We have a few more answers to all this familial mystery.

Quite by accident, as I was trying to search for information on my maternal grandmothers 2nd married name and a possible marriage record, up popped my mother’s birth certificate!

I had no idea why we couldn’t locate it online when we tried last week. That fact led to all my speculation in this post...and the thought that we might never really find information on my grandfather, and the final decision to trace the certificate to Montana and actually order a copy. That paper will likely arrive late this week because it was too late to cancel the order. At the very least, we can confirm what we found online.
I don’t know what I will think if the copy we get doesn’t match the information we found online. That might suck.

Anyway, for the time being we can definitely say that my mother’s father is listed on her certificate and that the box noting a legitimate birth is also checked. Alison also found my grandparents marriage certificate. On both of these records it became clear that my maternal grandmother used a totally different first name at that time. I have always known her as Blanche. We have census records with that name, but in 1923, when she married, and 1926 when she gave birth to my mother, she listed Betty. I suspect that fact has something to do with why we couldn’t find the certificate last week, but I know that I sure got lucky this time around.

This weird habit of females in my family using two or three or perhaps more names during their lifetime is a trend. My grandmother was one of many we’ve found doing this. We’re assuming that they had a fondness for nicknames, or thought it was perfectly acceptable to change up or adopt various versions of their name as the mood struck. We also assume that it was acceptable to them that official (legal) records did not need to match or contain their given birth name because hey…why not be different.

We also found out that:

-At the time of my mother’s birth, both my grandparents listed Washington as their place of residence. We suspect that they went back to Montana, where grandma’s parents lived, for the birth itself.

-My grandmother was born in Washington. I always thought she was born in Montana. She was eighteen when she married…the first time.

-We are unsure just how long this new family stayed in Montana. We are also unsure exactly what city/area of Washington they returned to after they left but they did return here.

-We have no idea when my grandparents divorced.*

*Divorce records are tough to find, or we just aren’t searching in the correct state or with the correct names, because again, who knows who anyone was at any given time. Also tough to come by are most records after the 1940 census. There is this rule that records 72 years prior to the current year cannot be made public. So, we can locate the 1940 census, and likely other minor records in that decade or earlier but records from roughly 1954 to the present are only available with proof of relationship, and bunches of fees to have them copied and mailed. Very likely, the 1950 census and other legal records are just now being transferred into the public domain and going onto the internet. I can’t begin to guess just how soon those might be available. 

-My grandfather was from Nebraska. His occupation on the birth certificate is listed as barber.

-We have discrepancies in his birth year. It is listed as 1902, but many later documents and records place it as 1904. This makes him either 19 or 21 when they married.

Alison managed to trace back familial lines for my grandfather, and – because I don’t know if we can ever be one hundred percent sure – she also found information on his death. In that regard he is noted to have died in 1952, just 7 years before I was born. Apparently he was killed (run over) by a train and is buried in Albuquerque New Mexico. I do vaguely remember stories surrounding the railroad and trains in connection with my grandfather, so I think this makes sense. I wish I knew what sort of relationship, if any, my mother may still have had with him. I have a feeling it was minimal at best.

Finally, we have his ancestry going back to 1700! A great+ grandfather came from France at the time, but after ‘marriage’ he settled in Canada and left his wife behind. I list ‘marriage’ in that way because he was one of quite a few of the great+ grandfathers who married (took as a wife) Native American women. This wife is listed as a significant princess in the Winnebago tribe. Her father was a major chief and had connections to Tecumseh and some of the conflicts he led across the United States. She apparently refused, or was forbidden, to go with great+ granddad and I guess Canada as a settling place seemed like a good idea to him. Through notations, we know that my grandfather was 1/8 Native American.

The irony in this story, and we hope to look into more of the history of these people and their tribe, is that my mother adamantly kept saying that she had “Indian blood” and that we were connected to the Winnebago tribe that settled both in Nebraska and Wisconsin. Honestly, I tended to believe she was full of crap, because well, after a while believing her stories made less and less sense to me and as I’ve asserted, it was always a crap shoot as to what might be truth and what was likely a lie, or a convenient alteration of some insane idea.

I definitely feel happy that we have come this far and managed to find out more about my family, not just for myself but for my children and the next generations.

Alison is working on a family tree. We also plan to add a bit more information about some of the family lines of new spouses that have joined the family in the last few years so that they can continue with their own histories if they choose.

The one remaining mystery, closely tied to that issue of availability of public records noted earlier, is the details of my maternal grandmothers 2nd marriage. Having a confirmation of the year my grandparents divorced would help us to begin the search for records of her 2nd marriage. We know that my mother was using this mystery man’s last name as late as spring 1946, although she was not adopted by him so the legality of that is in question. My grandmothers death record uses the name associated with her 2nd marriage. Finding the documents that may lead us to this man will likely be a work in progress I suspect and will do more to satisfy curiosity rather than have a direct bearing on me from an ancestral standpoint.

So, we push forward with filling in little missing pieces here and there. If we get more interesting news I will pass it on in future posts.






4 thoughts on “Eureka!”

  1. The divorce bit reminds me of trying to find my parents’ divorce papers after Mom died. We had to search county by county. We couldn’t find anything in our county, and reached out to Mom’s old attorney … who said they’d filed in another county because it was so much cheaper. Getting those papers (to prove Mom’s ownership of the home, per the papers) ended up being much more arduous because of the county question. I wonder what we would’ve done had my mom’s old attorney been unreachable … ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The county thing is definitely an issue, and we have the issue of the actual state being uncertain as well, but we just keep plugging away. I understand the burden of proof being on family members when trying to ascertain documents, what with identity fraud and all, but geez – it really can be a struggle.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Exciting breakthroughs for you!!!! I feel your joy 🙂 Last Fall, I called a cousin of my mom who ended up possessing some early family pictures from the late 1800’s (my great great grandparents standing in front of their stone house. felt like I was stepping back in time.

    Liked by 1 person

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