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June 30, 2019

Finding Sydney Phoenix (End)

Writing up a summary for this mystery quest is a challenge. There are many unknowns, mainly due to the various discrepancies in the records found. Due to time limitations I cannot continue with this genealogy research, as much as I'd love to!

Just before I summarize my findings, there are a few miscellaneous records that will no doubt be of interest.

Miscellaneous Records

A search for Olive Rodman (remember her from the 1871 census?) found her in the 1850 Hopewell, Ontario County New York census with daughter Laura (who later married David Phoenix)

Rodman, Isaac, 52, b. Rhode Island
Olive 50, b Massachusetts <--in 1871 living with David and Laura Phoenix
VanRensellaer, 24 b New York
Mary, 8 b New York
Lavina/Lavinia, 21, b New York <--in 1871 living with David and Laura Phoenix
Lydia,18, b New York
Laura, 15, b New York <--married David Phoenix

Marriages in Ontario
  • Hannah Phoenix, age 50, daughter of David Phoenix and Laura Eveline, married 1916 George Fountain
  • Mildred Phoenix, daughter of David Phoenix and Laura Rodman married 1908 Archie William Smith
  • Almeda Phoenix, daughter of David Phoenix and Laura married 1894 Isaac Bird
  • Maud Phoenix, daughter of David Phoenix and Laura Rodney [sic] married 1913 Alfredo Cabrera
  • Mary E. Phoenix, daughter of David Phoenix & Sarah married 1897 Thomas F.R. Logan.
  • Clifford Charles Phoenix,40, son of Sidney Phoenix and Maud Bird married 1937 Mary Florence Miller  <--He claims he is Pearl's brother but they do not name the same parents
  • Pearl Myrtle Phoenix, 23, married 1919 Joseph Edwin Brown. On the Marriage Certificate Pearl's parents are noted in one spot as David Phoenix and Myrtle. In a second spot on the certificate her parents are noted as Archive Smith & Mildred Phoenix <--was Pearl the illegitimate daughter of Mildred Phoenix? But why did she list David Phoenix in a second spot on the cert?

It appears that Sidney Phoenix was the son of David Phoenix who according to various records was born in Missouri (possibly St. Louis) circa 1832. In 1854 (location not known) David married Laura Rodman who was born circa 1835 in New York to Isaac and Olive Rodman.

It is possible, but not proven, that David Phoenix's father was Alex Phoenix born ca 1794 in New York and married in 1834 to an unknown woman.

No record was found of a marriage for Sidney Phoenix. No record was found for his presumed wife Maud Bird but it must be noted that there is only one record that names her, and that is Clifford Phoenix's marriage certificate. Since he provides different names for his mother on other records it is possible he did not know her name.

We do know that Sidney Phoenix appears to have lived most of his life in London Ontario. Although he has not yet been found in the 1891 census we can use the 1891 City Directory as a census substitute to place him in London Ontario with other family members.


Descendants or others who are interested have many new clues and pieces of information to guide further research. Given the confusion as to various family relationships I suggest a DNA test may assist the research into this family.

I suggest any interested descendants take what I have found, and look for more. Try variations of surnames and wide range of each individual's birth years when you search. Analyze each record you find for clues. Go back over my findings and note the clues I found - but check for others as well.

Go slow. Be methodical. Be careful to note names, dates etc exactly as written even if you are positive they are wrong. Come up with theories and hunt for evidence to prove or disprove each one.

If you found it helpful to see my research or the process I used to find information, please consider a donation to support my continuing to bring free genealogy online for all.

This is a 4 part series so to find each article, click on the "Finding Sidney Phoenix" tag at the bottom of each post.

June 28, 2019

Finding Sidney Phoenix Part 3

A more generalized search for various Phoenix individuals took me to Ancestry database for Border Crossings Canada to USA where I found Clifford Phoenix in 1916. What was intriguing about the information in this record was two-fold.

Clifford stated that:
  1. Archie Smith of 749 Grey St was his brother-in-law. We know that in 1908 Archie married Mildred Phoenix, and that she claimed David Phoenix and Laura Rodman were her parents. So we are back to the impossible - that David and Laura were also Clifford's parents.  
  2. Clifford stated he had been arrested previously and spent 1 1/2 years in the Penetanguishene Reformatory on Georgian Bay Ontario. I searched in online newspapers and found that Clifford was sent to jail in 1912 for theft.
SENTENCES DUPLICATED: Four Men Given Terms for Stealing Brass and Lead from G. T. R. 
Special Despatch to The Globe. The Globe (1844-1936);Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]02 Sep 1912: 2

Clifford had also been in trouble with the law in 1911

 TWO ALLEGED BURGLARS Masks and Stolen Goods Found on Two Men--Remanded to Thursday
Special Despatch to The Globe. The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]27 Dec 1911: 3.
Another lesson in genealogy research is that frequently we find information about an ancestor that may upset or concern us.

CEF Database

The Canadian Expeditionary Force was my next stop. Clifford was the perfect age to enlist in WW1 and I thought it was worth a look. My efforts paid off and a large personnel file was available. I'll touch on a few of the more revealing portions but if you want to read all 58 pages for yourself, you can do so at Library and Archives Canada

Confusion Reigns

Spoiler Alert! There are many confusing and contradictory statements in Clifford's WW1 file. It is actually a good lesson in genealogy because to figure out these contradictions one would have to be patient, persevere and go methodically through all records. The determined genealogist would carefully find and note all records, copying each exactly as found, then determining which could be trusted most. To do this the genealogist has to analyze the record - who made it, who gave the information, when was the information recorded, is it a copy of an original vs an original, etc.

So let's learn what Clifford's file tells us.

He enlisted in London in September 1916 and said he lived at 729 Grey Street. His sister was Pearl Phoenix of 265 Clarence St. He gave his date of birth as 10 April 1884 which contradicts his given ages on census records. It was not unusual for recruits to lie about their ages to make themselves older but it also could be that Clifford did not know his birth year.

He says his father is dead but his mother is alive. In the space for mother's name he puts his sister Pearl.

Later in April 1917 he asks that his pay go to his mother - and provides the name "Mrs. Maud Cabrera" of 238 Clarence St. He says he will be going to live with her when he is discharged. I found from marriage records that Maud Phoenix, daughter of David and Laura Phoenix, married Alfredo Cabrera in 1913. But Maud was born circa 1884 so how could she be his mother?

Clifford's file shows that he was often in trouble and either fined or in military jail for several offenses:
  • 5 days for going AWOL in 1917
  • 20 days for malingering
  • 5 days for... and 3 days for going AWOL
  • 5 days for "committing a nuisance in camp (Urinating)"
  • 28 days for 1. Disobeying orders and being out of bounds without a pass 2. destroying property of 3 comrades (clothing)
  • 10 days for leaving work without permission, disobeying orders, and being found in Montmerrie without a pass. 
A notation on his file states he died June 5, 1959. No location was given.

My summary and a few new research findings are next. This is a 4 part series so to find each article, click on the "Finding Sidney Phoenix" tag at the bottom of each post.

June 26, 2019

Finding Sidney Phoenix Part 2

In Part 1 of Finding Sidney Phoenix, we found Sidney's parents, and possible maternal grandmother. We also discovered 11 siblings that we could research for more clues. But it's time for me to keep going with census records.

More Census Records

As a reminder, the Phoenix family was found in London Ontario area in 1871 and 1881. Checking 1861 census found them living in Ellice Township, Perth County, which is not far from London.

The family consisted of:

Phoenix David, 29 born Missouri, married 1854
Laura 20, born New York
George 3, born Canada West (present day Ontario)
Catherine 2, born Canada West
Alex, 67 born New York married 1834 <-- I suggest Alex could be David's father
Anna, 30 born New York

They are further recorded as 1 widow (Anna?) & 6 coloured

It's always difficult to stay on track and conduct a methodical search when you find exciting clues! For example, we now have Alex Phoenix born circa 1794 in New York, married in 1834, who I suggest is a good possibility to be David Phoenix's father. The urge to go off track, leave the census records, and start looking for Alex is strong!

We also have the find of Olive Rodman born circa 1796 in USA who I suggest is a good possiblity to be Laura Phoenix' s mother. As much as I want to find more about her I know I should stick to going through the census records looking for David Phoenix and wife Laura, as well as the elusive Sidney Phoenix. After all, he is the subject of our quest!

So, to speed things up, below are the various census records I found for the family in my search. Be aware that there are discrepancies and confusion with these records.

1901 Census London Ontario
Phoenix, Liza? (Laura?) A. 63, head <--I suggest this is Laura, widow of David Phoenix
Rodman Lavina? b USA 72, boarder
Phoenix, Hry? L? son 39, widower <--it is difficult to read his name and I do not know how he fits into the family
Phoenix, Mildred, gr-dau, 24 <-- is she listed as a granddaughter in error? David and Laura Phoenix had a daughter Mildred born circa 1876
Phoenix, Maud, gr-dau, 20 <-- is this an error recording her as a granddaughter? Could she be the Almeda found in the 1881 census as a daughter of David and Laura?
Pearl M. , gr-dau, 6
Cliff C. , gr-son,5

1911 Census London Ontario

Phoenix, Laura, widow, 70
Phoenix, Hannah, 34
Phoenix, Maud, 26
Phoenix, Livinia, 25
Phoenix, Clifford, 15 <-- he is marked as Laura's son but this does not seem likely as Laura would have been 55 at his birth

Unfortunately Sidney was not found in the 1891 census. However he is found on 372 Hill street in the 1891 City Directory for London City along with his mother Laura A. and siblings Frederick and Hannah.

This is a 4 part series so to find each article, click on the "Finding Sidney Phoenix" tag at the bottom of each post.

June 24, 2019

Finding Sidney Phoenix Part 1

Who were Sidney Phoenix and Maud Bird's parents? That was the question asked by Mike D. on a Genealogy group. Mike didn't have much information but here is his query:
Looking for the names of the parents for Sidney Phoenix and Maud Bird.I do believe he passed away in 1899 in London Ontario,I looked in Family Search for his birth registration;but did not see anything;also the census for 1891 and could not find anything.
What Mike didn't realize is that Vital Records did not begin in Ontario until 1869 so it is unlikely he would find Sidney's birth online. Church records would be the most likely place to look.This query intrigued me so I began researching to try to find Sidney and Maud.

It didn't take long to find Sidney's death registration which provided a bit more information. He is recorded as Sidney William Phoenix and he died of pneumonia on 6 December 1899 in London, Middlesex Co. Ontario at age 39 years, 6 months. We can then estimate Sidney's birth as circa 1860/1861. His residence was 273 Burwell St. and he was a Baptist. Baptist records are challenging to find so I decided to look for Sidney in the available directories and census records on Ancestry

City Directories

My next step was to check Foster’s London City and Middlesex County Directory, 1897-1898 to see if Sidney could be found. He was listed as a labourer living at 487 Nelson. Also recorded at the same address was Hannah Phoenix. I noted other Phoenix individuals in case they turn out later to be related: Laura, a teacher, at 47 Oak and William at the same address. Sarah A., widow of Matthew was at 589 King

Other City Directories confirmed that Sidney was living in London in 1894, 1897, 1898, 1899 on Nelson and in 1900 at 273 Burwell. Another interesting tidbit found in the Directories is that in 1900 a Mrs. David Phoenix is living with Sidney on Burwell St. 

In the 1888 Voters' List we find Sidney in London. That's a good clue that he may possibly be found in 1881 and 1891 in the census for London.
Census Records

Sidney was easily found in London Ontario in 1881 as 15 year old Sydney Wm. living with parents David and Laura Phoenix. Laura, his mother, could be the Mrs. David Phoenix living with Sidney in 1900 and also the Laura Phoenix found in earlier directories.

Here is Sidney's family in 1881. It was very challenging to read where the family members were born and all their ages.

David, 42, b. USA, porter, African
Laura E. 37 b. USA <-- is this the Laura found at 47 Oak St and the Mrs. David living with Sidney in 1900?
Catherine V., 19
Charlotte A, 17
Hannah A 16? <--is this the Hannah living with Sidney in 1898?
Sydney Wm. 15
Frederick E. 8
Francis Eliza 6
Mildred 5?
Mary 4?
Almeda 2?

Working backwards, I then found Sidney in 1871 living in Westminster (part of London) Middlesex County

The family was recorded as:

Phoenix David, 37 b. USA
Phoenix Laura 36 (or 26?) b USA
Phoenix George 13
Phoenix Catherine 12
Phoenix Charlotte 10
Phoenix Augusta 7 <--I suspect this is Hannah A from the 1881 census
Phoenix Wiliam 5 <-- this is why we should always search under first and middle names, for here is Sidney recorded by his middle name
Phoenix Frederick 3
Phoenix Wilbur 3 months
Rodman, Olive 85 b USA <-- I've been doing genealogy long enough to suspect that Olive could be Laura's mother
Rodman Lavina 40 b USA

Analyzing What We Have Found

1. Sidney William Phoenix date of birth is flexible - from 1860 to 1866. He uses first and middle names interchangeably

2. Sidney's mother Laura was probably living with him in London Ontario in 1900. We should look for her in the 1901 census.

3. I suggest that Laura's maiden name was Rodman and that Olive Rodman born circa 1786 USA was her mother. I need to hunt for Olive in census and death records. I could also try City Directories.

4. Laura's date of birth is circa 1844 while David's is circa 1839. David and Laura are Sidney's parents. I need to hunt for them in census, marriage, and death records. City Directories could also help.

5. I still need to check earlier census records for Sidney and/or his parents David and Laura. Of course I also need to see if I can find Sidney in 1891.

6. It appears little Wilbur, 3 months old in 1871, could have died before 1881 as he is missing from that census. Perhaps we can find more about him or his possible death. Don't assume that he died however. He could be living with relatives. 

7. Lastly we've learned the names of 11 of Sidney's siblings! This is crucial for genealogists as we should always search siblings for more clues. Elder parents could be living with one of the siblings, and finding them could provide more detail. Grandparents could be living with one of the siblings. There may be an obit for a sibling that provides genealogical information.

Part 2 coming soon so stay tuned to find out more about Sidney Phoenix. This is a 4 part series so to find each article, click on the "Finding Sidney Phoenix" tag at the bottom of each post.

June 19, 2019

Have You Found an Ancestor's Coffin Plate?

May 15, 1790 Coffin Plate Manufacturer's Ad

The history of Coffin Plates or casket plates is a long but not very well documented one. Coffin plates are decorative adornments attached to the coffin that contain free genealogical information like the name and death date of the deceased.

Coffin Plate Thomas Dalton 1829
Generally made of a soft metal like lead, pewter, silver, brass, copper, zinc or tin. The different metals reflect the different functions of the plates, or the status and wealth of the deceased. For a basic funeral, a simple lead plate would be lettered with the name, date of death and often the age of the departed, and nailed to the lid of a wooden coffin. But high status people could afford a plate of a more expensive metal and elaborate design.

The oldest coffin plates that I have seen date from the 17th century (1600~1699) and were at that time reserved for people of some stature. As time went on more people were able to afford the luxury of a Coffin Plate and with the coming of the industrial revolution the cost of the plates went down so much that by the middle of the 19th century almost every family could afford to have one put on the coffin of their loved one. FN1

Some of Brian L. Massey's private collection of Coffin Plates
These are just the start of the over 150 coffin plates that are online on Ancestors At Rest.

Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestGeo W Abbott 1860~1879 Found in U.S.A.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestHenry M Adams 1838~1900 Found in U.S.A.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestSarah A Adams 1824~1877 Found in U.S.A.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestSophia Jane Aitcheson 1862~1904 Wellington County Ontario.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestSamual Adam 1799~1874
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestLucy Andrews 1790~1869
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestRobert Andrews 1786~1870
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestLauuelina Jane Armand 1841~1866 Massachusetts.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestMary M Atherton Found in New England
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestWilbert Avery 1860~1890 Found in Massachusetts.

Continue searching for your ancestor at Index to Coffin Plates

FN1Important Note: Brian L. Massey wrote this article and more, all of which is published on his website. It was taken without permission and posted verbatim on Wikipedia. Trying to get it taken down has been unsuccessful.

June 17, 2019

Genealogy Tip: Do the Basics Before Asking for Help

Peter posted this query in a group I am in. He didn't get any responses so I thought I'd take a look.
I  looking for any information about my fourth great grand parents who immigrated around 1820 to the Cavin, Peterborough area of Ontario from Ireland and were in the Orange Lodge. their names are Joseph Burns and Ann Madill. Their son John Thomas Burns was born 1838 in Cavin died 1931 in Toronto. I don't know how many other children they had. As for John I don't know his wife's name or how many children they had.
It surprised me that Peter didn't have any census record information for his family. Since the son John Thomas Burns was born ca 1838 in Ontario and died 1931 in Toronto Ontario, he should be found on the census records which were taken every 10 years - 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, and 1921 (the last publicly available census for Ontario). Many of these are free on Library and Archives Canada. Researchers can also find them on Ancestry, and some are available on FamilySearch.

So while I love a good challenging brick wall to break down, genealogists should always do basic research before asking for help. The family unit can usually be put together by getting those census records. In fact a 5 minute search of census records gave me John's wife's first name and one child.

Searching for Vital Records such as marriages and deaths after 1869 can also help determine family groups.  Another 2 minutes and I found two marriage records giving the full name of John's wife and the names of two other children.

I realize that Peter might be new to Canadian research, specifically Ontario, so I hope this blog post will lead him in the right direction to get the answers to those questions he posed. 

June 14, 2019

Autographs of Passengers on Board M.S. Batory to New York

List of Passengers M.S. Batory from Gdynia Tuesday, July 25th 1950 Copenhagen, Wednesday, July 26th Southampton, Friday, July 28th to New York

Several years ago Deborah Wade provided Olive Tree Genealogy with a transcribed list of the passengers on board MS Batory from Gdnynia.

Deborah wrote "Off and on, I collect old menus and ephemera connected with trains, cruises, airplanes/airports, etc. The passenger list I'm about to transcribe is one such item. Maybe one of the passengers will be significant to a fellow genealogist. Although this voyage was in 1950, I believe there is some history behind the Batory: I have read that it was the last Polish passenger ship to leave Poland before the Nazis gained control in the late 1930's."
Recently Kelli Phoenix sent photos of an autographed Passenger List booklet from the MS Batory.  Although the ships sailed on different days, this kind of ephemera can be very helpful.  Perhaps you will find an ancestor name or address in Kelli's photos.

June 12, 2019

A Death Too Young: Pt4 Elsie Cousins Hayword

This is the last post in the story A Death Too Young. Part 1 and any other parts of this story of the Cousins family can be found by clicking on the tag Alfred R Cousins at the bottom of this post.

Although this story was to be about Alfred R. Cousins, the young soldier killed at Gallipoli, I was curious if there might be descendants of his brother or sister who might find the finding of the photo and clipping of interest. It appears his brother Arthur may have had an illegitimate son Ronald Cousins Abrahams born 1921 in Luton, but that he had no other offspring.

But what about Alfred's older sister Elsie, the one who was to be given Alfred's cap badge after his death. Local newspapers indicate that on April 11, 1917 she married Edwin Claridge Hayward. This confirms her to be the Mrs. Elsie Hayward named in Arthur Cousin's will.

Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle - Thursday 12 April 1917

I then found Edwin and Elsie living in Luton in the 1939 UK Registers. He is recorded as born 25 September 1893, she in 1891. He is a licenced victualler and Elsie is an assistant victualler. 

Because I was searching for either Edwin or Elsie in the online records, to my surprise I found Edwin enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in Kenora Ontario in 21 December 1914. It surprised me that he didn't enlist in the UK military instead of the Canadian! But it is confirmed to be the same man as he is recorded as Edwin Claridge Hayward born 25 September 1893 in Luton. One difference is that when he enlisted he gave his occupation as "moving picture operator"

Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), 
RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4196 - 32  

Edwin's full service file (78 pages) has been digitized and is available on Library and Archives Canada. From itwe learn he saw action in France, and suffered from the deadly Spanish Influenza in 1916. There are numerous medical records for Edwin including details of hospitalization for broken glass from an engine striking his left eye and rupturing it. 

Edwin's left eye was removed and a glass eye inserted.

 After being sent to England in 1916 he received permission from the military to marry in 1917. 

Edwin's death is recorded in his service records as January 3, 1964. His will was probated on 30 April that year. Since the person named in his will was his brother Noel Stephen Hayward, we might theorize that Edwin and Elsie had no children.

 His wife Elsie died 8 April 1961 and her will was probated on 12 June that same year.

As much as it saddens me, it seems the only descendant of Alfred Cousin's parents was the illegitimate son Ronald Cousins Abrahams born 1921. Why does that sadden me? Because it does not appear he was ever recognized by his father Alfred's brother Arthur. But perhaps Ronald had descendants and with luck, one of them will find this series of blog posts with the story of the family.

As for who tucked the clipping and photo into that book, we can only guess. My intuition is that either the father, mother or sister saved such a precious memento. Over time the book likely moved from generation to generation before turning up in a local bookstore. 

If you found my research or the process I used to find information helpful, please consider a donation to support my continuing to bring free genealogy online for all. 

June 10, 2019

A Death Too Young: Pt3 Arthur Cousins

This is the continuing story of A Death Too Young. Part 1 and any other parts of this story of the Cousins family can be found by clicking on the tag Alfred R Cousins at the bottom of this post.

We learned in Part 2 that Alfred's brother Arthur almost certainly had an illegitimate son by Violet Rose Abrahams. This son was born in 1921 in Luton and named Ronald Cousins Abrahams.  He is followed in Part 2 of this story, as is the fate of his mother Violet.

I then moved on to Arthur, who originally agreed to pay for the support of his son but a year later stopped paying, and denied that he was the father. So what happened with Arthur? The last we saw of him ws 1923 when he was in court for non-payment.

We know he was in the 1891 and 1901 census of Toddington with his parents. In July 1907 at age 18 Arthur enlisted in the military in a Bedfordshire Regiment.  (Regimental Number 9107) The 1911 UK census on Ancestry indicates he was in Barracks in Aldershot, Surray with other soldiers from the 1st Battalion Infantry.

In 1912 he was promoted to Corporal and sent to France in 1914, where he remained until September 29,1915 when he was wounded. In 1916 he was discharged from the army as "no longer physically fit for war service" having suffered a gunshot wound in his right shoulder.

Page 1 of 11 pages of Arthur's service files

Moving on to the 1939 UK Register we find Arthur John Cousins with birth date of 28 February 1889 living on Chapel Street in Luton. He is single and states his occupation as a master builder.

His death date is found in England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995 as 24 October 1959 and his probated will was registered in London England on 4 December that year. He names his married sister Elsie in his will. Since no record of marriage was found, we might  theorize that he never married. Also from this probate it might also be theorized that he never acknowledged Ronald Cousins Abrahams as his son. 

There's one more blog post on this story. Check back in a few days to read the final post.

June 7, 2019

A Death Too Young: Pt 2 Arthur & Violet

This is the continuing story of A Death Too Young. Part 1 and any other parts of this story of the Cousins family can be found by clicking on the tag Alfred R Cousins at the bottom of this post.

Although this story was to be about Alfred R. Cousins, the young soldier killed at Gallipoli, I was curious if there might be descendants of his brother or sister who might find the finding of the photo and clipping of interest. Further research revealed that his older brother Arthur was the subject of a complaint filed in 1922 stating that he was not paying support money owed for his child by one Violet R. Abrahams.

Violet claimed that Arthur, age 34, was spending the agreed on money of 7s 6d weekly on movies and another woman. 

 Luton Reporter 12 September 1922

 The Luton Reporter also had this to report about Arthur and Violet. Arthur denied the child was his; Violet insisted it was. Arthur stated he was out of work so could not continue to pay the money as he had since the previous year. (As an observer reading this I have to wonder why Arthur would agree to pay in the first place if he didn't know the child was his.....)

The case was far from over, for in September 1923 Arthur was in court and we learn that he began paying the money for this child in August 1921.

Luton Reporter 24 August 1923

But who was the child? A search of FreeBMD revealed that a Ronald C. Abrahams born in Luton to a mother whose surname was Abrahams, was registered in September 1921. What happened to Ronald? Did he live to marry and have children? It would certainly be interesting if anyone descended from Ronald took a DNA Test to see if they matched to the Cousins family.

Further searches revealed a Ronald Cousins Abrahams born 24 June 1921 dying November 1989 in Luton. A search of the 1939 U.K. Register also found Ronald C. Abrahams age 21 living with his maternal grandparents. Recall that in one of her complaints, Violet stated that her parents had to look after her child. Violet had previously married in 1926 so possibly her son Ronald was sent to live with his grandparents at that time.

In 1952 Ronald C. Abrahams married Edith whose surname is given as both Bates and Parker. There may have been children of this marriage but privacy restrictions make it difficult to find more information from this year forward. Did Ronald know his birth father? Was Arthur Cousins the father? It certainly seems so, but let's do more research and find out what happened to Arthur.

But first, what about Violet? Violet Rose Abrahams was born in Luton in the fall of 1896. The 1901 census finds 5 year old Violet with her parents Arthur and Pollie (Mary) Abrahams and siblings Nellie age 10 , Lillie age 6, and Harry age 6 months. Also living with the family was Violet's maternal grandmother Hannah Mitchell.

1911 finds the family still in Luton with two more children, Arthur age 5 and Hilda 1 1/2 years old. Here Violet Rose is recorded by name Rose Isabella.

Further research found Violet marrying James Young in Luton in late 1926. The next record is the 1939 U.K. Register where we see the family consists of James, Violet, and their son Gordon Alexander who was born in June 1832 and is 8 years old.

It appears that Violet died in Luton in 1962. More on the family in Part 3 so be sure to check in a few days for the continuation.

June 5, 2019

The Mystery of Hilda's Foot

My friend and fellow genealogist, Katherine R. Willson posted this intriguing burial card on her Facebook page.

The burial of Hilda's foot apparently took place in Union Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1919. 

Katherine wanted to know if any of us in the genealogy community had ever seen anything like this. We had not. But of course, being avid genealogists, several of us went on a hunt for Hilda, hoping to find out what the story was behind this odd burial.

As you can probably imagine, we had a lot of guesses as to how Hilda lost her foot and perhaps more importantly, why she had it buried. Was her body destroyed in an accident and only the foot remained? Was the foot amputated for health reasons and her religious beliefs required that she bury the foot until she died and could be buried with it?

Then I found the following story in the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin) 04 Aug 1920, Wed Page 10 which explained what happened to Hilda and her foot.

Hilda died April 15, 1950 and her obituary reveals she was 66 years old. 

Milwaukee Journal Monday, Apr 17, 1950 Milwaukee, WI Page: 37

It remains a mystery as to why Hilda had her foot buried in one cemetery and her body in another.

June 3, 2019

A Death Too Young - the Story of Alfred R. Cousins

Over on Twitter Olive Tree Genealogy was lucky enough to spot a tweet from Stephen who posted a photo of a handsome young soldier.

Stephen's tweet read:

A photo from 1915 along with a newspaper clipping about the guy featured fell out of an old book I bought today.

Stephen later added in a private message to me, that the book, King Edward's Realm, had a leather embossed cover and gilt lettering on the spine. It makes sense that it would be kept and passed on from generation to generation. Books are not something most of us would throw out, especially one that special.

Someone tucked this photo into the book where it probably lay, forgotten over the passage of time.
The photo of this young soldier intrigued and saddened me. I wanted to know more about him and his family. And I wanted the world to remember him! Alfred should not be forgotten.

 Someone cared enough about him to keep his photo and death notice tucked safely away in a book. 

I asked Stephen permission to post the photo and newspaper clipping on Olive Tree Genealogy blog, and on my Lost Faces website.  He kindly agreed.

 The tattered newspaper clipping that was in the book mentioned that young Alfred was killed at Gallipoli, that disastrous and bloody campaign of 1914-1915 that saw almost 57,000 Allied troops killed and 124,000 wounded.

A search of military casualities from WW1 found that Alfred was killed 22 August 1915. He is listed as Alfred Richard Cousins from Luton England. At the time of his death he was a Private in the 5th Batallion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. Regimental Number 4461

The UK Army Register of Soldier's Effects records that Alfred's father received money in pounds, shillings and pence of 5-13-10 on December 21, 1915 and again of 3 pounds on September 20, 1919.

The Compliments of the Season from (Pte) Alfred R. Cousin
(to) H. Smith Esq. 

On 20 September 1915 the Luton Reporter carried the news of Alfred's death.

Another story of Alfred's death was published in  Luton Times and Advertiser on Friday 10 September 1915 in which a letter is mentioned. It was written by the soldier who was talking to him at the moment the shell struck and killed him and in the letter he encloses Alfred's cap badge to be given to the sister Elsie as a remembrance of her brother.

Sapper Russell Gregory, who was with the 1st Signal Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers, wrote to his parents on August 25, 1915:  "I was talking with him [Pte Cousins] two mornings ago when a shell burst and killed him instantly. I got his cap badge off his hat, and I thought if I sent it home to you, you would ask Hilda to give it to his sister, with whom she used to work, so they can at least have a remembrance of the noble death he died."

A brief mention of Alfred's death was found in the Luton Reporter on Monday 01 May 1916 where it was mentioned that "one of their Sunday School teachers, Alfred Cousins, had given his life for his country" And so we learn a few more things about young Alfred and his short life.

Alfred's last letter dated August 20, 1915 was written two days before he was killed and is a poignant reminder of how fleeting life can be. In it he wrote: "The regiment is progressing well, but I am afraid to mention anything about them is to ask for the thick black line of the censor across it. The only thing I can say is that I am more than proud of them."

Alfred's story begins with his birth in Bedfordshire in October 1894. His father was  Richard Alfred Cousins, born circa 1860 in St. Ives. His mother was Elizabeth Shelton who Richard married in 1888.

A very nice write-up of their marriage appeared in the Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette on Tuesday 19 June 1888

 It appears that little Alfred's mother Elizabeth may have died when Alfred was born because she is noted in the Bedfordshire Times and Independent on Saturday 20 October 1894 as having died ate age 32 on October 9, 1894. In 1900 father Richard married Susan Sharp.

In the 1911 census of Luton we find the family as Richard 51, Susan 53, Elsie 19, Aflred R., 16 and a niece Rose Mabel Dodsen age 22. The census notes that Susan and Richard had no children and had been married 10 years. Father Richard is a caretaker at a local church, Elsie was a milliner and Alfred was a clerk. The family lived in a 5-room home on Chapel Street in Luton Bedfordshire.

1911 Census from

In March 1945 Alfred's father died. Could he have been the person who tucked his son's photo and death notice in the book? Perhaps it was Alfred's older sister Elsie? Alfred also had an older brother Arthur J. Cousins born circa 1889. British Army Pensions Records from WW1 reveal that Arthur also enlisted in the military but survived the war. He gives his mother's name as Lilly so perhaps Richard married several times or Lilly was Elizabeth's nickname.

Although this story was to be about Alfred, I was curious if there might be descendants of his brother or sister who might find the finding of the photo and clipping of interest. Further research revealed that Arthur was the subject of a complaint filed in 1922 stating that he was not paying support money owed for his child by one Violet R. Abrahams.

I'll continue this story of Alfred and his family in Part 2 of A Death Too Young