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Wednesday, December 13th 2006

7:41 PM

My Genealogy Gift List: Victoria's Secret? Never!

The other day, my 16-year-old daughter and I were watching television together when a commerical for Victoria's Secret aired during the break.  The gist of the message was "every woman wants Victoria's Secret for the holidays."  I rolled my eyes and said to Missy, "Not this woman.  Give me death certificates or census records any day!" 

As I thought it over, I realized that there were actually a few Secrets I'd like, none of them having to do with women named Victoria, however.  For instance, there's Mariah Emily DAILEY and her daughter, Emma Alice LYTON, my husband's 2nd-great- and great-grandmothers, respectively.  Just exactly where were they when the 1880 Federal Census was being taken?  They should have been in Iowa, specifically in Thurman, Freman County.  Mariah's first husband, George TURK, assumed the name Henry LYTON, and immigrated to the U.S. from Ontario to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War.  After his death, Mariah married German immigrant John KLINDER in 1875.  By 1880, Mariah and John had two children, Nancy Florence and Laura Luella, as well as Emma and Agnes LYTON from her marriage to Henry.  Mariah's Secret or Emma's Secret would be great gifts for Christmas!

And in my own ancestry, I have yet to figure out Mary Jane's Secret...Mary Jane FREDENBURG, that is.  My 2nd-great-grandmother was 8 years old in 1880, yet she and her six-year-old brother, George Franklin FREDENBURG, are missing from the Greenwood Township, St. Clair County, Michigan home of her widowed mother Cornelia (McCLELLAN) FREDENBURG, younger brother William Anthony FREDENBURG (age 3 1/2), older half-sister Sarah E. FREDENBURG (12) and paternal grandparents Anthony and Hannah (FOX) FREDENBURG.  Can't find them anywhere in Michigan, or the U.S., for that matter.

I did get Helen's Secret and Rena's Secret for Christmas last year.  Norm's paternal grandmother, Helen Mary WESTABY, and her mother, Rena (LERFALD) WESTABY, went missing, along with father George Rice WESTABY, III, during the 1920 Federal Census.  I thought I had figured it out when I read George's obituary a few years ago.  It stated that he had come from Montana to Washington State in 1920.  "Aha!" I thought. "That's why I couldn't find them...they were moving, enroute across the Northwest."  I was right...sort of.  I was given some significant missing details by my father-in-law during our 2005 Christmas visit.  He told me that his grandfather George had been employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in Montana, along with George's father and brothers.  Seems George and his brothers made a little extra on the side by selling brass they stole from the railroad.  George apparently sold to the wrong person, and managed to discover his mistake shortly before his impending arrest, making a midnight move with Rena and little Helen west to the Yakima Valley, where they likely hid out at the home of George's cousin, Charles WESTABY.  If they weren't exactly in transit when the census was taken, it is certain that neither Charles nor his wife would have divulged to a government employee (i.e. census enumerator) that they were harboring a fugitive from the law!

And I did uncover another Mary Jane's Secret this year...I think.  Mary Jane BARBER, my great-grandmother and daughter of Mary Jane FREDENBURG mentioned above, was married many times.  In fact, she apparently was married so many times, even her family members may not have known the exact count.  My records show she first married my great-grandfather, Howard Merkel YORK, when she was only 14 years old, in 1924.  That unhappy union ended three years later.  Mary Jane later married her step-brother, Archie Louis KELLER, when both were in their thirties.  After that divorce, Mary Jane married what we had believed to be her third husband, Jay DUNLAP.  It was my searching for Mary Jane in the 1930 Federal Census that led to my theory that there was another husband between Howard and Archie.  Since I couldn't seem to find Mary Jane, I looked for her older brother Jim.  I found a man with his name, the right age, birthplace and parents' birthplaces in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  Coincidentally, there's also a Mary Jane KUPSH in Manitowoc, age off by only one year, born in Michigan, parents born in Michigan.  Ordering Arthur KUPSH's marriage record to Mary Jane should clarify if this is my great-grandmother.  Interestingly, I asked Uncle Jim's widow if she had ever heard that her late husband and sister-in-law had lived in Wisconsin.  She said no; however, Jim's widow came late into the family, as a second marriage for both Jim and herself.  She may not have known Mary Jane's Secret.

So a few Secrets uncovered...yet many more to be found!  So put away those laces, satins and silks...give me dusty documents, faded photographs (but not too faded!), or samplers stitched with my ancestress' maiden name instead:



My genealogy gift list for myself (and for you!) is to uncover a few more family secrets in 2007...a few more surprises, a few more times exclaiming "so THAT's where they were!" and many more genealogy happy dances to jig!

Merry Christmas!
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