Earliest known ancestor of Family 37
Joseph B. (Joe Buster) Chandler, b Spokane County WA 1899, d San Diego CA 1984

Joe ChandlerJoseph B. (Joe Buster) Chandler was apparently born 9 September 1899 in Spokane County, Washington,footnote 1 but no records have been found of his family. His son Dave,footnote 2 a Chandler DNA Project testee, so far does not match anyone else in the project.

Joe told his family that his mother died about 1902, when he was around two years old. He believed her to be a native of England. Joe’s father, whose name was John J. or possibly A. J., ran a grocery store in the state of Washington.

Few memories remained from the time after his mother’s death and before Joe left the state of Washington. Joe recalled making a trip with his father to Yakima, Washington, on a buckboard. He left school after third grade and left his father’s home at age 10 (approximately 1909). He remembered being cared for by “a red-headed aunt”, so possibly he stayed with relatives for a while after leaving his father. Joe saw Halley’s Comet in Spokane in 1910, and he later spent several years off and on in Yakima, Washington. Joe believed he had a Chandler uncle, probably a younger brother to his father, who served in World War I (1914-1918) in Czechoslovakia. He remembered swimming in the Snake, Palouse and Tucannon Rivers of Washington.

Joe’s early life was tragically impacted by the loss of his mother. His son Dave believes Joe was so emotionally traumatized by this and unknown other events in his early childhood that, until the time of his death at age 85, he had “genetic amnesia”. Genetic amnesia is described by at least one source as being “cut off from your past”.

Joe and his two friends drove from Washington to San Diego in about 1920, possibly in a similar car.

Joe would have been of draft age before WWI was over, but there is no record that he registered for the draft.

Records of Joe’s life pick up after he and two friends drove a car from Washington to California around 1920, working as migrant fruit pickers along the way. Joe drove – he was the only one of the three with a driver’s license.

His first job in California was as a ranch hand at the Santa Fe Ranch in San Diego County. San Diego at that time was surely a wonderful place for a young man to settle.

Rancho Santa Fe began as the San Dieguito Land Grant, a 9,000 acre tract of land deeded in the 1830s to Don Juan María Osuna. In 1906, the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company,restored historic adobe home on the Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego a division of the Santa Fe Railroad, purchased the San Dieguito Land Grant and changed the name to Rancho Santa Fe. Several million eucalyptus trees were planted as part of an experimental program to provide suitable wood for railroad ties. The program failed, but the young forests continued to grow and soon blended with the area’s natural vegetation. In the 1920s the ranch was divided into several hundred parcels for orchards and country estates.footnote 3 Joe must have come along right at the end of the historic ranch’s life as a working ranch.

One story he told of his time at the Santa Fe Ranch was when he and his lifelong friend, Bert Dugdale, rode horses east of the ranch and came to a swollen river. Joe was very apprehensive about taking his horse through the water, as it was a new experience for him, but after watching Bert urge his horse into the river, he had no choice other than to follow. Joe said, “It was a breeze”, and was such an exhilarating experience that they both came out laughing on the other side.

Winora and Joe Chandler, 1930Joe is in San Diego at the time of the 1930 census — a single 30-year-old, he is “head of household” with two male “co-lodgers.” His occupation is given as trucker for Sea Food Packing.footnote 4 The next recorded document is of his marriage in San Diego County on 11 September 1930 to Nellie Winora Gilson.footnote 5

Money was tight during America’s Great Depression, which was at its height when Winora and Joe married. Their main pastimes in the early years of their marriage were socializing and dancing at the Bostonia Ballroom and playing cards with a circle of friends.

Joe and Winora had four children, all born in San Diego and all still living.footnote 6 Their youngest, David Charles (Dave) Chandler, is the DNA testee for genetic Chandler family #37. On the birth certificate for Dave, born in 1937, Joe’s occupation is shown as a warehouse man for eleven years, which would cover the period 1926 – 1937.footnote 7

On 2 February 1937, two years after Social Security was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, Joe applied for a Social Security card in San Diego.footnote 8 At this time he was employed by Van Camp Seafood Company, now Chicken of the Sea, at 1445 South Crosby Street in San Diego.footnote 9 He was later employed by Railway Express, Santa Fe depot, in San Diego, for 23 years before retiring in 1966.footnote 10

Joe and Winora Chandler were divorced on 19 October 1946 in San Diego.footnote 11 Joe never remarried, and he lived in San Diego for the rest of his life.

Joe in later yearsJoe was an avid card player and gambler and an excellent ballroom dancer. Dave says his dad always wished he could “take a steamboat ride to Canada” and that he admired Yakima Canutt, a fellow Washingtonian who made a name for himself in rodeos, wild west shows, and movies.

Joe Buster Chandler died 18 August 1984 at age 85 in an Escondido, San Diego County, California, convalescent home.footnote 12 After cremation, his ashes were scattered at sea.

Many mysteries remain from Joe’s life, including the names of his parents. Joe always said that his father was born in Des Moines, Iowa; however, in Joe’s 1930 census record for San Diego, California, both parents are shown as having been born in Michigan.footnote 13 On his marriage application in 1930, he reported his father’s name as A. J. Chandler and place of birth as Iowa.footnote 14 When he applied for a Social Security card in California in 1937, Joe gave his father’s name as John J. Chandler.footnote 15 Research in the state of Washington found no reference to a John J. Chandler. The only A. (Adoniram) J. Chandler (1853 – 20 April 1912) found in Washington is buried in Moran Cemetery, Spokane County, Washington, with his wife, Ida M. Chandler (1857 – 1948), and other family members: Floyd Chandler (1897 – 10 June 1922) and Nina Chandler (1890 – 25 October 1906).footnote 16 It is unlikely that this is the family of Joe Buster Chandler. If Joe was related to this family, he was not part of their household at the time of either the 1910 or 1920 census.footnote 17

Dave says, “Grandpa Chandler is a man without a name or place”.

Joseph B. Chandler residing in Nahcotes Precinct, Pacific County, Washington (Nahcotta, Pacific County, Washington), on the 1920 census was thought for a while to be a good candidate for Joe Buster Chandler. The census record states he was born in Illinois in 1895 with a father born in Indiana and a mother born in Iowa. Later research proved that this Joseph Chandler died before Joe Buster, so he is not the Joseph who moved from Washington to San Diego.

There is no record of Joe’s birth or of his residence in the states of Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho or California until after his arrival in San Diego. Joe did not believe he had any siblings, but it is possible there is a Chandler family somewhere who will recognize some of the details of his story and be able to provide more information. If anyone has information on this Chandler family or wants to get in touch with Joe’s son Dave, he can be reached at


1 Social Security Death Index, accessed at www.familysearch.org.

2 David Charles (Dave) Chandler has been searching for over 30 years for information on the early life of Joseph B. (Joe Buster Chandler) and the names of his parents. The Chandler family information in this article is from his files or his memories of talks with his father.

3 Eddy, Lucinda Liggett, “Lilian Jenette Rice: Search for a Regional Ideal,” The Journal of San Diego History, Fall 1983, Volume 29, Number 4.

4 1930 U. S. Federal Census, Enumeration District 17-116, Sheet 1A, Line 48, San Diego, San Diego County, California.

5 Certificate of Marriage, Joseph B. Chandler to Nellie Winora Gilson, 11 September 30, San Diego County, California (copy in files of Dave Chandler).

6 Personal knowledge of Dave Chandler.

7 Copy of California Birth Certificate for David Charles (Dave) Chandler, copy in the files of Dave Chandler.

8 Joseph B. Chandler Social Security application dated 2 February 1937, copy in the files of Dave Chandler.

9 Ibid.

10 Resignation letter from J. B. Chandler to Mr. C. H. Broach, Manager, REA Express, San Diego, California, dated May 14, 1966, original in the files of Dave Chandler.

11 Divorce decree dated 19 October 1946, San Diego County, California, copy in the files of Dave Chandler.

12 Joseph B. Chandler death certificate dated 18 August 1984, San Diego County, California. Copy in the files of Dave Chandler.

13 1930 U. S. Federal Census, San Diego, San Diego County, California.

14 Certificate of Marriage, Joseph B. Chandler to Nellie Winora Gilson.

15 Joseph B. Chandler Social Security application.

16 Moran Cemetery, Spokane County, Washington, cemetery records found at //www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=chandler&GSfn=adoniram&GSiman=1&GScid=76934&GRid=92696021&.

17 1910 and 1920 U. S. Federal Census, Spokane City, Spokane County, Washington.