06 March 2017

The Family Reunion of Mrs. Lavina F. Lovelace

What genealogist doesn't love a good family reunion? But have you ever thought to look in local newspaper society pages for announcements about family reunions? I know I hadn't. But in small communities, such events didn't escape public notice. That interest is reflected in the local press and newspapers of the time. And given the proximity of many of these newspapers to the missing 1890 census, the information they hold about families can be the most complete record in existence of a family.

Such was the case for Mrs. Lavina "Fannie" Lovelace, wife of William E. Lovelace. Born Frances Warson, she married her husband in Rockingham County, North Carolina on 27 February 1855. Most (if not all) of their children were born in Rockingham County. Some time in the 1880s or early 1890s, they moved to Alamance County, North Carolina. They settled in the Graham/Haw River area, where they remained until their deaths. They are both buried in Linwood Cemetery.

Because of the missing 1890 census, the only census in which their younger children would have appeared together, it would be easy to assume all of the children have been located. The 1900 census also isn't much help, because of how the family or informant answered the question. Fannie had no less than eight children by 1900, with at least one of them being deceased. When asked by the census taker how many children she had and how many were living, the informant answered for the two she had living at home. If the informant was a neighbor, that would have been a reasonable response, albeit an incorrect one.

1910 U.S. census, Alamance County, North Carolina, population schedule, Haw River Township, p. 16-A (written), dwelling 292, family 197, William E. Lovelace and Lavina F. Lovelace family; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Mar 2017); citing NARA Microfilm Roll: T624_1095.

The 1910 census, however, paints a more accurate picture. It says that William and Levina had 11 total children, with eight still living in 1910. Up until recently, I had documented from these (and other) census records only eight total children, with one deceased.

  1. Cora A. Lovelace Doyle (1861-1901)
  2. Sallie L. Lovelace Ziegler (1866- ?)
  3. Mary M. Lovelace Burch (1869-1936)
  4. Etta D. Lovelace Ezell (1871-1945)
  5. Rhoda Lovelace Ezell (1873-1967)
  6. William W. Lovelace (1875- ?)
  7. Kate Lovelace Stapleton (1877-1958)
  8. Ida C. Lovelace (1879-1965)

According to the numbers given in 1910, I was missing one living child and two deceased children. This also gives me a reasonable confirmation of what I have long suspected about William Lovelace being among those deceased. But how to find the living child, especially if it happens to be a daughter? If she was born in the early 1880s, she would have been of marrying age by 1900, which would explain why she would be missing.

At least, that should have been my logic. But I was actually missing the 1910 census until today. Ancestry's index was only mildly wrong until someone came along and "corrected" it, making it worse. In the hands of the census taker, Levina F Lovelace became "Levina F Lovlass." To the transcribers, it morphed into Levina F Lauless. At last, it was "corrected" to read "Lenine F Laulass," making it all but unobtainable via the search form. I eventually had to manually bring it up by searching all names beginning with L in Graham and Haw River in Alamance County.

In the immortal words of Adele,
"If you're gonna let me down, let me down gently"

No, the confirmation about this missing daughter was much more luck on my part than that level of actual skill. It came as I was exploring newspaper articles on Newspapers.com. Up until now, I haven't been very impressed with their selection. But with recent acquisitions, their database has become a much better resource for many of the areas related to my research. Alamance County, North Carolina in particular has a great collection of papers there. Having discovered that, I was jumping around on their newspaper location map, systematically checking all of the local papers close to Graham. Thankfully I had long since untangled the incorrect Loveless spelling I had previously been using, or I might have missed them.

Searching for Lovelace on in Graham's The Alamance Gleaner and The Twice a Week Dispatch of Burlington reveals quite a few treasures. In the Dispatch of 31 January 1912, we find an announcement in the Haw River items that William E. Lovelace "continues very feeble he is an old vet." He later passed away in early February of that same year. I'm hoping that closer examination will produce a death notice.

But of greater relevance to the question of their children, I found announcements from the Gleaner for not one, but two family reunions. The first was printed 24 August 1916. The second was three years later on 20 November 1919. 

The Alamance Gleaner, digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/title_3265/the_alamance_gleaner/ : 6 March 2017) citing "Reunion of Lovelace Family" (Graham, NC) The Alamance Gleaner, 24 Aug 1916, p. 3, col. 1.

The Alamance Gleaner, digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/title_3265/the_alamance_gleaner/ : 6 March 2017) citing "Family Reunion" (Graham, NC) The Alamance Gleaner, 20 Nov 1919, p. 3, col. 2.

Both give a list of the surviving female siblings of this family, under their married names. Notice the name of Ellen Crompton. I've paired her up here already with Mrs. W. C. Browning of Greensboro because they're the same person. But when I searched through marriage records for Ellen Lovelace Crumpton after finding the 1916 announcement, I didn't find squat. I suspected it was because Crompton was spelled wrong. After a while, I got frustrated and decided to regroup. I found the second announcement, and decided to explore the theory that Ellen Crompton and Mrs. W. C. Browning were the same person. But to prove it, I would need additional records.

Sibling List, 1916Sibling List, 1919
Mrs. A. J. Burch of Spencer, NCMrs. A. J. Burch of Spencer, NC
Mrs. T. M. Ezell of Graham, NCMrs. T. M. Ezell of Graham, NC
Mrs. C. L. Ezell of Graham, NCMrs. Chas. Ezell of Graham, NC
Mrs. Leroy Zeagler of Jackson, MSMrs. L. Ziegler of Jackson, MS
Mrs. Kate StapletonMrs. W. W. Stapleton of Greensboro, NC
Mrs. Ellen Crompton of Greensboro, NC
(and daughter, Fannie)
Mrs. W. C. Browning of Greensboro, NC
Mrs B. M. Cheek Mrs. B. M. Cheek of Graham, NC

My first thought was to look for Greensboro city directories. I've been around the block a few times in North Carolina, and had the vague sense that they were around. As it turns out, Greensboro is an awesome place to look for city directories. Multiple websites and repositories have published them, and they cover a pretty consistent window from 1879-1963. Since the first family reunion was in 1916, I decided to check there first, and branch forward in time. Under Crompton, I found nothing. But under Crumplin, I found two familiar names:

Mrs. Ellin Crumplin h 5 12th W. O. Mills
Miss Fannie Crumplin h 5 12th W. O. Mills

Out of curiosity, I decided to look under Browning to see what I could find. I wasn't disappointed.

William C. Browning, weaver h 64 20th W. O. Mills

I checked the surrounding directories for 1912, 1913, 1917, 1918, and 1920. Ellen and Fannie do not show up in any earlier entries under Crumplin or its variants. They also disappear in 1917 and 1918, with no further appearance of Fannie. William Clarence Browning appears consistently in each set of directories. In 1920, in the first set of directories to use this parenthetical convention, his line changes.

W Clarence Browning (wife) mill head h 19 12th, W. O. Mills

To be sure, I checked the North Carolina marriage records on Ancestry.com for Ellen Lovelace Crumplin and William Clarence Browning. Almost immediately, their marriage record appeared.

"North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011," database, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60548: accessed 6 Mar 2017), citing Guilford County, North Carolina, marriage bond, (1918), William C. Browning and Ellen Crumpton; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC.

This time, Ellen appears with the surname Crumpton, married 15 Jun 1918 to William C. Browning, son of William H. and Ethel Browning. (Note: William H. Browning appears on the city directories with his son, also connected to W. O. Mills as a mill head.) 

The marriage record index on Ancestry lists Ellen's parents as "Milon" and "Lizzie" Lovelace. Examining the image, however, the names appear as a mangled form of William, and "Fannie."

The 1890 census is a lost cause for many. But that doesn't mean the information it held is also gone forever. Even if it means wading through a river of misspelled or mistranscribed names. Not having a correct name to search with never has to keep us from filling in the gaps.

02 March 2017

Bertie May Price Doyle: A Gold Star Mother

In studying military research, many times it's the male servicemen that receive all of the recognition in genealogy. With the accessibility of service records, it's easy to allow their experiences to shape the stories that are told and remembered. But no service man or woman exists in isolation. Behind every member of the military is a family who share in their loved one's sacrifices. For Bertie Price Doyle, that sacrifice took many forms during World War II.

Image courtesy of
Wikimedia Commons
The tradition of the gold star began in World War I. Families would display a flag or banner with a blue star on it for every serviceman they had away from home. For those who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for their country, the blue star would be traded out for a gold star. Since that time, many different organizations supporting "gold star" families have been established. Beginning with the Gold Star Wives, that support has since expanded to all immediate family members who lose someone in wartime conflict.

Charles "Charlie" Miller Doyle and Bertie Price Doyle had several sons who served in the military. Clarence Monroe Doyle was their oldest son to serve. He enlisted on the 27th of December 1940, just under a year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Charlie died in Wicomico County, Maryland in the summer of 1942, leaving Bertie to face the family's coming tragedy as a widow.

In April 1943, Clarence Doyle was declared missing in North Africa. Notably, this comes at the tail end of the fighting in that region. The Allies were making crucial ground on that front. A strategic fight to solidify the Allies' access to middle-eastern oil fields, control of North Africa would change the direction of the war. The fighting in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Morocco resulted in overwhelming losses for Italian and German forces stationed in that region. The heaviest casualties for the Allies in the North African campaigns were with the British armed forces. American casualties make up one of the smallest percentages of the total lives lost in North Africa. Nevertheless, every single one of them was still felt to the families on the home front.

The Daily Times, digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/title_838/the_daily_times/ : 2 March 2017) citing "Pocomoke Soldier Missing in Action" (Salisbury, MD) The Daily Times, 21 June 1943, p. 1, col. 8.

By June 1943, news of Clarence's disappearance had reached his home on the Maryland eastern shore. Here, my attention turns to Bertie. We've all seen the scenes in movies where government issued vehicles drive down country dirt roads in war time, where everyone secretly prays they'll go to someone else's house. A soldier goes to the door to deliver a telegram, announcing that a loved one is either missing, dead, or a prisoner of war. As I contemplated what it meant for Bertie to get this news, to be told Clarence was missing instead of dead, my heart broke for her. How long did she hold onto the hope that Clarence would still come home? When did she change her star from blue to gold?

I ask because as of July 1944, the newspaper at home was still reporting Clarence as missing, not wounded or killed in action. The fervency of that hope is tangible to me all these years later, that desperate determination that life should prevail over death and destruction.

The Daily Times, digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/title_838/the_daily_times/ : 2 March 2017) citing "202 Easter Shoremen Killed, Wounded or Missing in World War No.2" (Salisbury, MD) The Daily Times, 18 July 1944, p. 1, col. 7.

Clarence Monroe Doyle was eventually declared Killed in Action, his death date given as 30 April 1943. Even if this is a rough estimate, this would place him at the final showdown between the German forces and General George Patton at the Battle of El Guettar and its aftermath. An artillery battle in the Tunisian desert, the scene would have been one of explosions, heat, sand, and blood. After a prolonged struggle against the superior firepower and experience of the German Panzer Division, the only thing that could help the Americans to turn things around was British reinforcements and a change in American leadership. Under the command of General Patton, the once superior German forces were gradually outmaneuvered, and squeezed into positions of disadvantage. Eventually, the Americans had them surrounded. Assuming that the date of Clarence Doyle's death is accurate, he died less than two weeks before the German surrender on 13 May 1943.

U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962, digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2590 : 2 March 2017) for "Clarance M. Doyle," citing Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92. The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.

According to the documentation that accompanies his plot in Baltimore National Cemetery, it appears that his remains were returned and interred in 1948. Given the isolated onslaught of the campaign in Tunisia, I have a hard time envisioning any kind of organized burial for the men who died in battle. Many of them were incinerated or obliterated in tanks, with no remains to speak of. Many perished and remained where they fell in the desert, where their unidentifiable bodies are found by locals to this day. I'd be interested to read about any concerted efforts the United States made to identify remains in Tunisia after the war. But I find it difficult to imagine a scenario in which Clarence's actual remains return from Africa, as opposed to an honorary burial.

I don't know how much of this Bertie would have been told. But knowing that she carried this pain makes me a feel a powerful love and empathy for her. She was a gold star mother. I had no sense of what that meant before I did this research. Part of me will never understand. But when I was searching for images for this post and I came across The Freedom Wall memorial for World War II, my reaction to the image is overwhelming. One of these stars represents Clarence, and the pain of a family who mourned his passing.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One of these stars tells a story from my heritage that had been forgotten... until now.