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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Button Boxes from My Past

My collection of button boxes.

I went looking for button boxes on the internet yesterday and was surprised to find out most of them are electronic gizmos, not the decorated box or little wicker basket or whatever that held clothing buttons in the past. Like any kid of my generation, I used to go through my mother’s button basket.

Her button basket always held all the white shirt buttons. My father had to wear white shirts to work every day, and of course the buttons came off every so often, so my mother had a lot of replacements. Like others have said, buttons were valuable and were assiduously saved and even treasured.

I can’t remember the box that held the colored buttons. It must not have been something special, because now the colored buttons are in my great-grandmother’s old box and another later box.

One of my dearest friends gave me what she called “a useful pot to put things in” (read your Winnie the Pooh again). I somehow collected so many more white buttons that my useful pot’s colored buttons got pushed out.

I found that my great-aunt’s button box had all white buttons in it too. But she was a nurse, so maybe she had to have a larger number of white buttons than other people might have had. Of course there are decorative buttons too, not just the practical ones.

A lot of the colored buttons ended up in with the collection I inherited from my sister-in-law, who brought this lovely seed tin full of interesting and decoratively colored buttons for my son to play with when he was little. They used to string the buttons on yarn and and twirl them around.

There are brighter buttons down further in the box, yellow, and green, and red.

There are two other boxes, one of which I had never opened, and one I rearranged to hold only the oldest buttons I found in the rest of the boxes and containers. There are satin-covered shoe buttons, horn buttons, ivory buttons, wood buttons, metal buttons, ceramic buttons, and plastics painted with acrylic. Some of them I’m sure are nineteenth century. The probability is especially high for the jet buttons.

Women of that era who were bereaved had to have black clothes quickly. Dresses could be dyed, but colored buttons would have to be exchanged for jet buttons. Then after the mourning period ended, the dress would be put away for the next death. The dress might have been altered for another wearing or for another wearer, and when it was worn out, the buttons would have been cut off and saved for another dress.

The other button box had some interesting things in it. It was one of my great-aunt’s tea boxes that she used for a button box.

It had a collection of shoe buttons (they are at the bottom of this photograph).

The most interesting buttons I found in the tea box were a carved ivory bead button, two pairs of matching seed buttons, two seashells used as buttons, a very old blue glass button, and a plastic red bead.

Here are more of the interesting buttons I found in the other boxes.

After I learned to sew, I used to sift through the button boxes, matching buttons and putting them on safety pins, finding the prettiest buttons and imagining making something suitable for them, and then I’d get on my bicycle and ride to the fabric store to see if I could find something I could afford that would be close to my vision.

In yesterday’s internet hunt, I found that plenty of people are now making button quilts, with the buttons providing a bold center design, or being sewed on in place of yarn ties, or used to outline appliques, among a myriad of ideas. Maybe that’s how my buttons should be used.

But then what would the boxes and pots and baskets hold?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Was He Murdered?!

1832 Peter Selgrad Death Record:


No. 12. Petrus Selgrad, 10 Januarii
Anni millesimo octingentesimo trigesimo secundus die vera octava Januarii subito extinctus est Petrus Selgrad civis et clavarius ex St. Ingbert maritus relicto Eva Bauer. Sexaginta et novum annarum aetatis. Qui die decima Januarii in caemeterio parochiali est sepultus Tla Lester J. Pfeiffer parochas in St. Ingbert.

Rough Translation:

No 12. Peter Selgrad, 10 January
In the year one thousand eight hundred thirty-second on the eighth of January Peter Selgrad suddenly was killed, a citizen and nail maker of St. Ingbert, married to the (now) widowed Eva Bauer, (he was) 69 years of age. He was buried on the tenth of January in the parish cemetery. [Signatures of clerks] in St. Ingbert.

The phrase “subito extinctus est” means suddenly or unexpectedly he was killed, slaughtered, destroyed, or extinguished. That verb choice “extinctus” has a lot of evil-sounding connotations in its possible meanings! So, was he murdered? It sounds like it was more than an accident. Also, almost all the other death records in this book use the words “obiit,” or “abiit,” which mean simply “died.” I wish there were more information on the death record. This is my direct ancestor and I really want to know!

Next I found that Peter’s wife, Anna Eva Bauer, died three days after his funeral. Her record says that she received the last rites of the Catholic Church before she died, but Peter didn’t. I’ve been watching Father Brown Mysteries on PBS and it seems that he always administers the last rites to murder victims, just in case, I suppose. Why didn’t Peter receive them? I don’t know the rules for this ritual.

It’s curious that Eva died so soon. Broken heart? Had she been sick and couldn’t recover from the blow of her husband’s death? But back to that violent scenario, I wonder, were they attacked and he died immediately while she lingered a few days more? Yikes. It’s an explanation that fits the known facts and the aura cast by that unique verb choice, but of course I don’t have all the facts.

I know I am influenced by my habit of reading murder mysteries. I read tons of them. Back to the facts and a less malevolent scenario: they could have been involved in a terrible accident that left Peter dead and Eva mortally wounded. After all, the parish clerk did not use any of the several Latin words for “murder,” and I have to suppose that his choice was deliberate and descriptive.

Hm. Could this tragedy have led to his children moving clear away to the United States within the next few years? If the nail making workshop were destroyed as a part of this tragedy (maybe there was a terrible fire), perhaps his son Jacob decided not to try to rebuild but to work for the iron works in town until he had enough money to buy passage for his entire family.

More research!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Of the Vinegar Makers

I’m wrestling with relearning Latin and learning some more French. And what are you doing to delay the onset of dementia? Ha ha.

I have been working on the Selgrad family line in southwestern Germany for several weeks nonstop. They lived in the town of Sankt Ingbert, which is close to Saarbrucken and part of Saarland. Back the days of the records I have been studying, the town had been taken over by the French under Napoleon Bonaparte.

Civil records started having to be kept in French, but I’m still decoding the Latin church record books. Happily for me, the microfilmed images are available online, but they aren’t translated nor indexed. My challenge is to find all the Selgrads (and Schmelzers, whom they married) and translate their records so I can assemble them into family groups and eventually figure out how they are interrelated.

In the year of the Lord one thousand eight hundred first on the twenty first day
of September was born and the following day was baptised, Maria Johannetha . . .
The records for the 1790s had been in Latin and started with “In the year of the Lord one thousand seven hundred ninety” - something. Then domini was dropped as the French Revolution promising Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity did not include religion. I find the omission curious, since these were still, after all, records kept by the Catholic church parish clerk. In the record below, despite his use of the new French government-mandated dating system, with the “month” Thermidor and its ten-day weeks, he still wrote down the centuries-old dating system too, “August 17” providing me with a very welcome orientation in time. I’m still amazed after all these years since I first learned it that the Revolutionaries thought they could replace something so basic and entrenched as a calendar system. It boggles the mind.

I had to take a year of Latin as part of my graduate school studies. I was very busy that year, working to support myself and pay for my schooling, as well as studying and writing like mad. I gave my Latin classes the bare minimum attention in order to pass, but I didn’t do well. So now I’m looking up word lists and using Google Translate and studying various online dictionaries and taking online classes in genealogy-specific Latin. I’m finding out that it’s hard when the clerk doesn’t spell things the way the dictionaries and Google Translate think is correct. It’s hard when the clerk doesn’t seem to use the inflected endings I expect from my studying. I am sure my studying is more than partly to blame, but I’m working harder at it now!

The occupations have caught my fancy and I am more than curious to know what these people did for a living. I am, in fact, determined to know.

agricola - that’s easy, that’s a farmer.
pistoris - that’s the baker
molinarius - the miller, and of course the baker chooses him to be godfather to his child
mercatoris - merchant, of whom there would have to be some
tutoris - that’s a tutor, but the way it’s written I wonder if it was really sutoris, a cobbler?
textoris - weaver, which is further broken down into linen or wool
sartoris - the tailor, upon whom the weaver depends for sales, obviously
calcearii - a shoemaker, maybe of a different flavor from the sutoris?
fabri - a carpenter or maybe a smith; the term can also be combined as a workman or artisan in something
fabro ferreo - this looks like iron maker, and indeed, a number of the records show men “de oficina ferrea” or workers in an iron making factory, likely using the puddling method developed in 1784 to lower the carbon content of cast iron or “pig iron” and turn it to the less-brittle wrought iron.
mercenarii - of the day laborers, of which there were quite a few
operarii - workers for hire, like the day laborers
fabri carbonum - of the charcoal makers; this region was rich in iron and coal ore
vinarii - of the vintners
clavi fabrii - of the makers of nails or spikes (but Google Translate insisted on “vinegar makers”)

In the year 1804 on the 17th of August, the 12th year of the Republic of
France on the 27th of Thermidor was baptised Johann Jacob the legitimate
son of Peter Sellgrad [occupation] and Eva Bauer his wife living in St. Ingbert.
He was born the third hour of the same morning. Godfather was Johann Jacob
Gries unmarried son of Ludwig Gries nail maker and Elisabetha Holzer his 
wife of St. Ingbert. Godmother was Maria Selgrad unmarried daughter of 
Johann Jacob Selgrad nail maker and Maria Johannetha Decarm his wife of 
St. Ingbert. Each has signed [made their mark] below.
“Petri Selgrad, clavarii” it says. Google Translate says he’s a vinegar maker. What? My Latin dictionary says clavarii has to do with money given to soldiers for shoe-nails, and clavi are nails or spikes. I think I believe the Latin dictionary over Google Translate, and the clerk had been busy reading about Roman wars before he made this entry . . .

There’s a lot of difference between someone who hammered metal into a square-and-tapered shape and someone who poured alcohol into a vat and let it sit for months to make vinegar. At least, I hope so.

Meanwhile, what have those folks programming Google Translate been drinking? Too much sour wine?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ancestors at My Kitchen Table

I just found two pairs of fourth-great grandparents and I’m pretty excited about it.

I didn’t know I was going to be able to do a lot of German research sitting right here in my kitchen at my laptop.

When we visited Germany in 2005, we took a side trip out of Regensburg to a village called Ensdorf, because my grandmother had always reported that her grandmother said she came from Ensdorf, Bavaria. The onion-shaped dome on the church among the hills was wonderful to see, but we found nothing there about my ancestors. There was nothing to find; it was the wrong place altogether.*

I couldn’t have foreseen when I gathered all the papers about this family line that so much would come to be available online. I thought, barring more trips to Germany, that I would have to spend long days sitting in the Salt Lake City Family History Library, poring over their vast microfilm collection at one of those towering machines, my head practically inside it to make out what the sometimes less-than-optimal film exposure was showing of old and faded pages of church registers and civil registers, land records and histories of towns. It’s hard to sit there, but when you pay for travel and parking to get there, you want to stay as long as possible to get as much out of the trip as you can. You develop a splitting headache and just keep going until the library closes and the staff comes around to check all around the furniture to be sure nobody’s hiding (I know they do, because I worked a few years at a branch of this library, and we had to be police as well as helpers!) to try to stay overnight and keep working. Genealogists can be a nutty bunch.

Yesterday I found out the microfilm reels for the town records I need to see are now digitized images and available online. Yay!

26 December 1817 document
In the records of the Catholic Church of St. Peter in Sankt Ingbert, Bayern, I found the marriage of my 3rd-great grandparents, Jacob Selgrad and Gertrude Schmelzer—in fact, I found two records, one dated 26 December 1817, and the other dated 13 January 1818. Since I can’t read the first one very well, I have to guess that it is a statement of intent, sort of like English banns. Nobody came forward and objected to the marriage, so it was formalized on the 13 January 1818 date.

The records combined gave me new information about Jacob and Gertrude, including their birth dates and birthplaces. The second record has the couple’s parents’ names clearly written; they are also in the first record, but the mothers’ names both disappear off the edge of the page due to fading ink, page decay, and camera lighting.
13 Jan 1818 marriage entry

Voila! A new generation found. Their parents are Peter Selgrad and Eva Bauer, and Ludwig Schmelzer and Elisabetha Kiefer. The fathers both signed the marriage document as witnesses or sponsors or something. (I should translate that Latin soon.)

I love that “armchair genealogy” is getting to be so relatively easy to do. (Pun intended.)

* It turns out that the great-great-grandmother was not the one from Ensdorf; it was the great-great grandfather instead, and his village was Endorf in Westfalen, not Bayern.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mary Ann Hogan: Found

The Hogans

You all have known for many years that I wanted to find Solomon Whittenton’s wife, Mary (I wrote about them here), and discover her heritage. Finally!! With the help of a cousin who discovered me last June, I have got some of the information we were waiting for.

Who They Are
Mary belongs to the Hogan family that in 1850 lived very close to Solomon and his sister Agatha near Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee. You can see on this image that Solomon and Agatha are the second household on the page. Then next door are their father and stepmother and their other siblings. Next are the Kendricks, rich old Jane and her family who owned quite a lot of slaves. Next to them are the Hogans. The father is Marmaduke, born about 1792 in North Carolina, and his wife, Nancy McGregor Hogan, born about 1798 also in North Carolina. They came from Montgomery County, southwest of the places where the Whittingtons were from.

Mary is reported to be 25 years old on this census. This is probably close to the truth; but I think she was actually 24. Her sister Elizabeth is said to be 17; she was probably 15 in reality. The youngest brother, Sandy (Sanders) is reported to be 14; he was probably 12. There were three older brothers, Jonah Calvin (born about 1820), Caswell (born about 1823-4), and Isaiah (born 1825).

Hogan is an Irish surname. As derived from the Irish Gaelic, Ó hÓgáin, it is a diminutive of Og meaning “young.” The Cornish version of the name means “mortal.” The Welsh name Hogyn means “stripling.”

Marmaduke Hogan’s parents are Zachariah Hogan and Celia Bannister. His line goes back four more generations in North Carolina and Virginia before you reach the Irish ancestor, Patrick. The Baxters and Griffins whom they married were also originally from Ireland, all in the Dublin area. The Bannister line isn’t developed yet.

Nancy McGregor’s grandfather came from Perth, Scotland. I don’t know much yet about her mother, Ann Harris, but Harris is a name that occurs frequently in Scotland, as it does in England.

The Evidence
Once I saw on Valerie Whitenton Hart’s death record that her son thought his grandmother’s maiden name was “Hogins” (Valerie is our Mary Jane’s older sister), I started looking for any surnames that had H, G or K, and N with any vowels at all, since pronunciation can vary so much you never know which vowel was originally the right one. I landed on this Hogan family, but I couldn’t see any proof beyond circumstantial evidence that they might be the right family. I didn’t research them particularly, beyond looking to see how many of these families were in Madison County, Tennessee. Then I dropped it as there was so much to do elsewhere.

Like I said, last June I got connected with a descendant of Lillie Read’s half-brother Sam. She gave me a lot of stuff, which I have since been sorting through now and then. Not until this week did I realize that she had this line on Ancestry, and I asked her what the evidence was. She pointed me to where everything was and also gave me information about various DNA tests.

All of the recorded historical evidence is circumstantial, which is why I didn’t trust it alone. The Hogans came from North Carolina, as did the Whittingtons. To be sure, the Hogans were in Montgomery County, southwest of the Whittingtons in Johnston and Wake counties. Before that, the Hogans were in Anson County, next door, which is where they arrived from the area that is now Cumberland County, Virginia, to the north, around 1700 (at the time, that area was contained in Charles City and Henrico counties). Anyway, the same general migration pattern applies to both families. And in fact, the McGregors were first to go to Tennessee from North Carolina, arriving there before 1820.

When the families settled near Jackson in Madison County, Tennessee, there would have been plenty of opportunity for Mary and Solomon to meet and become well acquainted. But here is where things get a little weird.

You all remember that Solomon didn’t behave himself well with the ladies and had an illegitimate child around 1840. It sets a precedent for the next thing that is outside the accepted order of things. I have found that Mary Ann Hogan got married on 19 November 1848 in Montgomery County, Tennessee, probably in Clarksville at the County Courthouse. Frustratingly, the index search engine online requires exact spelling, and I have tried every form for “Whittington” I can think of and haven’t gotten a hit that shows Solomon in the index. So I don’t know the name of Mary’s groom. The index is separated as to brides and grooms. I’ve sent for the full record and will know more once it arrives, but it opens up some big questions.

Is this marriage record the missing proof we need for Solomon’s wife’s true identity?

If Mary Ann Hogan got married to Solomon then, why was she living in her father’s house two years later when the 1850 Census was taken? Was she just visiting when the census taker came and they all confused him as to who lived there?

Why Clarksville when they were all living in Madison County?

Was Valerie Whittenton right in 1900 to say that she was born in March 1849? Or was she born in 1850? She still should have appeared somewhere on the census, whether in her grandfather’s house or her father’s—because she was born in March and the census taker came in November.

If this isn’t the right Mary Ann Hogan, who is this? If it is the right Mary Ann Hogan and she married someone else before Solomon, whoa, that’s going to open up another big can of worms, and then where and when did Solomon and Mary get married?

Stay tuned. I’ll update this with the information I find out on that marriage record when I get it.

In all, the circumstantial evidence is that of Mary Ann Hogan having the right name, being the right age, living in the right place, and of her family following the same migration patterns as did the Whittingtons. Sounds thin, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, my distant cousin told me that she has been able to create DNA connections with a very high confidence rating that include descendants of Solomon and Mary Whittenton and also descendants of various siblings in the family of Marmaduke Hogan and Nancy McGregor. This was using two different DNA processing companies, and that means almost certainly we have the right Mary Ann Hogan, because DNA is that accurate! Now that I’ve linked the Hogans on my own online tree, I expect I’ll soon be getting the same information from the company I used for my own DNA test.

What Do We Know about Mary’s Siblings and Their Families?
I’ve been researching Mary’s five siblings and have come up with some information about each of them. They are Calvin, Caswell, Isaiah, Elizabeth, and Sanders. We’ll start with the eldest and get to the youngest last.

Jonah Calvin Hogan has a birth record in Montgomery County, North Carolina, but all that is available online is the index that doesn’t give the date. Still, other records support us in thinking he was born about 1820. No other record uses the “Jonah” given name; he apparently went by Calvin exclusively. The U.S. 1820 Census for Montgomery county was burned up in a fire in 1835, so we can’t see the family composition then. In 1830 Calvin appears as a checkmark in the age 10–14 column. In 1840 he appears in the age 15–19 column, although we expect him to be 20. In 1850 he has his own household and is age 30.

While still in North Carolina, Calvin married a woman named Mary who was born about 1822. Their children are Atlas (1842), James (1844), Sarah E (1846), and Zachariah (March 1850). Atlas was born in North Carolina; the rest of the children in Tennessee, probably in District 17 of Madison County where they were living when the census was taken. Two more daughters were added to the family: Mary Lou in 1852 and Frances in 1857.

I can’t find any record about Calvin after that census. There are other Calvin Hogans, but none matches him. His eldest son Atlas served in the Civil War, and interestingly, changed sides. He started out in the 13th Regiment Arkansas Infantry, Company I when he was 18 years old, entering as a private and being captured when he was a sergeant and sent to prison in Indiana. There he apparently made a deal and entered the Union Army on 10 September 1864 in the 21st Regiment Indiana, Company F, 1st Heavy Artillery Unit. He served with them until they got to Florida in 1865 and was mustered out 27 July 1865. Back in Madison County, Tennessee, he soon got married to a Miss Sarah J.E. Stephenson.

Next comes Mary Ann’s brother Caswell Hogan. He was born in Montgomery County, North Carolina, in about 1824. The 1830 census shows he is age 5–9. In 1840 he is age 15–19. In 1850 he appears with his wife and two children and is reported to be 27 years old. In 1860 he appears with his family on the census and is 36 years old.

Caswell married Jane Johnson in 1845 in Madison County, Tennessee. Jane was about the same age as Caswell, born in North Carolina, and went by the nickname Jennie. They had the following children in Tennessee: Amanda (1846), William (1849), Thomas A (1852), Christopher Columbus “Lum” (1855), Elizabeth (1856), and Robert Merida (1858). Right after Robert Merida was born, the family moved to Craighead county, Arkansas. Cas was a farmer, and both he and Jennie were illiterate according to the 1860 Census. Cas died in 1863 in Conway, Arkansas. Jennie lived until 1896.

The next sibling for Mary Ann is her brother Isaiah, who is next to her in age. He was reportedly born 27 August 1825 in Montgomery County, North Carolina. The 1830 Census has him in the “Under 5” age group. In 1840 he was put in the 5–9 age group, and in 1850 he’s 25 years old, living in Madison County, Tennessee with his wife, Sally, who is the same age. Then Sally must have changed her name, because in 1860 he’s married to Lucy, and they have three children: James (1852), Susan (1855), and Hiram (1858). They live in Ripley County, Missouri, but little Hiram was born in Arkansas, so they must have tried living there between Susan’s and Hiram’s births. When the Civil War started, Isaiah chose to join the Union side in the 24th Regiment Missouri Infantry, Company G. He was either captured and sent to Andersonville, Georgia, and then sent home to die, or he was killed in a battle; it is not clear which record belongs to him. At any rate he died 28 January 1863 in Van Buren, Carter county, Missouri, and his widow, Sarah, applied for a military pension the next month, which was granted.

After Mary Ann comes her sister, Elizabeth, born in the 1830s. Her age varies so much in the records that it’s hard to know exactly when she was born. In 1840 she was reported as under 5; but in 1850 she was supposedly 17. Then in 1860 she was 25. She married Thomas Smith (a native of Ireland who was born about 1821 and who had immigrated to Arkansas) soon after 1860 and had four children: William Burns Smith (1862), Allice (1864), Thomas (1865), and Edward (1868). Elizabeth was said to be 36 in 1870, so perhaps her birth year was 1834 or 1835. Nothing further is known yet of her life; she is said to have died in Faulkner county, Arkansas, in 1880.

The youngest of the siblings is Sanders Hogan, born between 1836 and 1838. The 1840 Census shows him in the Under 5 group; in 1850 he is said to be 14 years old, but ten years later he is said to be 22. Of course he moved with his parents from North Carolina to Tennessee and then to Arkansas. Nothing further is known of him. His actual name may have been Alexander, since Sanders is a common nickname or short form of that name. There are many Alexander Hogans, but again, I don’t know what happened to our Sander, or “Sandy” as he is called on the 1860 Census.

The Hogan family was not a particularly long-lived family. The father, Marmaduke, lived over 75 years, but his wife, Nancy, was only around 56 or 57 when she died. Calvin was about 40 when he disappeared from all records. Caswell died at the age of about 40. Isaiah died at the age of 37. Elizabeth was around 44 when she died. Sanders could have lived a long time, but he disappeared from records at the age of 22. Mary Ann lived the longest that we know of; she was around 60 when she died.

What’s Next
I’m going to explore Mary Ann’s ancestors and try to discover when each family arrived in America. I’ll update you with what I find.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Nora Quackenbush Could’ve Been My Grandma

But she wasn’t.

Technically speaking, she was married to my great-grandfather for maybe a year, more or less. All I know for certain is that she married him in the spring of 1918, and by December 1919 things were as if the marriage never happened. It might be as well to trace the meanderings of Nora Quackenbush to make an effort to pin this thing down.

Nora was born to Reuben and Mary Quackenbush in Wisconsin in June 1865. The family later moved to South Dakota, and then to Nebraska, to Thayer County. Nora married a man named Boston Armstrong when she was 19 years old and bore him three children: Lillian, Lester, and William.

Sometime after William’s birth the marriage broke up, and she apparently next had a relationship with someone surnamed Hunt, because in the next census she reports a son named Johnnie Hunt, born in June 1897. Four months later, in October 1897 she married Samuel Levy Werring (or Waring), so the Hunt connection was over with. Johnnie took Samuel’s surname as his own, combined with Hunt, so his records show his full name as John David Hunt Werring.

Nora and Samuel had a son named Reuben, born in the spring of 1900, the same month as the census was taken. They didn’t have any more children together, and I wonder if Samuel died while they were married, because when any subsequent marriages ended, she went back to using the surname Werring and listed herself as “widowed.” Samuel was an elusive subject to research; he appears in exactly one record: his marriage to Nora. That marriage record says he was born about 1862 in Wisconsin. Nothing tells us where he lived, what he did for a living, or where he died and was buried.

Nora appeared on some census records as a child in Wisconsin. Samuel appears nowhere as a child or adult except at his wedding.

Samuel wasn’t even living with Nora and the children when that census was taken in 1900, although his own son had just been born that month. Instead, Nora and Lillie, Willie, Johnnie, and baby Reuben (Lester was with his Quackenbush grandmother in South Dakota) live with a Mr. Willis Marshall, for whom she works as a “servant.” It’s odd.

(Nora’s Samuel might be the Samuel Waring living in Kansas in 1895, a bachelor with a family boarding with him. Other than that possibility, it looks as if he was successful in avoiding a single record being created about him—except his marriage to Nora. Did he even exist? Hm.)

Next thing that shows up is in 1910, Nora is in her third marriage to a man named William Purdy, living in the central part of Washington state near the Canadian border. This is quite a drastic move from Nebraska. There is nothing to suggest why Nora moved there. William Purdy is a baker from Canada, five years older than Nora. Nora’s children Lillian, Lester, William, and John live with them, but not young Reuben Werring. Where did he go?

The very next year the family was counted in the 1911 Canada census. They had moved several hundred miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia. But now Nora is the head of the household, and where the baker went is anybody’s guess. Nora has her two youngest sons listed with her, but Reuben’s name is listed as “Willis,” which, coincidentally, is the first name of the man for whom Nora was working when that son was born. The boys’ surnames are “Werring.”

(Could “Willis Marshall” have been a pseudonym for Samuel Levy Werring? Or vice versa?)

In addition to her two younger sons, Nora had a 29-year-old lodger named Benjamin Peon living in the house. The Purdy marriage was apparently over, and Nora moved back to the United States, staying in the Pacific Northwest.

In the late 19-teens she met my grandfather, William Lester Munroe. The marriage record gives his home as Camas, Washington, on the southern border of the state near Vancouver. It gives her address as Molson, Washington, almost on the Canadian border (Molson is now a ghost town and was never very well populated). They lived over 400 miles apart. Where and how they met are a mystery, as I do not know what either was doing in those years. I suspect he was going from job to job, doing whatever he could find. He never was very stable in his employment.

They married in Vancouver, Washington, in May 1918. Lester had just turned 60, and Nora was going to be 53 the next month. Lester brought witnesses to the wedding: his daughter Medora and his brother James. If Nora had anyone there, we don’t know about it. The marriage certificate says this was Lester’s third marriage and Nora’s fourth.

Wait. Lester had a second marriage that we don’t know about yet? The family knows about only his marriage to Mary Jane Whittington in 1884. She died in 1899, and we thought he was living as a widower all that time. Well, well, well. Now we know about this marriage to Nora Quackenbush Werring (or to put it more accurately, Nora Quackenbush Armstrong Werring Purdy). I guess I need to do some more digging for another marriage for Lester Munroe!

To continue with Nora’s story, as I said, the marriage was soon over. She married again in Spokane, Washington, on 22 December 1919 to a man named E. Varney. She used her childhood name, Elnora, but she signed “Lenora” and the clerk wrote “L. Nora.” She used the surname Werring. She said this was her second marriage, that she was a widow. It was really her fifth, at least so far as I know—at the rate she was going, she could have been married several more times before Lester met her!

This marriage didn’t last either. She listed herself in the 1930 census as Nora Werring, widow.

I’m sorry to be so judgmental, but I suspect my grandfather was well rid of her. No wonder nobody ever mentioned this in telling us stories about his life. But now that I’m being judgmental, I have to wonder what happened to this woman to produce such a level of instability in her personal relationships. From my studies of genealogy, I have found that usually some sort of trauma precedes this kind of a life, whether the death of a parent, loss of another kind, or related trauma. Whatever it was, poor Nora.

Her son Reuben, whose name had been permanently changed to Willis E., died in September 1924, a private in the U.S. Army. Her son John David, who went by the name Jack, served in the U.S. Navy during World War I, came home and settled in Montana, where he married. He later moved back to Washington. Her son William died in 1928. Her son Lester took the name John, changed the details of his birth, and got himself a ranch in Nevada. He never married. Her daughter Lillie married a number of times, apparently following her mother’s pattern. Nora died in Washington in 1946 and was buried in Walla Walla near Willis. Jack is buried there too.