February 18th, 2011

newspapers in the middle of the 20th century

People worry a lot about facebook and privacy, but in the mid-20th century, people went to a lot of effort to put a ridiculous amount of personal detail into the newspaper. While they knew people would save clippings (that was part of the point), I don't think anyone imagined the possibility of, say, google.

In any event, not everything has been digitized yet, so some of them are still in the clear. Altho not any of my mother's brothers, who all got reckless driving suspended licenses when in their teens (okay, not the half-brother, or the step-brother, but the full brothers). All of them. It's really quite impressive.

But I'm not hear to write about the half-uncle's drug bust (especially since it turned out to be so unbelievably minor a possession charge). I'm hear to describe the puzzle that was my mother's Aunt Abby. I have a couple CDs of scanned old photos put together by one of my sisters that I don't have any regular contact with. Among the various scanned items was a clipping describing my parents' wedding. I hate to say it, but I've gotten in the habit of paying a whole lot of attention to obits and wedding and birth and divorce announcements in newspaper clippings and newspaper archives -- you can excavate a surprising amount of genealogical information from these things.

Conspicuous in his absence from the wedding was my mother's most recent stepfather (the guy I _thought_ was dead, but he lived until 1991, so no. Not really). His daughter attended. But I don't think he showed up. A year later, he'd be remarried, so while I have not found a divorce record, I'm betting it was in progress if not complete. Amazingly, it looks like _Alvina_ attended, if "father and wife" is to be believed. I'm still a little stunned by that, but not so stunned as to miss the reference to an aunt living in Seattle, Abbie.

Who is Abbie? Believe me when I say I this point that I'm pretty _damn_ sure I know who all the possible aunts and uncles could be, if they are blood relations. That leaves one of the uncles getting married -- I had not yet tracked them down. So off I go to find out whether it's Elmer's wife or Iven's. I'm betting on Elmer, since I'm reasonably certain he died in Seattle and that looks a whole lot more promising than Oregon. There's a guy on ancestry.com I've been in touch with whose wife is a distant relative on that side of my family; he's got a wife listed and the census records sort of make sense, but the name isn't Abby, so I go looking for a second wife. Unfortunately, I _find_ Abby, really absolutely certainly Elmer's wife and the dates do not match the records the guy has found. Rookie mistake on my part: I had to peel everything out and reconstruct to remember what I really knew and what I was guessing.

The neat thing is that after all that, I've got an even bigger mystery on my hands.

Elmer is born in 1901 in Iowa. For reasons best known to him, he decides to leave the US in Mar of 1917, joining (really, I am not making any of this up) the "Australian Imperial Force" for the duration (May 1917 to 1919). After he wasn't doing that any more, he was in Belfast, Ireland from July 1919 until the spring of 1920, working as a "motorman" for "Belfast City TraXXXX" (<-- I can't read it). And then he wanted to go home, so he went to the American Embassy in London to get an Emergency Passport so he could take a boat from Southampton to New York. Which he did.

I'm not sure what happened next, but in 1927, he married an Abby Louise (there she is! The mysterious Aunt Abby), from (wait for it) Belfast, Ireland. The marriage occurred in Montreal, Canada (don't ask _me_ why), and ten years later, Abby applied for naturalization. In the naturalization paperwork, she indicates she has three children with Elmer -- but I still can't find any of them in the 1930 census. Her legal entry occurred after the marriage by a few months, so I _ought_ to be able to find them in the 1930 census, but I haven't.

Yet.

I'd _dearly_ love to find the name of even one of those three kids. I bet I could track down grandkids and facebook them, if I could get even _one_ first name.