Grandfathers – An Update

With the release of the 1950 US Census recently, I have been taking another look at what records can be found that pertain to my American families. I last blogged about my grandfathers almost 10 years ago so I thought it a good opportunity to share what I’ve found since then!

When it comes to the Stanfields (i.e., the paternal side), I am rather lucky in that I am in touch with my cousins and family who actually knew my grandfather. Through them, I have more of a personal connection. However, it’s still good to be surprised sometimes.

City Directories for Battle Creek, Michigan, showed me that Robert lived on West Van Buren in 1950:

Stanfields in Battle Creek City Directory

(Of interest here is that it was to Owen that I first wrote when trying to track down my grandfather’s family many years ago. Although he had passed away, his widow, Margarette, passed my letter to Robert’s wife Geneva. His father, Benjamin Stanley Stanfield (his widow, Ella, is living in the same house as Owen), was the brother of Robert Taylor Stanfield, the adoptive father of my grandfather.)

Knowing the address should’ve made it easy to track my grandfather down in the census. I could find the street with no problem on the enumeration district maps over on the U.S. National Archives and Defense Visual Information Distribution Service website (NARA & DVIDS), but somehow going through the EDs page by page didn’t show me the household.

Battle Creek 1950 Census EDs

Neither did they show on the 1950 US census website. However, after the transcribing had been completed over at Ancestry, up they popped. Bob, his wife Geneva and their eldest daughter, exactly where they should have been on West Van Buren!

My aunt also ended up being on one of the ‘sample’ lines (Sample Line 22) so was expected to answer the additional questions at the bottom of the page. Unfortunately, she was not quite 3 years old at the time so this produced limited information!

Whilst looking at this, I noticed a couple of new suggested records for him. One of them was a whole new marriage I hadn’t even realised was out there:

Marriage announcement from Battle Creek Enquirer

Opal was also from Battle Creek, the daughter of Aubrey Clare Crane, a factory foreman, and his wife Mildred nee Prince. Bob and Opal married in Bryan, Williams County, Ohio, but the marriage wasn’t to last too long: Opal filed for divorce two years later, citing “extreme cruelty”. The divorce wasn’t contested and was granted two months later in April 1944.

It was with some surprise, then, that I found a second divorce record for Robert before he married Geneva. Imagine the additional surprise when it showed that Robert and Opal had married for a second time in September 1944, only to divorce again in March 1946. No children are recorded from either marriage. Bob and Geneva married in December 1946.

What of Opal after this point? She moved to Troy, Illinois, with her widowed mother where in August 1947 she married James Weston Garrett.

Wedding Announcement in Battle Creek Enquirer

Opal and James eventually moved to California, where Opal died in 2003. No children are mentioned in her obituary, and James had predeceased her by almost 10 years.

I think that Bob has no more surprises for me … but who can say?!

Now on to my maternal grandfather, Ellis. I honestly thought that I had him all wrapped up. Not so.

As with Robert, I knew Ellis’ address in 1950 due to city directories. He was living in Carthage, Jasper County, Missouri, at 829 Eldorado.

Also recorded (on North Garrison Avenue) is Willard, one of Ellis’ brothers.

Ellis stubbornly refuses to be found in the 1950 census. He does, however, show up in another marriage. I had assumed that he hadn’t married again after my grandmother as he seems to have had no family at his funeral and none is mentioned. So another grandfather, another surprise.

It certainly seems to be the right Ellis Howard Adams of Carthage with the same birthday as my grandfather! But knowing that she wasn’t present at his death, I was curious about Sulvira – especially as she is down as a Mrs on the record. Was she a widow or a divorcee?

She was born in Iowa in 1910, the daughter of farmer Harley Louie Nolta and his wife Pearl Stott. She married her first husband, Clarence Newton Ward (not Ware as per the marriage certificate), in July 1930. However, Clarence had already had a child in 1929 with another lady, Ruby May Quan(d)t, but the pair didn’t marry until 1934, with it being recorded as Clarence’s second marriage. In 1932 and 1934 Sulvira is living alone in Marshalltown, Iowa so, presumably, she and Clarence had divorced by this time.

Three years later in 1937, Sulvira married her second husband: Earl Taylor Mead. By now she had left Iowa for Missouri. However, her children with Earl (Bob, Shirley and Sharon) were born back in Iowa. In 1940 the family unit included Earl’s children from his first marriage which had ended in divorce. By 1949 Earl had remarried to a lady named Velma, and in March 1952 Sulvira married Ellis.

Missouri Circuit Clerk did a search for me and a divorce doesn’t appear in their records. I assumed that it had happened in Idaho. However, A Mrs Sulvira I. Ware is listed as being a waitress, living in Long Beach, California in 1955. Sulvira next shows up in Bowling Green, Ohio in 1963, as it was from here that she divorced Ellis – for wilful neglect. I enquired of the Wood County Clerk and received a copy of the filing after a few days (which surprised me – Go Ohio!) I was interested to note two things:

The first was Ellis’ last known address – Long Beach, California. Surely that can’t be a coincidence given the possible Sulvira sighting in 1955. (Side note: Surfline Place doesn’t seem to exist anymore – buried underneath Molina Center and various parts of the California State University. The area does now host a Hooters, which I feel Ellis probably would’ve enjoyed …)

Long Beach map, 1944. Map by Thomas Brothers Maps

The second was the reason for the divorce. I admit to having a little bit of a woohoo moment as there is an oblique reference to my grandmother!

This is technically true. At least for a few months…

The file goes on to state that the couple stopped living together in July 1952 (they married in March), and that she had been a resident of Bowling Green since 1961. I do have a question about what brought her to Ohio and also why it took her so long to divorce Ellis, especially as she states that he left first.

Notice of intent to divorce, Daily Sentinel-Tribune, Thursday 01 November 1962

I believe Sulvira next pops up marrying a Canadian immigrant, King White, back in Los Angeles in March 1969. They divorced in May 1969, after which she presumably returned to Missouri where in January 1970 she married for the fifth time, to widower Henry William Highley.

Her obituary from 1988 (which exists as a transcription, but not as a scan of the original) gives her name as Sulvira Ware (actually misspelled as Severa), making no reference to any of her other marriages. She was still a resident of Carthage, Missouri.

I’m sure that there are more secrets out there to be discovered regarding Ellis. I am certain that I’m missing huge chunks of his life. I suppose he’ll be there in Idaho in the 1960 census in 10 years. But apart from fighting Idaho for records, I’m also fighting the fact that a lot of 20th-century records – especially from the latter half of the century – aren’t available, either through lack of digitisation or due to data/privacy laws.

But you know what they say: Keep a PMA…

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