Friday, July 20, 2012

Henrietta Louise Holder’s Story* [Sometimes Things Are Not What They Seem]

I receive a lot of questions about brick walls so I thought I would share a rather unusual brick wall story from my own family.

Henrietta was the sister of one of my direct ancestors so she was of course of interest to me. I wanted to at least gather the basic information and hopefully write a short bio on her. What I found was a complete dead-end.

According to the 1870 and 1880 censuses, she was born about 1864 and was living with her parents and siblings. After searching the county marriage records, I found her 1882 marriage to Douglas Madison Crandall*. I then went to the 1900 census to try and find Douglas and Henrietta as a married couple. What I found was an unexpected surprise. Douglas was living with his parents and listed as a widower. Not good.

I wanted to know if Douglas remarried so the 1910 census was also checked. There he was with second wife Ella*. The census recorded that he had been married for 8 years. I found Douglas’ grave in the family cemetery but there was no marker for Henrietta. It appeared I was at a complete dead end. The census clearly showed that Henrietta was dead [right?]. There were no death certificates for this state for the time period when she would have died and I couldn't find her in any of the local cemeteries. I thought I was done. I was able to detail her life somewhat. I knew who her parents were and I knew who she married. I also knew they had three children with husband Douglas [two sons were listed on the 1900 census with their widowed father and a daughter, who had died at age 4 months, was found in the family cemetery].

The breakthrough was an email I received from one of Henrietta’s direct descendants. She had seen some of my Holder memorials on Find-A-Grave and knew I was tied to Henrietta’s line somehow. She asked if I happened to have a photograph of Henrietta. I told her I didn’t but I sent her two photos of Henrietta’s brother. The return email was a shocker. Henrietta didn’t die until 1931. Where had she been then? Henrietta had been declared insane in 1899 and was sent to the state hospital where she remained until her death. This was totally unexpected and it again showed me not to assume anything. This descendant sent me copies of all of the court documents as well as Henrietta’s medical records from the state hospital. It was an absolute goldmine of information.

Henrietta had been buried in the state hospital in an unmarked grave. I was now able to order a death certificate for her. I went back to the county clerk and requested a divorce decree and Douglas’ license for his second marriage. I had so much more information about her now that I was able to write a nice bio. I still have a lot of unanswered questions about Henrietta but you never know, another unexpected email might hold the answers.

*The names have been changed in this article at the request of the direct descendants

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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