Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Case of the Evasive Ancestor

Yesterday, I talked about the path toward finding my great-grandmother (and her mother).  I had finally found a big clue, which was that my great-grandmother's maiden name was probably Silliman, not Stillman, but I still hadn't found her on a census record.

After searching a bit, I discovered my great-great grandfather, J.W. Silliman, was Jervis W. Silliman.

Finally, I found this 1887 Washington Territory census:
Emma Silliman, with her four children: William, Olla, Frank, and Maud
They were at the top of the page, so I looked at the previous page to see if Jervis was there.  I found him at the bottom of a page, but not the previous one in this batch.  He was in a different census book (enumerated two days earlier).  Both Emma and Jervis were enumerated in Spokane Falls, so I am unclear about why he was in a different location.

In 1889, they're all in the household, except the oldest boy, William, who would have been 16.
J.W., Emily, Ollie, Frank, Maud Silliman
Now that I had established Maud's parentage and found that she was in Washington shortly after she was born, I took another look for her on the 1900 census.

I didn't find Emma.  Instead, I found this:
Jervis Silliman, Widowed, and his son Frank.
Emma was dead?  What happened to Maud?  I knew she wasn't dead, because if she were, I wouldn't be here.  So where was she?

I consulted the Washington State Archives Database, looking for Emma's death record.  I couldn't find one, but vital records were spotty in the early days of the state. I tried searching under different last names, and then I tried searching for Maud's marriage record, thinking maybe that would help me figure out who her guardian was.

Searching marriages and the last name Silliman, I found this:
Say WHAT?!?!
The first line links to an image of the marriage certificate.  The highlighted line links to an image of the marriage return, which is much more interesting.
Most of what Emma claims on this form is true.
While it's true that Emma was widowed, that was when she was married to Thomas Plews.  Since we know Jervis is still alive and kicking in 1900, and this marriage return was filled out in 1898, and we know that this will be her THIRD marriage, not her second, we can see that she was lying to the state, not to mention William Griffin, her future husband, a farmer and MINISTER.

At last, I found Maud on the 1900 census:

There she is, listed as Maud Griffin, Step Daughter to William Parter Griffin
What I haven't figured out yet is this:
For some reason, I forgot to specify I was searching for death records for W P Griffin, and instead searched on marriage records.  "Lilliman" is a typo.  It turns out the two records for 1901/02 are another marriage return and certificate for Emma and William.  It appears the two of them got married again in 1901.  I don't know why.  I emailed Lincoln County asking if they have divorce records from that time period, wondering if perhaps Emma had been caught in her lie, a divorce was obtained, and then a "real" marriage took place, but I haven't heard back from them, so I don't know yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment