Friday, June 4, 2010

Hattie, Hattie, Hattie, and my trip to pull vital records

Oh man, what a weird day it was. My sister and I went to the LA County Registrar's office today ready to pull lots of vital records. We went in search of Lola's aunts and their families. I'm not sure I can explain how I felt nor do I know at this moment where to go for answers. I left feeling sad and like I had a dark cloud looming overhead. I still cannot shake that feeling several hours later.

First of all, I find it rather funny (as in odd) that anyone can find birth information on-line (name of child, date of birth, place of birth, mother's maiden name), yet when we went to pull a few birth records, my sister was told that births after 1905 were not available for public viewing unless it was your own birth record. I also feel that no matter how prepared I think I am when I go to pull records, something always turns up after the fact that I should have known before I went.

Hattie's married last name was not terribly common and her son, Estel, was married to Lillian in 1930, or thereabouts, (I couldn't find the marriage record today). I still do not know Lillian's maiden name or her whereabouts (well, surely she is now deceased). On line, I did find three children all born in the 1930s with their last name and all three children had a mother with the same maiden name. Since we were not able to access these birth records, I really do not know if these were Hattie's grandchildren or not.

I went to view records, knowing the dates of death for Hattie, her husband William, and their son Estel. I was able to pull these records. Hattie was the first to die in Los Angeles in 1938. According to the record, she died at home and Estel was the informant. He also lived at the home. She was listed as being married to William and lived in Los Angeles. Her death record listed her age as about 5 or so years younger than I thought she was. She died in 1938 from cancer of the uterus.

William, Hattie's husband, was the next. He died in 1948 in Los Angeles County. This one shocked the hell out of me. William was listed as widowed and died at (are you ready) Norwalk State Hospital! I should just remind you that I have been told on more than one occasion by employees of the State of California that death certificate of people who die in the State Hospitals, are NOT public record. When I saw that, my jaw hit the ground and I gasped! I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Here was a death record of a man who died in Norwalk/Metropolitan State Hospital (the same hospital Lola was in and possibly died at). William's death certificate also gave a hospital record number. You can only imagine how much I want to get my hands on that!

Hattie's son, Estel, died in 1961 in Los Angeles. He was Lola's cousin. When I first found his death on line, it kind of freaked me out because his birth was listed as "completely unknown"! Here was a man with parents, a family, an ex-wife, possibly children, but his DOB and POB was "completely unknown". It just struck me in a bad way. His death record did not mention an occupation, parents, spouse or a personal informant. Rather, his informant was the "Public Administrator" and his place of death was a medical clinic that was not a hospital. The death certificate also indicated an autopsy and that the death was under investigation. It also mentioned his burial was via cremation at the LA County Crematory. It is my understanding that this is where people end up when no one claims them. It horrified me and also made me think Lola might have ended up there, too.

I found Hattie's marriage announcement in an on line newspaper archive from Illinois. She was called "the most charming young lady" from the area and William was a called "a prosperous farmer". How did the charming young lady and prosperous farmer end up in Los Angeles, via Illinois and Colorado, dying from cancer and in a State Hospital, classified as "senile", with a son that had a career, a wife, and possibly children, that died basically as an indigent?

When we were finishing pulling all the records we could, my sister and I detoured to the City Library in downtown LA. While waiting for some microfilm we began to search the LA Times archives. I found where Lillian filed for divorce from Estel in early 1933. I also found that one of the three children died a day after birth in 1936. Again, I don't know if these children are yet Estel's but I will now be able to research this due to the death of the infant.

Oh how this story is now calling me. The plot just keeps thickening.

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