Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tracing the Family - A Family Mystery

My grandfather Frank Newton's oldest sister was Pheobe, born in 1881 in Wisconsin.  Because Wisconsin has only published death records from 1820 through 1907 and 1930 through 1959, so a lot of people born in Pheobe's generation do not show up in online genealogical searches.  Under federal law, the most recent U.S. Census released for publication was the 1930 census.  That is the last time I found any mention of Pheobe.  But what I found tells a story with many missing pieces.

This is what I know:

Pheobe appears in the 1900 U.S. Census living at home with her parents.  She was 18 years old and single.  The family lived in the town of Portfield, Marinette County, Wisconsin.

Pheobe appears in the 1905 Wisconsin Census, now age 23 and single, living at home with her parents.  The family was living in Marinette County, Wisconsin.

In the 1910 U.S. Census, Pheobe is no longer living at home.  She is employed as a "servant" who cleans house.  She is now 29 and still single.  She was living in the Town of Dunbar in Marinette County, Wisconsin.  The census was taken on May 11, 1910.

The 1920 U.S. Census revealed big changes in the Newton family.  Great-grandmother Laura Bailey Newton was now listed as the head of the family.  This is very strange because Great-grandfather David Newton was still alive in 1920.  He did not die until 1925. So what happened to him?  Had they separated and were living apart?  I don't know.

Pheobe was back living with her mother, Laura Bailey Newton.  She was listed as age 38 and single, using the surname Newton.

There were two additions to the family on the 1920 Census: Martha Wines, who was Great-grandmother Laura Bailey Newton's mother - who had evidently divorced her husband Rollins Bailey (scandal!) and married a Mr. Wines, and was now listed as a widow aged 84!  The other addition was Geneva Newton, age 5 1/2.  She was listed as a "granddaughter.  What the Census information did not tell me was who Geneva's parents were!  Judging by her age, I am guessing that Geneva was born sometime in 1914.

Great-grandfather David Newton died on June 11, 1925.  Mrs. Pheobe Mineau, Marinette, Wisconsin, was listed as the informant (provider of information) on the Death Certificate.  She would have been around 43 years old. When did Pheobe get married?

I was not able to locate any information about Pheobe's marriage in any state in the USA.

The last time I find either Pheobe or Geneva is on the 1930 U.S. Census.  Pheobe is listed as Phoebe M. Mineau, age 48, a widow, living in Marinette, in Marinette, Wisconsin.  She is employed as a laborer in a laundry.  Oh my - backbreaking work.  Pheobe is listed as head of her household, which consists of herself and 16 year old Geneva Mineau, who is listed as her daughter.  So - now I knew for certain the identity of one of Geneva's parents.  It was Pheobe, who would have been about 32 years old when Geneva was born.

So - my first thoughts were, Pheobe had a child out of wedlock.  No big deal these days, in fact, very common.  But back then, in my very Roman Catholic Newton family, it would have been a very a big deal, a big scandal and a big shame.  I figured - a WWI romance, and the fellow got shipped out and never returned, leaving behind a Pheobe who later discovers she is pregnant -- I'm sure it was a scenario played out thousands of times during The Great War. The only problem with this scenario is that the United States did not enter the war officially until 1917.

It is also entirely possible that Pheobe got married to a Mr. Mineau.  It had to have been after the 1920 U.S. Census though, where she and Geneva were both listed with the surname of Newton. The microfiche of the handwritten record is available online through and I read it myself, I'm not taking anyone's word for what it contained.  I just cannot imagine that Pheobe would have been married to Mr. Mineau at the time of the 1920 Census and NOT have used her married name of Mineau.  Having inherited what the Newtons call "stubborn neck", I figure that Pheobe was not married and was not about to cover up the fact that she was not married and had borne a child "out of wedlock."  Anyway, in such a small community as Marinette, such a secret could not have been kept for very long.

Perhaps sometime after the 1920 Census was taken on January 10, 1920, and before the death of Great-grandfather David Newton in June, 1925 (when she used the name of "Mrs. Pheobe Mineau" as informant on his Death Certificate) Pheobe married a Mr. Mineau.  By the time of the 1930 Census taken on Apri l 17, 1930, she was a widow.  There is no way of knowing whether - if there was a marriage to a Mr. Mineau - he adopted Geneva as his own daughter.  It may have just been convention that Geneva used the surname of her mother's husband, or it may have been something that Pheobe insisted be done. 

Did Great-grandfather and Great-grandmother have a fight about Great-grandmother's once divorced mother, Martha Wines, moving into the household?  A fight so severe and a split so deep and strong that Great-grandfather moved out of the house? Or was there a family fight over an illegitimate child being born into the family?  Who was Mr. Mineau? What happened to Pheobe and Geneva after 1930? 

I won't ever know what really happened.  Everyone who may have had information is deceased.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...