Sunday, May 9, 2010

Who's your mother, William?

As I've mentioned before, Lola had siblings. One that has intrigued me since I've learned about him is her youngest brother, William. William was born in Joliet, IL in 1901. Sometime between his birth and the 1910 Census, Lola's father, George, apparently abandoned his young family, leaving his homemaker wife and five children to fend for themselves. This caused his homemaker wife, Effie, and her five children to fall into "the system" at the time. All six members of the family lived in the homes of others, working either as servants, domestics or farm hands for board. They were in various towns in Illinois, with the exception of the youngest, 8 year old William. He was in Iowa.

Naturally, the detective in me can't stop wondering how an 8 year old ended up in a differnt state than his mother and his siblings. What is the connection? Was there a connection? Was he just a small child with the good fortune (or some might think misfortune) of landing on an Orphan Train, in the hopes of a loving family and a better life? I don't yet know that answer, but am determined to find out. Again, I'm intrigured by William's story, just as much as I'm intrigued by Lola's story. At some point, the older couple William was living with, adopted him. They already had three older children that by 1910 were no longer living in their home. These three children were all born in Germany prior to the family immigrating to the US.

I have thus far been to the Los Angeles County Registrar's office three times in search of vital records and once to the Orange County Clerk's office for the same. In those three trips, I did find most records in regards to William that I wanted. William had three wives, outlived at least one, and died in Los Angeles in 1977. His death certificate lists his adoptive parents, Henry and Etta.

He married his first wife in 1926 in Alameda County. He and his wife lived together then in Los Angeles (I found them in city directories) until she filed for, and was granted a divorce in 1936. I found her living alone in that same city in 1936, and then lost track of her. She may have remarried, changing her last name, thus making the search a little challenging. I am going to attempt to obtain both their marriage certificate and their divorce record. I'm not sure if these records might hold clues, but you never know.

William married his second wife in Los Angeles in 1942, and this was his longest marriage. Sadly, it ended with her death in 1959. I pulled that record and was more than pretty suprised. Most vital records indicate a place of birth, father's name and place of birth and mother's name and place of birth. This particular record was no different. It listed his city of birth (good so that I now know where to go for his birth record), his father and his mother. He listed his adoptive father, Henry, from Iowa (Henry was from Germany) and as his mother he listed not his adoptive mother or what I've always felt was his birth mother, but rather a name that didn't make sense (although I could identify these names). He listed the first name of his "adoptive" sister and Lola's married name as the last name! My jaw dropped and I said out loud, "what the hell?".

William's third marriage in 1961, actually listed Lola's parents (and the parents I always felt were his birth parents), George from Germany and Effie from Pennsylvania. When you are looking for answers, these documents are invaluable. Mind you, they are old, but they contain names of witnesses and/or survivors (depending on the document). In my experience, once you have these names, you can search for them.

I am happy to report that I have found survivors and have reached out. This is truly exciting. Where they may not hold answers to Lola, they may very well hold answers to William. I am so thankful right now. I have been lucky enough to connect with family; something I have not had a lot of growing up on my father's side. What I find so sad, is that I could have have known him and the family in life. He died when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, my dad never told us about him. I can't hold that against my dad, as I have absolutely no idea what it must have been like for him, being a child in a horrible situation. I only wish he could have found peace with that part of his life while he was still alive. This indeed, is turning into a great and exciting adventure.

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