Monday, April 30, 2012

This Post Was Brought To You By The Letter ___

I mentioned in my previous post that I know a little bit about my Frances' birth and early childhood from a letter written by her birth mother to her in the early 1930s.  The text of that letter has been discussed in another of my blogs in this post:
The Paperless Genealogist: Amanuensis Monday - Birth Mother's Letter.

For simplicty's sake I'll include the text of the letter here as well:

"Frances you were born here at 180 Wayne St., Jersey City, NJ Sept 10th, 1914. Your name is Frances Marion Williams. David was born here at 149 Wayne St., Jersey City, NJ March 1st, 1913. Your birth record is here in courthouse. My name was Louise Harding. Your father's name was David Otis Williams. Your brother has the same name. You had a sister Mildred, but she died when only a week old; if you want to know anything else that ???? I will tell you.

David Otis is your brother's name to. You were baptized at St. Bridget's Church where Edna and George Jr. was Baptized. David was Baptized at Grace Church here also.

Do you intend to get married is that why you ask me where you were born? If so, I hope you will be very happy but don't forget to write to me. Does your boyfriend know I am your mother? You have nothing to be ashamed of, as I have good people and I know your Dad's people were goof. you had one Aunt who was a Nurse. I don't know if she is still living or not as your Dad told me Gram Ames did not like to talk of her.

I wish Gram Ames was ok with me. I would go see her some time. I like her even though she don't like me. I am glad she is alright. I put your birthday's in ink so you can remember them. it is the 10th Sept 1914 and Son is the 1st March 1913"
This was the starting point of all my research, (including a photo of Louise and Frances together when Frances was a baby) My mission was simple, find out more about the birth parents of Frances Marion Williams.  It would seem to most family historians that a letter like this one would be a breakthrough find for anyone researching an adopted ancestors birth family, but it has still proven to be a bit of a complicated search for a couple of reasons.

1) I believe (though I do not have proof as of yet) that David Otis Williams, Sr. died before 1920
2) I have believed (though I have not ha dproof until recently) that Louise remarried before 1920
3) I believe Louise may be a middle name (or possibly a changed name) given some other information I have exchanged with a woman also trying to track down Harding ancestors. She has indicated to me it seems to be common practice for this family to use middle names in place of first in many instances, which of course makes the search that much more difficult.

The combination of these two facts has made further research diffilcult and slow going.  Some time ago I asked a member of our genealogical society who has had some experience researching birth ancestors of adopted ancestors to see if she could help me out, and help me she did.

We tracked - (I think) Louise to her new husband, George Monahan, in the 1920 and 1930 census.  Supporting information for this assumption is the fact that in 1920  David Williams, Jr. was living with the adoped family, Knowlton, in Owl's Head, ME according to census records.  Frances was not found in that household. Family lore states that David was actually adopted first, but that Frances was adopted by the same family at a later time, not because they necessarilly wanted to, but they did it to keep the children together.  In the 1920 census for Jersey City, NJ there is a George and Louise Monahan with 3 children: Frances, George, Edna.  (George Jr. and Edna being mentioned in the letter above).  By the 1930 census, the same household was missing Frances,  but by then my Great Grandmother Frances can be found in the same household as her brother.

Now, this is all circumstantial evidence, but it was a good start.  I put a lot of this research away for a bit while I focussed on some other family mystery's and I started picking it up again recently when another family member also trying to locate her Harding ancestors reminded me I said I would do some more digging into this.

As luck would have it (maybe fate?)  I was talking to my eldest aunt on Facebook (who happened to be very close to Frances while she was alive) and I mentioned I was planning on getting a copy of the baptismal and/or birth records for my Frances in an attempt to nail down more specifics about her birth parents.  Clearly her mother, Louise, was still alive when she was adopted and much later.  What happened to cause the adoption and why were Frances and David given up for adoption?  At this point, the reader should keep in mind I have never mentioned the potential link to the Monahan family to anyone on that side of the family because I didn't want to get into specifics until it was clear I had the right family...  What happened after I mentioned the birth records blew my mind away.  My Aunt Kathy told me she had consisdered at one point looking for the marriage record of George Monahan and Louise Harding Williams.

"What do you know about George Monahan?!" I asked.  She went on to tell me that George had written my Great Grandmother a letter to tell her of the passing of her mother.  My Aunt had seen this letter and discussed it with my Great Grandmother at some point, but she is not sure where it is now, if it still exists. Still, this separate discussion of the Monahan name was enough to make me thing the information we found previously may be the woman I was looking for.  Further research is needed, but I think I'm starting to go down the right path.

Perhaps there is a living George Monahan descendant that can help tie the pieces together even more. For now, I think I've got some records to track down:
  1. Frances's baptismal record may still be available, though repeated attempts to contact St. Bridget's via phone/email have gone unanswered.
  2. A marriage record for David O. Williams and Louise Harding would be ideal, but I have yet to find one, not knowing if they were even really married at the time.
  3. A marriage record for George Monahan and Louise (Harding) Williams could help prove this is the same woman who married David O. Williams
  4. 1940 Census records for George Jr. and Edna Monahan might lead to some clues about potential living Monahans that could have more information about the marriage if records cannot be located and/or I need to continue to build a case that this is the right Louise.

My mission changed:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Find It Hard To Find My Hardings

My Great Grandmother, Frances Marion WILLIAMS was born in New Jersey to a David Otis WILLIAMS and Louise HARDING in 1914. Her brother, also David Otis WILLIAMS was born one year earlier.  They also had a sister, Mildred, who died as an infant.  I am unsure of her birth date.

At some point, Frances and her brother (also David. O. WILLIAMS) were adopted by a KNOWLTON family in Owl's Head, ME, a small fishing community in what we call the mid coast region of the Maine.

I know a lot more information than some folks researching adopted ancestor because I have a letter from Louise to my Great Grandmother written around 1930 explaining much of the details surrounding Frances' early life (where she was born, baptised, etc...)

I have been searching for years to find David O. Williams and Louise Harding online but have had no real luck.  I think I may have found them (thanks to a friend who did a few hours of research for me and had MUCH more luck than I - or far more skill), but now I need to gather all my circumstantial evidence in one place and see if it really all adds up.  And if so, what records can I find in New Jersey to nail this all together as "fact?"

Where to begin...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Purpose Of This New Blog

Over the past several years I have started a number of blogs focussed on various subjects.  Mostly, I have a separate blog for each family line I am focused on.  The most active blog is at and has led me to some great discoveries and some wonderful new information.  I've met distant (and not so distant) cousins and we've been able to start collaborating on all our brick walls together. I've learned a lot by listening to what others know about our family history, and hopefully I've been able to share a few new things with others as well.

Well, now it's time to focus on another branch of the family and I'm hoping the same techniques that have helped me with my ROPP brick walls will assist me in locating my elusive HARDING ancestors.  Maybe I can locate some living HARDING descendants who can help me start to drudge further back into the family history. We can share some photos, stories, christmas cards...  whatever comes to pass.  The goal of this blog is to make progress on locating my Harding ancestors.

I'm looking forward to sharing what I know, and hoping to connect with someone who can help me learn more.  So, let's get this thing started...

- Brian