Friday, July 30, 2010


Effie was my great grandmother, my dad's grandmother, and Lola's mother. As with pretty much everyone I found since beginning to look for my grandmother, Lola, I found Effie. I don't recall my dad ever mentioning either of his grandmothers. Both of them had their share of children and husbands. My dad's paternal grandmother, Hattie, had four husbands, while Effie had two (as far as I can tell).

One of the fascinating aspects of using on-line services for family history research is something called This is a pay service, but most genealogical societies have memberships that members can utilize, and does have some kind of relationship with, so that you can possibly find old newspaper articles about your family members when searching them on Ancestry. My own experience has suggested that I have found more information by having the additional access to the newspaper archives as not everything I've found there seems readily available on Ancestry.

Effie was born in Prairie Home, IL, in August of 1871. Naturally, that was a time when people had many children and this was no exception. She was one of 10 kids (or 11 by some accounts), born to Wells and Emma. I do not yet have any clue what her childhood was like, but I imagine as a young woman, she may have been rather scandalous for the time and I do find that rather intriguing! Again, I don't know that she was scandalous, she may have just been young and impressionable, for all I know. Yet, sadly, it appears that scandal (my choice of words and one I tend to enjoy) did seem to follow her.

I know that Effie married my great grandfather, George, Dec 31, 1892, even though the State Record of the marriage has the 14th of Dec, 1892 listed as the date. Effie then gave birth to her daughter, Bessie, in July of 1893. Hmm. Interestingly, Effie had a younger sister Bessie who died in 1893 and it seems to me that she may have honored her sister by naming her daughter after her.

Effie and George went on to have four more children - Lola (my grandmother) born in 1894; Monroe, born in 1895; George born in 1899; William born in 1901. I can't help but think that during this time, a time when birth control was not an option for women, that Effie may have had miscarriages between the births of Monroe and George.

The family seemed to be just fine (by on-line accounts) until 1910. That year found Effie and her children not living together and her husband George, nowhere to be found. In 1910 (per the US Census), Effie and all of her five children were living in different homes in Illinois as domestics or laborers working for board. I have noticed that Effie, like most women of that time, did not work out of the home, so when she found herself alone with five kids, I can only imagine what she went through. Effie was actually living as a "servant" in 1910, for an elderly woman, without her children. Her youngest child at that time, William, somehow ended up in Iowa at 8 years old.

I still cannot find any sign of my great grandfather, George, in 1910. I find this interesting. Family legend says that he left Effie and the kids to return to Germany. I don't know that I believe that as most records I find lead to his being quite young when he came to the US and he became a naturalized citizen in 1898.

So, when did the marriage crumble? I don't know yet. I do know that George and Effie were officially divorced in 1920. Prior to that, their son George listed his father as his nearest relative on his WWI draft registration.

And now, some interesting and possible facts about Effie...

Flashback to 21 December of 1889. Effie "preferred a charge of bastardy" against one Charles Cox. Whoa, preferred charges of bastardy? What is that exactly? From what I can tell, it boils down to Charles got Effie pregnant and then split. Common practice in modern times, but surely not in the late 1800s. In fact, Effie's father, Wells, was so outraged by this, that he was determined to make the young man (Charles, 25) "suffer the extreme penalty of the law for blighting the life of his daughter" (she was 17 or 18). Charges were to have been dropped had Charles married Effie, but that didn't happen and he was fined for his "crime".

What is interesting and something I just found is that Wells and his wife, Emma (Effie's parents) suddenly had a child show up on the 1900 census, a daughter named Zetta, born in May of 1890. I think she was Effie's child being raised by her parents, and have not yet been able to find her beyond the 1900 census.

OK - some more tidbits about Effie. Again, she was a woman that seems to have had much sorrow in her life, which may have ultimately lead to unsavory behavior:

Effie ... Insane
Effie ... was picked up by Officer Royse Tuesday night in an apparently demented condition. She was wandering around in the alley back of the Singleton restaurant. She was turned over to Sheriff Nicholson Wednesday morning and will probably be sent to Jacksonville. She has led a hard life and is well known to the police. Her mind seems to be entirely gone. She sat in a cell all night and talked with an imaginary person whom she thought was sitting beside her. Daily Review, The (Decatur, IL) 27 Sep 1911

Daily Review, The (Decatur, IL) 27 Sep 1911 Effie ..., who was picked up in a demented condition a few nights ago and who has since been in the county jail, is improving. It is now thought that her mental condition is due to a protracted spree (drunk and depressed, I am thinking).

Man and Woman Arrested
Effie ... and Charles Benvenuto were arrested by Officers Ray and Royse Saturday night in the vacant lot at the corner of Cerro Gordo street and Broadway. They were charged with disorderly conduct. Daily Review, The (Decatur, IL) 24 May 1914.

Surely, Effie knew that in 1912, her son Monroe died. Not to mention, her other children were living away from her and may have had minimal contact with her.

George did resurface, and was granted divorce in 1920. By then, Effie had a new husband and was still making appearances in the paper for things like fines for bootlegging, the last being two years before her death in 1931.

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