Sunday, December 20, 2015

What Was the Rest of the Story?

I've written previously about doing heir research, one aspect of forensic genealogy.  I track down the family connections, find contact information for heirs, and pass on everything to my client.  I rarely find out what happens after that (though once I had an adventure and went in person to talk to a potential heir).

Sometimes, however, I find stuff that makes me wonder just what happened in the family.  One case I recently worked on left me with lots of questions afterward — not about who the heirs were, but why they ended up being the heirs.

As usual, I was given some bare-bones information about a man — we'll call him "Joe" — and was asked to track him forward in time.  I needed to find what happened to him, his wife, and the child in the household in the 1930 census, and also to check on the wife and child in the 1940 census (who were not the same as those in 1930).

Most of the time, given this set-up, the heir turns out to be the child, or perhaps that person's children if the person has already passed away.  Sometimes it's the spouse, if the people in question were of an appropriate age to have survived until the present day.

I learned that Joe was one of eight children.  He himself was married three times.  He and his first wife had a son.  His second wife, the one in 1940, had a son from a previous relationship.  Joe had another stepson later, though I was unable to determine who that man's mother was.

When Joe wrote his will, his seven siblings were still alive, as was his biological son.  So who were his heirs?  His three sisters, but none of his brothers, and no one else.  He mentioned a stepson (the one whose mother I was unable to identify) in the will but said that he had already been provided for.  And he specifically stated that he had no issue.

So here's the first time my curiosity was piqued.  Why leave bequests to the sisters but none of the brothers?  Did he not get along with his brothers?  Were they all so well off that he decided they didn't need anything from him?  And what about his son?  I found the birth record; there's nothing on it to indicate any question of paternity.  Did Joe learn something about his son that made him question whether he was really the father?  Maybe that's why he and wife #1 divorced?  Or maybe he just had a totally broken relationship with his son after the divorce?

After finding this will, I then had to research the families of the three sisters to determine their heirs, as all three also had passed away.  Only one of the sisters — let's call her "Jane" — had a will.  She left everything to her son and stated that she had "no other child living."  In researching her part of the family, I found that the son was from her first marriage.  Her first husband died young, and she remarried.  She had a daughter — "Joan" — from her second marriage.  Joan married and had a daughter.  Sadly, Joan committed suicide.  But her daughter is still alive and has a child of her own.

Then my curiosity kicked in again.  While Joan's death explains the phrase "no other child living", I wonder why Jane left nothing to her granddaughter.  Did Jane blame her granddaughter's father in some way for Joan's death?  Was she so distraught over her daughter's death that she couldn't bear to have a relationship with her granddaughter?

Some interesting family dynamics seem to be going on here, but ones I'm unlikely to learn about.  I'm just left wondering, what was the rest of the story?

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