Monday, August 6, 2012

Little White Lie

The thing about genealogy is that you don’t always like what you learn. The census records are phenomenal for providing just such information along with often unwanted glimpses of truth.

In the 1920 census, we find Jennie Washington (LEACH) LYNN living with her sister, R. Elizabeth (LEACH) LEE and brother-in-law, Lawson LEE. It appears she has a 9-year-old son (1910) – and a newly discovered child, another son born about 1917. Jennie is listed as “widowed,” which would mean that Elijah Davis LYNN has died.

Or has he?

Fast forward to the 1930 census. There is Jennie and her elder son and his wife living in Randolph County, Chester, Ill. Guess who else is living there, too? Elijah LYNN. Wait. He was dead 10 years ago – right?

Apparently not. Instead, in the 1920 census, he was listed among the inmates at the Southern Illinois Penitentiary (now the Menard Correctional Facility). Had he not reappeared with Jennie and his son in the 1930 census, I would have fallen for the ruse that Elijah had died prior to the 1920 census.

Believe it or not, there ARE several Elijah LYNNs living in Illinois at the same time. So, it might also be safe to conclude that the state prisoner in the 1920 census is one of them. Except that his wife had declared herself a widow during the time he was incarcerated but then magically reunites with him by the 1930 census.

What did he do? I don’t know. The records aren’t available online or at least not that I’ve found. I do know that there is a prisoner index in the state archives in Springfield that I should be able to access because the records are only restricted for 75 years. (This case would be closer to 100 years ago.)

I won’t judge. A prison stint had to have been an even bigger stigma then than today (and it’s not all that cool today, either). Makes me feel very sorry for Jennie and their boys though. That cannot have been easy.

So, the little white lie to the census taker in 1920? Totally understandable.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

King Confusion

I thought I was on to something.

You might remember that we left the KING family in Arkansas. I had determined that the two Reeves girls were Laura's daughters. So, I set out to try to find a marriage record for Laura before she tied the knot with Albert KING.

I did.

I found a marriage record for Laura LINN and a C.B. REEVES. The marriage took place on March 26, 1889, in Jackson County. Esther REEVES was born in 1890. Ella followed in February 1892.

Now, here's where the discrepancies start piling up. In the 1900 census:
*The marriage year given for the KINGs is 1890. However, the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index lists it as 4 DEC 1898. Add to that, that in 1890, Laura was conceivably married to C. B. REEVES and still would bear one more child with him – in 1892. Not likely that she married Albert KING in the interim.
*Laura KING is listed as the mother of three children. One of those is Richard KING, born 4 APR 1894, and the other is Nathaniel KING, born 25 JAN 1900.

My theory, based on the two prior facts provided, is that Richard was Albert's son, but not Laura's. (In the 1910 census, Richard's mother is listed as Laura KING. Hmmm. Maybe that was an assumption or maybe that's just what they told the census-taker as she might well have been the only mother the boy knew. Or, maybe she actually WAS his mother.)

Helping to add to the confusion is that the REEVES girls managed to get counted twice in the 1900 census, once with their mother's family and once with their grandparents. (They appear as Elislie and Ella RUVIS in the KING count but by their correct names in the LYNN count.)

So … something is off somewhere. Either Richard was born in 1894 – and he is just Albert's natural son, or else the couple wasn't yet married when this son was born. OR … the marriage date is wrong in both the 1900 census AND in the Illinois Statewide index.

Yet another mystery to work through! But at least I finallyl know WHO the REEVES girls were.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Fate of Another Martha

So we last found Martha J. GREGORY in the 1930 census …

This Martha appears to have been the youngest child of Ezra David (or David Ezra) GREGORY, son of Martha Catherine LYNN and Isaac GREGORY. Martha married George BUTCHER and it appears that this couple was quite busy: they had eight children!

On Dec. 17, 1957, a horrendous tornado blew through southern Illinois and several other states. About a dozen people were killed in Murphysboro. Martha (GREGORY) BUTCHER was among them. Because of the tragic circumstances, her death was part of national headlines. I found this information in the Tri City Herald:
"Four of the Murphysboro fatalities occurred in one family.  Mrs. Martha Butcher and three of her children were hurled from their home and tossed into a nearby field. All were killed."

Martha was only 30. In a different article, I found the children listed: Donald, 5, Mary Jane, 12, and Janet, 3. Wow. How incredibly sad.

George BUTCHER died in 2010. In addition to finding his obituary, I also found one for he and Martha's daughter, Glenna. Glenna, who was born in 1955, died in 2007. She was a few months shy of 3 when her mother and siblings were killed. (From what I have pieced together from obituaries, a brother and three sisters are still living from this line.)

Martha (GREGORY) BUTCHER was the first of her three siblings to die. Today, all three grandchildren of Martha (LYNN) GREGORY's listed in the 1930 census are gone. Billie (GREGORY) BRIMM died in 2009 at age 84 and Lorin GREGORY, the eldest, died earlier this year (in March); he was almost 90!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Meeting More Marthas

In continuing to dig for information on the children of Lewis C. and Martha J. (LEE) LYNN, I managed pretty easily to find information on their daughter, Martha Catherine (LYNN). In the Illinois Statewide Marriage index (I TOLD you it’s a great resource) I found her marriage to Isaac F. GREGORY on Sept. 25, 1897, in Jackson County.

I found the GREGORYs in several subsequent census records. And, in those records, it appears that Martha used her middle name, Catherine. (I’m guessing to avoid confusion with her mother.) It appears that the couple, who stayed primarily in Murphsyboro, Ill., had at least four children:
·         Ezra David (also listed as David Ezra in some documentation),
·         Glenn E.
·         Louis A., 1910-1979
·         Maud “Maudie” F., 1908-12 Apr 1929

I found Martha C. GREGORY and some of her children still in the same place in the 1930 census. There were also three grandchildren listed as living there. My initial assumption was that these children belonged to Ezra and/or Glenn, especially since Ezra was listed as “divorced.” I found:
  • ·         Lorin Edgar,  1922
  • ·         Billie Ruth, 1925
  • ·         Martha J., 1927

I’ve since found items to confirm that Lorin and Billie were Ezra’s children. And, in a separate genealogy data base, Martha is listed as Ezra’s child, too. What I found odd was that neither Lorin nor Billie’s obituaries mentioned any other sibling. For now, I will list Martha as Ezra’s child but will still look for something beyond a genealogy database to confirm it. (Yes, another generation of Marthas! Love it.)

While I don’t know who her parents were (for certain), I do know whom she married and who some of her children were. Martha, you see, made national headlines in 1957. More on that in my next post…

Thursday, May 10, 2012

King Me!

In some ways, genealogy is a lot like a game of checkers or chess. It takes a combination of strategy and luck to win.

In researching the rest of my great-grandfather Harvey LYNN's family, I took a look at his sisters to see if there was some way to flesh out the very limited information I had on them. The firstborn child of my newly discovered great-great-grandparents, Martha (LEE) and Lewis C. LYNN, was Laura. In some records, she is listed as Laura L. (My guess is that her middle name is Lee, but it's just a guess.)

Laura LYNN was born in Kentucky in 1865, according to multiple census records. So, on a whim, I visited one of my favorite sites: the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index. For "bride," I entered LYNN and checked only Jackson County (where Murphysboro is). And up pops a short list. At the very top?

Albert James KING and Laura LYNN, married 4 DEC 1898.

Hmmm. Could be. So on another whim, I added Albert as a spouse to Laura in my database. And suddenly, a family appears. Laura and Albert's firstborn, Richard, is listed in multiple censuses as born in 1894. And then in another census, it lists their marriage year as 1890. Well, maybe it's NOT the right Laura LYNN.

I followed them through a few more census years – including 1900 and 1910, which place them in Union County. (And it adds an interesting twist listing her as a mother to THREE children, when there are only the two sons born by 1910. And there are two girls with a different last name, listed as step-daughters to head of household. Meaning, Albert's stepdaughters. Hmmm. But if they're HER daughters, wouldn’t she be mother to FOUR?) Or maybe the first child is HER stepson. At any rate, I'm still not convinced it's the RIGHT Laura.

Then, I find the 1920 census listing for this family. They are now in Taylor (Craighead County), Ark. Hey. Wait. That's where I found my grandmother and her sister, Nevada, in 1920 – living with Laura's brother, their uncle – John LYNN. I call up the image of the census record and then I see it. The KINGs are living RIGHT NEXT DOOR to John LYNN, et al. I don't think I need much more proof than that.

Laura though is only the first of the ELEVEN children of the LYNNs. And by following the same method as I did with Laura, I quickly found another of the Sisters LYNN: Martha Catherine.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Meet the (Great-Great-Grand) Parents

To a lot of people, genealogy is boring. So what if their ancestor was on the Mayflower? They’re dead – and that was almost 400 years ago. Move on, already!

I am not one of those people.

Our family pictures (which we are fortunate to have quite a lot of, at least on my mother’s side) are among my most cherished possessions. So when I come across a picture of an ancestor – which is akin to the Holy Grail for a family historian – it is nothing short of thrilling. And the thrill is multiplied exponentially when it’s of ancestors I didn’t know existed.

That was the case with Lewis C. and Martha J. (LEE) LYNN. I’m not sure how I got to them exactly but when I found them, I also found this photo. *confetti flies* These are my great-great-grandparents, the parents of Harvey A. LYNN! I’m just getting acquainted with this line and what a fascinating discovery it has been already.

The shocking thing is that in glancing at Martha, I see one of my late aunt’s eyes! (And, I also see the shape of my own face.) I think history was a little kinder to us genetically with the nose but it doesn’t matter though. These two couldn’t be more beautiful to me if they were cover models. I have no idea when this photo was taken; wish that I did. Maybe the 1890s?

I’ve learned that Martha is at least part Native American. (I always heard there were Indians in this lineage. More on that later.) And it seems like everyone in this line came from either Tennessee or Kentucky. Census records and other family links from have told me this much about Lewis and Martha’s lineage:

Laura - 1865
John CM - 1868
Lewis F - 1870
Harvey A. - 1871
Matilda - 1875
Manerva - 1875
Martha Catherine - 1877
Elijah- 1879
Malissa - 1880
Susan Jeanette - 1883
Rosa - 1884

I found a distant cousin from Susan Jeanette's line, too, so DOUBLE SCORE!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Finding Nevada (1930-1940)

So I found Nevada. In 1920, in Arkansas, with my grandmother and their uncle. Then, Nevada was back in southern Illinois (Murphysboro) by at least 1927. And I confirmed that with the 1930 census.

No grass grew under Nevada’s feet. She was living with the LEEs when the census was taken in April 1930 and by year’s end, she’s married –and had a baby! This meant I now had a name to search: BURBANK. The newspaper was dated Dec. 29, 1930, which meant the son had been born Dec. 27. Now I had a name and a birthdate. Sadly, it didn’t take me long to find this:

Harold W. "Pete' Burbank, Sr., age 75, of Murphysboro, passed away at his residence in Murphysboro at 12:20 p.m. Monday, August 14, 2006. Harold was born on December 27, 1930, in Murphysboro, to Harold G. Burbank and Nivula Lynn Burbank. His father later married Lucille Martin, who raised him.

OK. Couple of immediate red flags here. This information confirms that he is Nevada’s son. But Nivula? To not even have her name right? And then the mention of the stepmother “who raised him.” That means one of two things happened: Nevada died while Harold was quite young … or else she took off.

The truth can be ugly and you find out some really nasty things about your family sometimes when you go poking around. While I was trying hard to give ole Nevada the benefit of the doubt (you can’t after all help it if you DIE),I found a marriage license. In 1940, Nevada BURBANK and Edward BISHOP, both of Murphysboro, applied for a marriage license in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Did they actually use it?

I don’t know … yet. I’m hoping that the recently released 1940 census might help answer that. Since you can’t search it by name yet (except in a handful of states) we’ll put this search on ice for a while. In the meantime, I’m not going to judge. It’s looking more and more like all my grandmother and her sister had as kids was each other so it’s no wonder then that, regardless of the circumstances, she could overlook her sister’s actions. But still …

On the other hand, I know all too well what it’s like to have a parent walk away from you. If this is what happened, my heart bleeds with empathy for Harold. What he must have thought of his biological mother!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Finding Nevada (1920-1930)

My quest for Nevada LYNN is not complete. It did, however, recently get two huge kicks forward.

I previously wrote about finding Nevada living with Lawson LEE in Murphysboro, Ill., in the 1930 census, a listing identifying her as his niece. (The explanation of that connection would come later. More on that line soon.) My grandmother was already married to Herman Ira VAUGHN and living with their first child (daughter Dolores I. VAUGHN) in Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis.

But let’s go back to 1920. I found a death certificate for a Dora (LEACH) LYNN from June 21, 1918, in Murphysboro. Based on the census information I had, that meant that Nevada was 5 or 6 when her mother died while my grandmother was about 8. I couldn’t find either of these girls or their father, Harvey A. LYNN, in the 1920 census. Then, suddenly, there were the girls – in Taylor, Ark. (Craighead County):

Marthy L. LYNN, age 9, and Nava?? LYNN, age 7, listed as nieces to the head of household, John LYNN. John is the elder brother of Harvey. Ding, ding, ding, bingo! Now, there are all manners of LYNN/LINN families to be found in Arkansas (more on that hot mess later) but this is most surely them.

Fast forward a few years. I did some poking through online clips from a Murphysboro newspaper. (God love that publication and all the ones like it around the country. They are an amateur genealogist’s best friend.) I found a clip about a church outing in 1927 and one name got my attention: Nevada LYNN. Then, I turned to the second hit for Nevada LYNN in that same newspaper search and found this gem:

Mr. and Mrs. Harold G. BURBANK of 416 North Street are the parents of a son born Saturday. This is the first child in the home and has been named Harold Wayne. The mother was before her marriage Miss Nevada LYNN.

I was ecstatic! Finally – enough information to move the needle on my search. Stay tuned for more on what I found next …

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Finding Nevada

After years away from this blog, I'm picking it up again. And, I'm picking it up at a place I never thought I would: my paternal grandmother's line.

I started pretty much the same way I did with my paternal grandfather's line: the names of my great-grandparents and the places they were born. And so, I got my introduction to the LYNN and LEACH families. And in the past few weeks, I've found even more surnames that have limbs on my family tree (names like SANDERS and LEE).

My first stop though was something that should have been relatively simple: Finding my great aunt, my grandmother's younger sister. The problem was that the story I always heard was that my grandmother was orphaned. (Turned out that's mostly true.) I never even knew she had a sister!

She died when I was a baby so I never got to know her. But, I did know that her name was Martha Lucille LYNN. Her sister? Vada was the name I was given. There are LOTS of  Vada Lynns out there, both with Lynn as maiden and a married name. Didn't make my job easy. Then, out of the blue, I find a Nevada LYNN living in an Illinois county where I know some family lived. Didn't recognize the name of the family she was with but ...the census said young Nevada was their niece! Hmmmm... could this be her?!

I began looking for Nevada LYNN in earnest and kept hitting dead ends. Sometimes though, persistence really does pay off. And while my hunt for Nevada is far from complete, I've covered some real ground. So if you're out there following, hang on for my next stops on the journey.