Sunday, February 1, 2009

Family Mysteries

" The Mystery of the Long-haired Ladies"

Who doesn't enjoy a good mystery? Genealogy is much like detective work. Looking for clues in unlikely places. Following leads. Analyzing evidence. It's all about solving family puzzles.

I've always loved photographs. If each picture is worth a thousand words, the above photo is worth a million. It got me started on a seventy-year-old family conundrum.

"St. Louis Cousins"

The above photos were among my grandfather's belongings after he died. As with most things left behind by my parents and grandparents, there was no information about the top photo and the above photo was identified only as "St. Louis" cousins.

I just had to figure out who these women were!

At the time, my uncle Ed asked me to write a family history. I flew to Virginia, with photographs and papers in order to "pick" his brain to see what he remembered about his early years.

He knew nothing about the top two photographs, but he remembered a visit from St. Louis cousins in 1924 when he was thirteen. The following photograph was a result of that visit.

Mary Ann Holding Eardley, Edward H. Eardley, "Aunt Mary", "Aunt" Susie, Olive Eardley, "Cousin" Amy, Alice Eardley Obray, Sarah Eardley Pace, "Cousin" Harriet, Uncle E.G. Holding

Uncle Ed had no idea how Aunt Mary, Aunt Susie and cousins Amy and Harriet were related, only that they were visiting from St. Louis and stayed with the family at my Grandpa Ed's and Grandma Olive's home.

"How did that work?" I asked Ed. "Your house had only two bedrooms and one bath!"

"Well, the four boys slept outside, Aunt Mary and Susie slept in our room, and Amy and Harriet slept on the davenports in the parlor," he explained. People in those days didn't mind a little inconvenience.

It was time to put on my Sherlock hat and do some poking around in papers and documents.

From my grandfather's journal, I learned:

1 July 1924: "Mary Hewitt, Susan Green, Harriet and Amy Sheard arrived at 12:45 noon. Took them home and Olive is making them comfortable. Took folks for a ride."

The visitors went with the family to an organ recital at the Tabernacle, swimming at Saltair and to Lagoon (an amusement park), with picnics at each place. They even hiked to Timpanogos Cave. Also on the agenda was a drive up Emigration Canyon to view the Mormon Trail and a trip to Salt Lake City Cemetery view Grandma Sarah Holding's grave.

My grandfather's address book which he took on his mission in 1900 provided another clue. In it was the address of "Miss M.E. Hewitt" of St. Louis, Missouri. His mission journal revealed the fact that grandpa visited his "relatives" in St. Louis after his mission, as follows:

Friday, November 21, 1902: "After traveling all night I arrived in St. Louis at 7:35 A. M. Cousins Susie, Mary, and Hattie were awaiting me. I was hailed with all the favor that could be manifested. After the greeting was over, we boarded the car and after a few minutes’ ride were soon at their beautiful home, 2621 N. Market St. Met Susie’s husband Mr. Alfred S. Green, a jolly Englishman and Hattie’s better half, Mr. W. J. Sheard and their two sweet little girls Harriet and Amy, ages 7 and 5 years respectively. It was a joyous meeting. I being the only relative they had seen for 40years or over."

With names in hand, the next stop was the Family History Library where I scoured the 1900, 1910 and 1920 U.S. Federal Census records of St. Louis, Missouri until I found the names of our "cousins".

1900 U.S. Federal Census -- St. Louis, Missouri

From birth date and place information on the census record, I was able to find birth, marriage and death records of the Sheard, Hewitt and Green family members. Then I traced the Hewitt family to Prees in Shropshire, England, the birth place of my great grandmother, Mary Ann Holding Eardley (in the group picture above) and her mother Sarah Holding.

Turns out Mary Ann's mother Sarah Holding and Margaret Hewitt (in the above census) were sisters, born in the 1820s in Prees. Sarah and Margaret Middleton joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Prees in 1840. Margaret immigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois, then the center of the Mormon church where she married Richard Hewitt and then migrated to Utah along the Mormon Trail in 1848. "Aunt" Susie and "Aunt" Mary were born in Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, Sarah Middleton married Daniel Holding and they had five children in England before they immigrated to Utah to join the Hewitt family.

The Richard Hewitt family decided they didn't like Utah (i.e. polygamy). They traveled back across the plains in a wagon train and ended up in St. Louis, Missouri where Richard became a prairie school doctor.
Richard and Margaret Hewitt's three daughters Susan, Mary E., and Harriet were the "Long-haired Ladies" in the first picture. They all became school teachers and married late in life. Harriet was the only one to have children. She married William Sheard and they had daughters Amy and Harriet (the "cousins").

The second picture, taken in about 1900, shows Margaret Middleton Hewitt at about eighty. She died in 1901.

My great grandmother Mary Ann Holding Eardley was a first cousin to "Aunt" Susie Green and "Aunt" Mary Hewitt who visited Salt Lake City in 1924. Susie and Mary weren't actually aunts, but were my grandfather's first cousins-once removed. Amy and Harriet Sheard were my grandfather's second cousins.

I had cracked the case. The mystery was solved.

I called my uncle Ed in Virginia to tell him I'd figured out his relationship to his St. Louis cousins. Amy and Harriet Sheard were actually his second cousins--once removed.

Ed hooted a hearty belly laugh, "Well, no wonder my parents never tried to explain the relationship!"
Relationships can be confusing, but with practise and some skill, puzzles can unraveled.

Genealogy mysteries can be solved with s little sleuthing!


TravelinOma said...

This is so well done! The directions are so concise and easy to follow and the photos are great. I always want to be in every family I read about.

Olive's Granddaughter said...

Thanks for your comments, Marty. Hope I can get some readers (I don't need the lessons myself.)

Tracy Rees said...

How fun and what a great picture!