Finding the context in a person’s life is one of my favorite things about genealogy. I love finding more than just names and dates. Occupations, addresses, family tragedies, world events, awards, military service – they all shape a person’s life.
My favorite places to learn about context are newspapers and city directories (for home addresses and work places). Censuses have some information that could be useful for context, like occupation or whether the person was blind or deaf. Divorce filings often have a lot of juicy details.
Here are some of my previous blog posts, for which I used a lot of newspapers and city directories:
For Week 40 of #52Ancestors, the theme is “Harvest.” I decided to look and see how many of my great-great grandfathers (you have 8) were listed in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census/1881 Canadian Census with an occupation of “Farmer.” Here we go:
James Wells – Farmer, aged 40, Horsepasture District, Henry Co., Virginia
Willis Clark – Dead
Arthur Belknap – aged 11 – his dad was a laborer in Dover, Fulton Co., Ohio
William Bost – Farm Laborer, aged 20, Marion Twp., Henry Co., Ohio
John Wilson – Farmer, aged 48, Howe Island, Frontenac, Ontario, Canada
This map of Amherst Island, Ontario is from 1878 and shows my great-great grandfather’s land that he owned just to the west of Stella, the island’s biggest town. In the larger map at the top, it would be just below and to the left of the “Q” in Bay of Quinte. John Wilson (former Johan Rustad from Sweden) arrived on the island in 1857.
My grandmother Helen was an only child. She had three first cousins on her mother’s side. On her father’s side, she had nine first cousins, but I don’t think she knew any of them. She doesn’t seem to have had much contact with his side of the family, and he died in 1928 when she was about 16.
Today, I’d like to post some picture’s of Ma’s first cousins on her mom’s side, Lee, Harry, and Glenn Moore, the sons of her uncle Glenn “Fred” Moore. Lee was born on January 5, 1913 in Hartford, Van Buren, Michigan, Harry was born on December 25, 1914, and Glenn III was born on June 20, 1922 in New Buffalo, Michigan.
The theme this week is Mistakes. My great-great grandmother Mary (Clark) Wells was listed in the 1900 census in Horsepasture, Virginia even though she died in 1894. Now this is either a spooky mistake or my great-great grandfather’s wishful thinking. He was in the middle of a strange second marriage to a much younger woman who was also his son-in-law’s sister, and his new wife and their newborn daughter were living with her parents.
Mary Ann Clark was born December 20, 1839 to William Clark and Ann Martin in Henry County, Virginia. She was 10 years old in the 1850 census, living with her family, and attending school. In the 1860 census, she was 20 years old and living with her parents, younger siblings, and her grandmother. On September 2, 1864, she married James H. Wells in Henry County. By the 1870 census, they were living in Horsepasture Township and had 3 children – Susan, Mary, and William. James’ sister Eliza was also living with them with her 2 young children. In 1880, James and Mary were living in the same township, with 4 more children – James, Sarah, Lucy, and Martha. In 1881, they had my great-grandfather, Robert Luke Wells. Mary Ann died on December 29, 1894 of fever (according to the Death Register of Henry County, Virginia, Volume 11, 1875-1896, p. 162-163).
Now is where things get a little strange. James and Mary’s daughter Martha married J. W. Koger on July 21, 1897. James re-married on February 22, 1898 – to J. W.’s sister Sallie. James was 57 and Sallie was 32. According to (spoiler alert!) divorce depositions, Sallie left James in July/August 1899. She gave birth to their daughter Maggie on February 13, 1900. On June 4, 1900, Sallie and Maggie were living with Sallie’s parents and her brother. Sallie was listed under her maiden name, Koger, while Maggie had the surname Wells. Meanwhile, on June 26, 1900, James and his (dead) wife Mary are listed with their sons Robert and Edward, and their daughter Martha, her husband, and her daughter.
On April 16, 1901, James filed for divorce from Sallie on the grounds of desertion. The divorce was granted in June 1903. James Wells died March 6, 1904. Sallie lived until 1947 and their daughter Maggie lived until 1985.
The Bassett Historical Center in Bassett, Virginia was incredibly helpful in researching James and Mary Wells, sending me copies of vital records and divorce papers.
One of my great-great grandfathers, Fred Lowell Moore, worked on the railroad, as did his two sons Glenn and Earl. The first time I can find an occupation for Fred is on his marriage registration to Mina Bolt on September 10, 1885 in Plymouth, Wayne, Michigan. He was listed as a railroad agent.
According to a September 19, 1892 Detroit Free Press article, Fred was a conductor at the Plymouth station.
In an April 28, 1899 article from the Yale Expositor about his daughter Helen’s accident, he is said to be the baggagemaster at the union depot in Plymouth. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census for Plymouth, taken on June 2nd, Fred’s occupation is give as Railroad Freight Agent. A July 8, 1900 Detroit Free Press article about the newsboys of Plymouth, Michigan features his 10-year-old son Glenn and says that Fred is a “veteran employee of the D., G.R. & W. Railroad.” The D., G.R. & W. was the Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western Railroad, which started as the Detroit, Lansing & Northern Railroad. The D.,L., & N was reorganized as the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Western Railroad on January 1, 1897, and in turn became part of the Pere Marquette Railroad on December 7, 1899 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit,_Lansing_and_Northern_Railroad).
His son Glenn (also called Fred) was also employed by the railroad. In the 1915 Benton Harbor city directory, he is listed a a brakeman. On Glenn’s WWI registration card from June 5, 1917, he lists his occupation as yard conductor for the Pere Marquette Railway Company. In the 1920 census, he is listed as a yard switchman. In the 1930 and 1940 censuses, he was a yard conductor. In his 1942 WWII registration, his employer is listed as the Pere Marquette Railroad in New Buffalo. Glenn’s obituary from January 1963 says he was a retired yard master for the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad and a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen lodge.
I have written about my great-grandmother’s sister Helen before (back in 2011). Since this week was about tragedy, I though I would share her story again, and include some newspapers articles I’ve found since 2011 that shed some light on what happened to her.
Helen was born March 14, 1895 in Plymouth, Michigan to Fred and Mina (Bolt) Moore. She had an older brother and sister, Glenn and Mae, and a younger brother, Earl.
Helen was 2-3 years old when she was photographed with her sister and younger brother, shown above. An article from the Northville Record from Friday, April 28, 1899 says, “The four-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Moore of Plymouth was seriously burned in that village last week Friday. Her clothes caught from a burning bon-fire near which she was playing.” So that would mean the accident occurred on Friday, April 21, 1899.
Another article from the April 28, 1899 issue of the Yale Expositor also said she was burned when her clothes caught fire from a bonfire. That paper said, however, that “she may live but will be disfigured for life.”
Helen died on May 1, 1899 at about six in the morning in Plymouth, MI. Her death certificate says she suffered a severe burn 10 days before. The disease causing death was listed as a sympathetic fever, which she had been enduring for 48 hours, and the immediate cause of death was listed as a hemorrhage.
I love this picture of my great-great grandmother laughing. It’s fun to imagine who or what she is laughing at and what the occasion was. Maybe a picnic? The picture below shows from left, my great-great grandmother Mina (Bolt) Moore Thompson, Jessie (Johnson) Bodington, the sister-in-law of my great-grandmother, and my great-grandmother Mae (Moore) Johnson. I think this picture was taken sometime in the 1930s, since Jessie came over from England in 1929.
Three of my Bost relatives married two Fye sisters. Clara Etta Fye and Minnie Belle Fye were the daughters of William Fye and Jane Nusbaum. Clara was born January 5, 1870, most likely in Liberty, Seneca County, Ohio. Minnie was born September 8, 1880. The Fye family eventually settled in Henry County Ohio, where the Bost families lived.
Clara Ettamarried Francis Leroy Bost (my 3rd great-uncle; brother of my great-great grandfather William Shepard Bost) on August 14, 1887 in Hamler, Ohio. He was also known as Leroy or Roy. In 1900, they were living in Hamler with four children: John Kenneth (born Feb. 11, 1889), Arthur Francis (born Oct. 30, 1890), Gladys Marie (born Apr. 27, 1896), and Fred, born (Feb. 21, 1899). In 1910, the family was living in Royalton, Fulton County, Ohio. Clara’s father and brother were living with them. In 1920, Roy, Clara, Fred, and Thelma, a daughter born in 1913, were living in Napoleon, Henry, Ohio. In 1930, Roy, Clara, and Thelma were still living in Napoleon. Gladys’ son Russell, aged 14, was also living with them. Gladys had married Henry J. Long in August 1914 and had Russell in 1916. I’m not sure what happened to Henry, but Gladys married Fred Fahrer in April 1917. In the 1920 census, Fred, Gladys, and Russell were living with Fred’s mother. Gladys died on March 18, 1924 in Napoleon. Her cause of death was burns over 3/4 of her body. I have been unable to find any newspaper articles about what happened to her. Fred died the next year of typhoid fever.
In 1940, Clara was living with her daughter Thelma and her husband in Napoleon. Clara is listed as married, but Roy is not living with her and I have been unable to find where he is in the 1940 census. Roy died April 4, 1949 in Henry County and Clara died March 23, 1950. They are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.
Minnie Belle married Julian Sylvester Bost (my 1st cousin 4x removed) on September 6, 1899 in Henry County. Julian had been previously marred to Celia McKellips on Dec. 14, 1896. They had a son Charles on Feb. 14, 1897. Celia died the next day from childbirth complications. She was only 16 years old. In the 1900 census on June 7th, Julian, Minnie, and Charles were living in Hamler, and Julian was a teamster. Julian and Minnie had a son, John Perry, on October 4, 1900. I think that Julian and Minnie divorced sometime in 1906, since Minnie married another 1st cousin 4x removed of mine, Asa Wilford Bost, on January 19, 1907.
Julian also remarried on July 15, 1907 to a woman named Cordelia. In 1910, Asa, Minnie, and John Perry were living in Napoleon, Ohio where Asa was a laborer on odd jobs. In the 1916 Farmers’ Directory, the family was living at 615 E. Washington St. in Napoleon and Asa was listed as a blacksmith. In 1920, Asa and Minnie were living on N. Perry St. in Napoleon and Asa was a blacksmith. In 1922, Minnie’s son John P. Bost married Gladys King and they had a son named John Wilfred Bost in August 1923. In the 1930 census on April 7th, John P., Gladys, and John W. were living in Toledo. In the 1930 census on April 8th, John W. was listed as living with his grandparents Asa and Minnie in Napoleon. In the 1940 census, Asa, Minnie, and John W. were still living in Napoleon where John W. was attending high school. Asa died May 21, 1941 in Toledo. John W. Bost, Minnie’s grandson, enlisted in WWII while still in high school on January 20, 1942. He became a corporal in Co. B. 1st Div. 7th Marines and was killed on New Britain in the South Pacific on January 7, 1944. He is buried with his parents in Forest Hill Cemetery. Minnie died September 7, 1945.