Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Brick Wall for YOU

Judy G. Russell, CG, the blogger for the Legal Genealogist, posted one of her personal brick wall this week asking for help from her readership. So I thought, "Why not!" Judy's dilemma is a 20th century one and so is mine. You would think that researching people in the 20th century would be easy but that isn't always the case. I am going to present a brick wall for you and let's see if any of you can break through it for me. Yesterday I posted my Tips for Breaking Down Brick Walls and one of those tips was to lay your case out to someone that has no knowledge of the family so here we go! I think I have got the hang of HTML footnotes so you will now be able to see my sources.

Maude Swilley was born about 1903 in Mississippi to parents Ben R. Swilley and Sophronia Cameron.1 She married Lemuel A. Simmons on 12 Oct 1917 in Lamar County, Mississippi. 2 Lemuel died on 03 Nov 1926 in neighboring Forrest County. 3 Not too long before Lem died, Maude left the family never to return. After Lem died, their three children were raised by other families and all three of those children are now deceased.4 So the question is, "What happened to Maude?" I would like to know where Maude went, whether or not she remarried, and whether or not she had more children.

Here is a list of what has already been done and the results:

  • Maude was only 23 years old when she left her family and when her husband Lemuel died. This suggests that it is likely she remarried. Forrest, Lamar, Marion and Perry Counties' marriage records have been searched for a 2nd marriage for Maude with negative results. 1926-1941 searched by the clerks of those counties.
  • Maude had 8 full siblings and 9 half siblings. The Hattiesburg American was searched for their obits in hopes of finding Maude listed as a survivor. None of the siblings' obits had Maude listed nor was she listed in her father's obit (unable to locate her mother's obit). The earliest of these obits is for Maude's brother Forrest Swilley which is dated 30 Sep 1941. 5 Since all of the surviving siblings were listed in all of each others obituaries, it is assumed that Maude died before this date or maybe her family shunned her for what she had done.
  • The Mississippi Department of Health is unable to find a death certificate under the name Maude Simmons from 1926-1945. This also supports that Maude remarried.
  • The 1930 census was checked for Maude Simmons as well as just Maude in the area surrounding Forrest County with no obvious matches.
  • There are no Maudes fitting the correct profile buried in the Entrekin Family Cemetery (Carnes, Forrest County) where her first husband Lem, her mother Sophronia and some of her siblings are buried nor in the Grantham Cemetery (Oak Grove, Lamar County) where her father, stepmother and some of her other siblings are buried. I have been to both cemeteries.
  • I have posted queries on the Swilley message board and mailing list, the Forrest and Lamar Counties' message boards and mailing lists as well as on the Swilley Facebook page with no responses.
  • One of the children (Opal) spent time at the Baptist Orphanage in Hinds County. 6 I was unable to get copies of the records from the orphanage due to Mississippi privacy laws. Opal is deceased and she had no children so there are no direct descendants that can help me with this.

So where do you think I should look next?

1. 1910 U.S. census, Forrest County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 5, enumeration district (ED) 18, sheet 15B, p. 239 [stamped], dwelling 276, family 277, Benard Swilley household; digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 Sep 2008); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 739.

2. Lamar County, Mississippi, Marriage Book G: 351, Lem Simmons-Miss Maude Swilley, 1917.

3. Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 22086 (1926), Lemuel A. Simmons.

4. Lois (Entrekin) Kopp (Baton Rouge, LA) telephone interview by Michele Simmons Lewis, 20 August 2012. Lois' family raised Lem and Maude's youngest child.

5. "Soldier Buried at Lumberton [Forrest Swilley obituary]," Hattiesburg American, 30 Sep 1941; Transcript by Celeste Young [E-MAIL ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE]. Unable to locate the actual article in the online archives. Mrs. Young transcribed this from microfilm many years ago.

6. 1930 U.S. census, Hinds County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 1, enumeration district (ED) 26, sheet 2A, p. 254 [stamped], family 1, Baptist Orphanage; digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 03 Mar 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 1147.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Have you considered that Maude may have assumed her maiden name?

  2. Not a bad thought considering she left her children behind. She would have no reason to keep her married name especially if she was trying to hide from her past. I would say that if she did this, it would have only been for a time. With her being only 23 it is very likely she remarried. When she left, she left with an unknown man but that doesn't mean she actually married him so maybe a look under the name Swilley might be worthwhile.

    I did a fuzzy name search for Maude Swilley born in 1903 (+ or - 5 years) who was a white female in the state of MS but there was nothing that looked good. I then extended the search to the surrounding states and still nothing that looked like a match. I then extended it to the entire US and still nothing promising. If Maude reverted back to her maiden name then I would say she was either remarried or died by the 1930 census (I know she died before 1941 but it could have been much earlier).

  3. The search I did was in the 1930 census (searches done at Ancestry and at FamilySearch since their indexes are a bit different). I didn't mention that in my comment.

  4. When looking at the record of John C Simmons 1920 U.S. Census below, {note*: Maudie 14(yoa)}

    Year: 1920; Census Place: Beat 5, Forrest, Mississippi; Roll: T625_875; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 19; Image: 434.
    Following Maudie...
    Year: 1930; Census Place: Bastrop, Morehouse, Louisiana; Roll: 799; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 21; Image: 241.0; FHL microfilm: 2340534.
    May be coincidence...

  5. The Maudie Seals that is listed as a 14 y/o in the household of John C. Simmons is John's stepdaughter. His wife Rosa was married to Thomas A. Seal and they had a daughter named Maudie. (Just as a side note, Rosa's maiden name was Seal. A Seal married a Seal! Then she married John Calvin Simmons, my first cousin, thrice removed).

    In the 1930 census, I am not sure who "Moody Seale" is. If the Maud listed is the same Maud Seal then a Seal married a Seal, AGAIN? WEIRD! Either way, Maude Seal is not Maude Swilley.

    This is GREAT! Keep looking!

  6. Maybe she was committed to an institution for the insane when she left her children? Or had TB and went out of state for treatment.

  7. I had thought about the involuntary commitment angle and I did check the Mississippi State Hospital (census records for the MS State Hosp.). Since she left her family to be with another man the commitment theory is possible if things didn't work out for her and she got depressed or something. The TB angle is also a possibility since she died between age 23 and age 38. It is still likely that she remarried so I still wouldn't be able to find her unless I knew her married name. Hospitals were enumerated for the census so if she was in one I should be able to find her IF I know what her correct last name is.

    I might try and talk the Mississippi Department of Health into doing a search for every Maude that died in the state between 1926 and 1941, hand checking to see who her parents were. The chance of me getting this is iffy. If I get an enthusiastic clerk who likes puzzles then I have a chance. They have done searches like this for me before and I have also had my requests turned down.

  8. I was thinking along the same lines as Tanya above. What was the cause of death for husband Lem Simmons? Would a niece or nephew be able to obtain a copy of Opal's death cert? Or a person named in her will or care taker? Did Maude or her full siblings have middle names?

    1. I have Lem's death certificate. He died from complications after gall bladder surgery when he was only 2 years old. Maude never contacted any of the children after she left, not even one time. None of Maude's siblings nor her parents had anything to do with the kids either as far as I know. The youngest child was taken in my one of Lem's older sisters but the other two went to an orphanage in Hinds County.

    2. With the above & shared info (thank you) -appears Maud left with not contact with her family later. Yet, 1 children was adopted into Lem's family... and perhaps to "hush" a questioning family member - .." Anyway, the daughter of Maude’s half sister said, "My mother told me that her daddy went so far as to hire a private detective to look for her but they never found her."..
      =that kind of makes you think, that she had asked... perhaps had "heard" something of what happened to Maud... So still nothing, if remarried, left due to a difficult husband, "shunned" by family/church/neighbors -her choice to leave husband (and/or having to leave children behind), could have wished to contact family/children later - and info was not shared/cut off.
      I do see a number of Maud Simmons in Mississippi... God forbid, could she have "run off" if a family member, or similar... Is she listed on her husband's death cert? And who was the informant?... I wonder if that makes a difference?
      Good Luck

    3. Can you share the names of the children and - who took care of them or the guardians names...(?any relationship to the family)... or when they past.? I am assuming not, as you only mentioned Opal.

    4. Maud had already left by a couple of months when Lem died but she had to have still been in the area at that time because she was the informant on the death certificate.

    5. Opal was the oldest (1922-2000). She was sent to the Baptist Orphanage in Hinds County and stayed there until she was old enough to leave. She married but never had any children.

      Trellis (Tommy) was the second child (1919-1996). He too went to the orphanage for a time but there is some disagreement whether he was then taken in by Lem's brother Walt and his wife or if he was taken in by an unrelated family as a farm worker. I spoke with one of Walt's daughters before she died. She was the same age as Tommy and she denied that he lived with them.

      The youngest was Stuart (1924-1993). He was taken in by Lem's sister Mary.

      There were only 3 grandchildren, all three are living and I am in touch with all three. None of them have any information at all. They said that their father's never spoke about Maude nor did their aunt. They didn't even know her name until I told them.

    6. Oops sorry, Trellis was the oldest not Opal.

    7. Here is the obit. Hattiesburg American 03 Nov 1926

      Maxie Man - Dies Here Following Operation Two Weeks Ago.
      The funeral services of Lemuel A. Simmons, age 27, who died at the Methodist Hospital this morning at 1 o'clock, having undergone an operation more than two weeks ago, will be held at the residence at Maxie tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock, with the Rev. George Lee officiating. Interment will be made in the Entrekin Cemetery near Carnes. Mr. Simmons is survived by his wife, three children, Trellis, age 9; Opal, age 7; and Stewart, age 2; his father, J. E. Simmons, of Purvis; four brothers, J. C. Simmons, of Lumberton; W. W., Elmore and Houston, of Purvis; three sisters, Mrs. M. H. Bounds, of Purvis; Mrs. M. D. Entrekin, and Mrs. C. E. Lee, of Carnes.

  9. Even looking at various death indexes - in neighboring states nothing found. I also tried ancestry dot com - via All U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 results for Maud... if she lived long enough to remarry and apply for this... she would need her original birth cert and other info to do so... eg in the 1940-1950's.. just a thought. I had no luck on the above index.

    1. If Maude left the state of Mississippi the most likely state she would have gone to would be Texas or Louisiana. During this time period migrations from Mississippi to Texas and Louisiana was common. I have searched the death records for MS, TX and LA looking for anyone named Maude whose father was a Swilley. No luck.

    2. Yes, did the same. As during her birth abt 1903, BMD where not happening in MS at that time. I Know death cert started about 1912, but took a number of years before most would be death registered. I wonder "IF" -a delayed birth cert was started for her...IF she lived to see SS to register ... try the court house..
      on this issue..

    3. Hmmmmm, a delayed birth certificate, not a bad strategy. Maude was born over 100 years ago (MS's rule for getting a birth certificate that you aren't normally entitled to). It is worth a shot.

    4. Granted, MS, is not an easy state to work with, and if these records exist... a call to the possible court houses and/or historical societies -may give you leads...