July 19th, 2012

The Wives of Henry Abbenhouse

I have a family register for my mother's father's relatives, Mennonites in Canada and before that Russia. I have a family history for my father's mother's relatives, written by the amazing Belva Poldervart.

However, Belva's entry for my great grandfather, Henry Abbenhouse, or Hendrik Abbenhuis as he was born, was, well, mostly empty. He divorced my great grandmother after their daughters were grown. It was, like almost all divorces of the time, unpleasant.

I was curious about this great grandfather, in part because I wondered if he might not have been Dutch. Well, he was Dutch: I found him and his family in genlias (Gelders Archief). He came to the United States shortly after marrying my great grandmother, along with his brother-in-law, his brother, and their mother. I've blogged about parts of this. I wondered whether Henry might have remarried after his divorce and discovered that he did: my innocent search of the Washington State Digital Archives produced three more marriages. I hastily entered them all, found a death date for one in the Seattle Times archive and a dissolution for another, but I didn't make any real effort to understand who these women were and where they came from and what their lives were like prior to and after marrying my GGPa.

Then the 1940 census became available, and my interest in this part of my tree was renewed. Here is a brief summary of Henry's wives after his first divorce.

(1) Wilhelmina Jacoba Simons Meerman, m. 1931 Wilhelmina was a Dutch immigrant who lost her husband in 1928. They were both from Middelburg, which is also where their older daughter was born. Their younger daughter -- born about 16 years later -- was born in Seattle and Henry was around for her teen years. This marriage took place in Henry's house and his brother was present. Wilhelmina died in 1944.

(2) Oramille H Luick (nee Buck), m. 1953 You would think, with a name like that, it would be easy to track her down, but it really wasn't. Turns out she went most of her life by Hattie, and her husband died in another state before she moved to Washington. She was born in Wisconsin and married in the Iron River area in 1911 to a man much older than her. They had sons, but the sons were grown up and had moved on by the time she married Henry. She died in 1955.

(3) (Mar)Greta Louise Nyman Brunow, m. 1958 Greta was from Munsola or Munsala, Finland. She married a fellow Finn in Tacoma and they had two daughters, who had grown up before Henry entered the picture. Frank died in 1934. This marriage, like Henry's first, ended in divorce (quickly -- final was in the fall of 1963). Greta went on to marry another Finn in 1964 , also from Munsola or Munsala. He died in 1977 and she followed in 1978.

Henry died in 1973.

There are large enough gaps between these marriages, and Henry was well enough traveled (he spent some time in Idaho during his first marriage and lived in a variety of places in Washington State) that I wouldn't disallow the possibility that there are more marriages out there that I haven't found yet. In 10 years, I'll be able to see where he is living and who he is living with in 1950, which is probably my best bet for detecting another wife.

But for now, this is what I know about Henry's wives. He only married women who were within 10 years of him in age (but always younger). When he married a Dutch woman, it took longer for the marriage to end. With four marriages and two divorces in this time frame, it's pretty clear that living with Henry was problematic (altho I suppose he could have just had terrible luck in choosing wives).