A widow at age 24 in 1910… Final Chapter.


I contacted my client, told her of the 95% chance that I have found “our boy” and asked if she would like me to make a road trip.  The first few words out of her mouth were, “Why aren’t you on the road already?!”

So I put on my deerstalker cap, grabbed my magnifying glass, and I headed to the courthouse five counties away. I marched up to the window and ordered a death certificate of this boy, figuring that if he was born in 1883, the chances were pretty good that he has died by 2012.  To my surprise, they printed off the death certificate and I find he has a “new” wife and son, well at least their names are new to me, and the death certificate lists a cemetery name!

I turned to my husband who had accompanied me on this trip, exclaimed “The Game is Afoot” and then I was off and running. He laughed briefly, but soon found that it was all he could to keep up with me as I headed for the door. With fire in my eyes and my Smart Phone in my hand, I began searching for a map to the cemetery as we walked!

As he drove, I contacted the cemetery sexton by phone and asked  him how to locate the plot. This gentleman knew exactly where our boy was buried and he gladly gave us directions. We arrived, parked by the flagpole off the west entrance, and start to head up the small hill. We apprehensively but anxiously approach the plot and there he was… right before our eyes, our boy! It was just like a magic trick… he vanished in 1910,died in 1945 and was found in 2012!

I selected some tools from my “Graving Bag” and cleaned the moss that covered his stone and removed debris from the engraving. Sure enough, we had found “our” boy, even though he was no longer using his “proper” given name, but a common nickname..

I looked at my husband and told him “This boy may have run away, but he couldn’t hide.” Of course, he may not have not run away, and he may not have been hiding either.  There are two sides to each story, but we may never know the complete story of how they met and why they divorced, since they both took their stories to the grave.

The boy’s family, who started to write this book, had looked for him unsuccessfully for years by using the “front door” method of looking up obituaries online and ordering from the big town newspapers before they contacted me. As I discovered, local small town newspapers sometimes lets you in the “back door” and have much more of a story to tell you.

So, do keep looking high and low, and remember that when you see those two special words “Survived By …” you should read more carefully, for that can make all the difference in your hunting.

We not only found this boy because of those two words in his son’s obituary in a local newspaper, but we also found another wife and child to hunt for!

But, that is another story.

– Genealogy Huntress

Below is a photo of the ‘distraught widow’ and her son – OR – does that snicker say “I know something you don’t know”? We may never know!

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A widow at age 24 in 1910 … continued

Something that I keep discovering is that people do not really change over the years. Some run and hide, some bend the truth, some will do anything to “save face” and I realize that this family is not really different. Seriously, the girl lied to a census taker? As if that has never happened…

So now I wonder…. if girl remarries in 1914, would you possibly think she may have divorced? Her child’s obituary said that the boy is alive, so we have two choices; either she divorced and got remarried, or she is married to two men at the same time.

The next morning, I am on the phone to the courthouse at the county seat where they lived and ask if they have on file a divorce decree for this boy and girl, and sure enough, they did! I ordered a copy of the decree, and they said that it would take two days to arrive because it was in their archives. I waited patiently, but was really, really anxious to get it in my hot little hands. Finally, the call comes and I head to the courthouse to get my copy of the decree. I read it and I am sure this is our boy and girl and child. She had claimed that the reason for the divorce was abandonment and he did not contest it. Divorce Granted!

But wait a minute!!! The census was taken in April of 1910, so she said that she was a widow eight months before she filed for divorce! I now see a road trip in my near future.

Time for another intermission…. and open that box of Junior Mints.

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A widow at age 24 in 1910 – how terribly sad! Or is it?

Everyone loves a good book …. preferably one where the story line involves a mystery and a few photos along the way…. I was handed such a “book” and asked if I could finish the last chapter that was missing several pieces that would make the tale complete …. a challenge I took and ran with.

The story beings:
– Boy is born in 1883.
– Girl is born in 1885.
– Boy meets girl and marries her in December 1904.
– Baby makes three in April 1905. Yes, we can all do the math.
– In the 1910 census she is listed as a widow at age 24 with a son aged 4.

The boy who became her husband has died. How sad to think of her alone with a child at such a young age.

So, now the story now continues:
– Girl meets new man and marries again in 1914.
– The new family has moved to east side of state.
– They live there for about 14 years.
– They move back to the west side of the state 6 weeks before she dies in 1928.
– She is buried in the family plot.

This is what I was handed by the family – and what I had to work with. Let the hunting begin.

I searched our local “big city” newspapers and found the obituary for the girl that reported that she succumbed after a long illness. The obit also stated where she would be interred.

Upon visiting the family plot to take photos of the headstone, I noticed that the headstone next to hers was that of her son, and it showed that he died a year later. So, I have found them buried next to each other on the west side of the state where the story started. But, I wonder, where is her first love? There is no headstone or marker for him next to her…

So I know that the original three are deceased … I have obituaries for the girl and and child, I have seen her headstone and her son’s headstone, and I have a 1910 Census that records that the girl is a widow. I do not have an obituary for the boy. I can not find a death record for the boy. I can not find a burial record for the boy. Without this information we cannot write the final chapter to their story.

I then had an idea… what if I head to the local library of the small town the family first resided, and where the mother and son are recorded to be still living in the 1910 census? I reasoned that since this town was rather small, the local newspaper which consisted of two whole pages at that time might have some announcement of the deaths of the girl and possibly later on her child.

Using the death date for the mom that was engraved on the stone and later confirmed in the big city newspaper obituary, I searched the year and all the newspaper mentioned was she was married to our boy in 1904, and then again in 1914, and survived by her son and second husband. OK, that fits. The newspaper confirmed that she succumbed to a long illness and lists her buried in the correct cemetery.

I then searched for her son using the death date engraved on his stone and confirmed in the big city newspaper’s obituary. There, on the front page, was an article describing in full detail a horrific automobile accident that had killed the son. The article stated that he was leaving behind his widow and his two daughters, aged three years and two months. The very last line of the article stated he is also survived by his father on the east side of the state!!

WHAT?? In 1910 she stated that she was a widow!!

I read the whole article again, and right there in black and white it reported that his father is alive. I picked my jaw up off the ground and tried to catch my breath. Now, if only I could make my mind slow down a bit and let me get my thoughts in order.

So, let me recap-
– Boy meets girl.
– Boy marries girl.
– Child makes three.
– Boy dies and girl is a widow.
– Girl remarries.
– Girl dies.
– Child dies.
– Boy is reported to be alive!

The story will continue after this intermission… time to hit the concession stand!

– Genealogy Huntress

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How I Got My Start – Part 2

So, that was the Learning Lab presentation. Great! I was now more confused than when I walked in…

I went to the back of the room and met up with my fellow teacher, and with mom by my side we found a table, sat down and talked about what we had just experienced. We decided to wander upstairs to the “Genealogy Department” to see what they were talking about and to get a feel for the place.

In our library, the Genealogy Department is a room all by itself tucked away in the far back corner. On the entry door a sign posted very prominently stated hours that the room was open and when staff would be there to assist. It was obvious that the Department did not operate on the same schedule as the library, but we assumed that there was a good reason why it was not open during the same hours as the library…

We entered and saw many shelves full of “older looking” books, or in other words books without pretty dust cover jackets. One wall was filled with old card catalog file drawers, hundreds of them. Against another wall were three rickety old microfilm machines nestled between file cabinets on a folding table. The two computers that we saw were not running.

There was a private office in one corner, and there inside, with the door closed, was Our Presenter! A sign on the door read “If you require assistance, please fill out the form and leave it in the box. I am in the middle of research and will contact you when I am available.” Slyly, my friend asked “So this means Do Not Disturb?”

Mom walked over to a table, sat down and asked me “So, how do you find out where my grandparents are?” “I am guessing, but have they died?” I replied, to which she answered without missing a beat “Oh yes. They died when I was very young. They were in Oklahoma, or Kansas, or Tennessee, or… well, somewhere where Indians lived.”

With a bewildered expression on my face I looked at my friend and asked her.. “Okay, and who do you want to find?” She thought for a moment and then said “I want to find my family who lived in Texas one half the year and Mexico the other half.”

We needed a plan. I had read the sign on the door and remembered that the Genealogy Room was open on Wednesday nights, so I asked “Shall we make a date for Wednesday night?” My friend agreed and my mother replied “You two go ahead, just find my grandparents.”

So we had a mission, we had a plan, and we had no idea what the heck we were doing. However, I did know my way out of the library, and on the way out I spotted the the computer kiosk and, partly joking but mostly serious, I entered “Genealogy for Dummies”.

They have a copy! There is such a book! I checked it out and went home to do some studying. OK, this was Monday evening and I had a whole book to read in the two days before our 6:30 pm Wednesday date to meet at the Library, and I was determined that, by that time, I would know “Everything You Wanted To Know About Genealogy” and I would know it without any help from Our Presenter behind the closed door.

You know that this was not likely, and I now know how naive this sounded, but I will leave the telling of this for another installment.

Genealogy Huntress

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How I Got My Start in Genealogy

Not long after I decided that genealogy would be my “recreational drug of choice” I was approached by one of the “Top Guns” in the field who asked me “Why don’t you have a Blog? You have great stories to tell.” So after much thought and deliberation, I am jumping in… with both feet… barefoot… in winter… And I feel it might be uphill both ways!

So here I go. Wish me luck, and do come along and share some laughs.

A few years back my mother asked me “What do you know about genealogy?” and my reply was “What is genealogy?” Her reason for asking was that our public library was holding a Learning Lab session titled “Everything you wanted to know about Genealogy.” It was scheduled for one hour, and there was no registration fee. OK, if it is free, it is for me! I am a teacher, and being short in stature, I wanted front row seating. Nothing is worse than sitting behind a tall person and not being able to see the screen or chalkboard, so my mother and I arrived early and staked out our seats.

I saw the room slowly filling to capacity and with a quick glance around I spotted a fellow educator in the back. I smiled and waved, and then it was time for the show to begin.

Our Presenter takes her place behind the podium and introduces herself as the head of the library’s genealogy department. Oh boy, the Grownup in Charge herself, this will be great! She passed out a packet of four stapled sheets of paper and a brochure about the offerings at the library, and we’re off and running. Learning is my language!

The first sheet, titled “Everything you wanted to know about genealogy” gave the Webster’s definitions of genealogy:

  1. an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms
  2. regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor or older form : pedigree
  3. the study of family pedigrees
  4. an account of the origin and historical development of something

OK, I’ve got this, it’s like horses and dogs, there are Purebreds and Mutts. I giggle and whispered to my mom “Does this mean that they want to know “Who’s your Daddy?” She shot me that “mother look” informing me that I needed to behave and I turned around, but continued to grin.

After Our Presenter read us these definitions, she listed six websites that one could use to help them find their ancestors. She also said that the library offers Ancestry Library Edition & Heritage Quest, they have many CDs on family history available to the patrons that can be viewed in-house. The handout list included information on free sites as Family Search, Roots Web, US Gen Web, and Cyndi’s List.

Page Two was a picture of “stairs”. Well, that’s what an Ancestral Chart looked like to me! Our Presenter explained that you start with yourself, then add your mom and dad, proceed to their parents, and so on. Yeah, I was right, you go up the stairs! She gave us a few minutes to fill in some of the “stairs” on our sheet and then proclaimed that we were well on our way to knowing everything we always wanted to know about genealogy.

“This was easy!” I thought. Maybe that is why the conference room was packed, because as the old saying goes, “If it was easy, anyone could do it” and here we were.

The next handout was a blank 1930 Census form. Our Presenter informed us that it was a blank form and as we find our family information on the real form we were to fill it in on our blank form. OK, I got this too.

Handout number four listed genealogy terms and names of occupations that were common “Back in the day” but are not in used in “Today’s world.” It also listed abbreviations used in cemetery records. I thought to myself, “Cemetery records? What are we going to do in cemeteries, and why?” Ugh, this was turning from Easy to Eewww. Our Presenter explained that doing genealogy meant you gather up the basic facts, including that “cemetery stuff” like Name, Birth Date, Marriage Date, Death Date, and extra information such as where they were born, married, died and buried. Whew! We weren’t really going to hike all over a cemetery, we just need to know the name of it. Feeling better now… breathing under control as well as pulse.

By this time 30 minutes had gone by and she opened the floor up to questions. The room was silent. I mean, so silent that you could hear a fly land on fruit.

So I asked, “You said that this library branch specializes in Dutch history and research. My mothers side has some Cherokee Indian ancestors and my father’s family came over from Wales. Where would find information on them? Her answer was this – “Since your family isn’t Dutch you will probably have to go elsewhere. Does anyone have any other questions?” I said “Yes, I have another question. If I can’t find my family here, then where else should I start to look? where is elsewhere?” as I shot a glance to my educator friend in the back who would be researching her non-Dutch but Hispanic family. Our Presenter, the Head of the library Genealogy Department, looked at me for a moment and replied “I don’t know!” in a rather abrupt voice, as if I was to stop annoying her with such silly questions.

Our Presenter then thanked us for coming, wished us Good Luck with our research, then turned and was the first person to leave the room!

That, briefly, was my introduction to genealogy. Little did I know what lay in the path ahead of me, surprising me, my family, and my friends, but that, as they say, is Another Story.

Stay tuned, there is more to come after this brief intermission. Time to hit the concession stand!

– Genealogy Huntress

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