three children named McGruder lived with them, the youngest possibly a grandchild. In 1880, due to extreme fading of the ink, their name has been transcribed on Ancestry.com as “McGruden.” The only child with them at that time was seven year-old James Ward. In both years, they lived next door to Alice Maude Ewell with her parents and many siblings. Read all about it on the updated version of Washington McGruder