Thursday, April 30, 2009

Clarence & May (and Leonard) ... continued

We left off that Clarence and May were married. As I said, I have what I'll call an "abundance" of information on May and little or no information for Clarence so I'll continue on as best I can about May, but my cup runneth dry on Clarence. I've already shared that they had three children and that Clarence died in January 1929 in this post. Actually the date of his death was January 6, 1929. Imagine my shock to see that May had another child in May of 1929 - a daughter she named Virginia ANDERSON.... hmmmm, things are getting interesting!

Of course, I went digging (as we genealogists do at times) but I didn't have to look far - and found another marriage record for May. Because this child Virginia was born in the month of May, I assumed that I'd find something for possibly the previous summer.... not so! Remember, Clarence died on Jan 6... May got married to Leonard C. Anderson on January 16... yes, 1929. This would be my reasoning that May and Clarence indeed were not divorced. If she were actually divorced she would have married Leonard sooner, already being with child. Clarence's death opened the door for their marriage. Tucked away in a small bible I found the certificate of marriage for the couple in Washington DC, January 16, 1929; witnessed by Leonard's brother Walter Anderson.

Now May, who was with Leonard in Washington DC must've been seeing him for some time obviously. When I interviewed her brother Marshall back in 2000 he told me that May used to ask him to ride the train with her to DC so she could "go see her boyfriend.. that Anderson." THAT Anderson??? The general feeling we got from him was that the Kidwells (May's family) didn't exactly approve of this relationship, and May was 'running off' with this man. Which is exactly what she did...

This photo is May and Leonard and May's two first born children - Pauline on the far left and Edna. The date of this picture is unknown.

Next time I'll share a letter from home that May received from her sister (BEFORE this marriage took place) and more about the children that May and Leonard had together.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Got West Virginia Roots?

For those researchers looking for WV records, there is a West Virginia site where you can search for Births, Deaths and Marriages by county. The West Virginia Division of Culture and History site.

Just as on the Famiy Search Record site, the records are indexed and you can view images easily. I prefer this site over Family Search because I can narrow my search by county. For instance, in searching for the surname Chidester on the Family Search site, I narrow down by place (WV), then by record type (vital records) and then by collection (deaths). Even in the narrowed down results I still have 196 hits to view. Sure the counties are listed but the records are not grouped by county so I have to view all of them.

On the WV Culture site, when doing the same search on deaths, I enter the surname Chidester and then select a specific county - this narrows my results dramatically from the Family Search site. I realize it's a good idea to check other close counties in a state when searching for relations, or possibly you may not know what county to start with; but in this case I was looking for a specific person I was relatively sure was in a specific town. You can also select to search by all counties and even choose a specific timeframe.

Most all of the 55 counties in the state are covered, and the years of record availability are listed. Some counties have gaps in the information at this time and there are a few counties that have no records in a specific record type on line at this time. More items are being added as they finish the transcribing and many are being added sometime this year according to the information provided on the website. This site has been one of my favorites to use while researching two families that were in the state from a very early time. State death certificates are available 50 years after the event, births are held for 100 years (with the exception of 6 counties that currently have up to 1930 already on the site). More information on the project can be read here, and you can link directly to the search page here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Clarence and May - A soap in the making

Yesterday I posted a bit of the story of Clarence Keener and May Kidwell. As I sat to write "a bit more" of the story tonight, I realized that there's much more to it than I could write in one post. I do want to keep y'all coming back to find out what happened after all :-)

Much of their stories I don't know, I may never know... some of it I have come to conclusions about and of course there are those never ending "I wish I had asked ....." questions that fill my mind. The previous post was more about Clarence's death and what I didn't know... tonight I'll spend a little time sharing what I do know about this couple.

I know that Clarence and May both lived in Fairfax County Virginia. She was the daughter of a farmer, Silas Kidwell and his wife Bertie/Birdie Horsman, she was born on Feb 24th 1903 in St. Louis Missouri. Clarence was the son of George Keener and Honora Harden and he worked at the Miller Dairy Farm and was born 1901-1902 in West Virginia according to their marriage license/certificate.
The information I have on Clarence I have learned from other researchers and various records available on line. After his death record gave me virtually no clues, I had to go digging a bit. I've "met" many cousins over the years, and have kept in touch with them as researchers do, but no one could make him come alive for me. There are no photos, no information about him anywhere. Of course, his family was quite large, his father having 3 wives and children with each of them, there's no telling what would have become of all the family memorabelia over the years. He was virtually alone in Fairfax, surely if his family was in contact with him someone would have reached them when he died. But, he wasn't brought home and buried in the family cemetery so I can only believe that the people he was working for had no idea who to contact.

Turning my attention to May, there is much more information available. Most of her family was in Virginia for many generations, there are many researchers of the Kidwell lines and they are all over the US, but most of us tracing our lines back to the same beginning in Maryland. My luck was with me when I began my research on May and her family, her brother was still living as I mentioned in my last post - he was my shining piece of glitter on the beach and I couldn't believe that I had found him! May's father was a farmer, they had a rather large working farm with livestock and produce in Fairfax. Her father was well known for his peaches, which he took to DC for the farmer's market on the weekends. The family also spent some time living in Hyattsville Maryland in the early 1900s. My grandmother managed to hold on to some photographs of her mother through the years, one is posted here. The back of the photo says "Mother Before she was married".

One story I want to share about her birth - I've been told that the family wanted to attend the Worlds Fair in St. Louis Missouri in 1903 and that's why May was born there. But, the 1903 fair didn't start in 1903 as planned, but rather it was put off until 1904. May's father was called "Uncle Bun" by his neices and nephews and one of them told me this story, going on to say that "the family lost all their savings and had to return by horse and buggy". Could it possibly be that they went all that way, the fair was put off for a YEAR and they had to turn around and come back?.... yet another question that I cannot now ask.

I've introduced you to May and Clarence. I have much more to share about May and her family and will get to that soon. I'll introduce you to their children, and tell you all about her "boyfriend". See you next time!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can't Visit His Burial Place - Nobody Can Tell Me Where It Is!

When I first began my research, my paternal Grandmother Edna Keener Malone had already passed away. She left very little in the way of clues for me, only what I came to term as "secrets". I had no idea who her father was, but I did know who her mother was. After floundering around for a bit, I finally tracked down another family member, wrote a letter and waited for a phone call. Uncle Marshall Kidwell, my great grandmother's brother, called me one afternoon and wanted to answer some of my questions. He had the answer I really wanted... who was Grandma Edna's father?

"Clarence Keener" was his answer.

May Kidwell and Clarence Keener were married in Fairfax County VA on April 18th 1923. Together they had three children Edna born Feb 11, 1924; Pauline born June 1, 1926 and Russell born October 1, 1927. I knew that May had another child with her second husband in May of 1929 so I began there and went backwards, looking for some clues as to what happened to Clarence. I found a death record for him in Fairfax County in January 1929 and ordered his death certificate.

Judging by the birth date of her next child, I naturally assumed that May and Clarence were no longer together at the time of his death. And judging by the 'clues' that I had hoped would be on his death certificate I was correct about that. Apparently she didn't provide any information and the response "Do Not Know" was listed for almost all of the areas on his death certificate. The only clue - he is listed as "Divorced" (which I still at this point don't believe to be correct but that's another story). I thought it was very sad that this man died, virtually unknown by the people who were around him, and I set out to find out where he was buried. The death certificate stated "Potters Field".

The folks at the Virginia Room in the Fairfax County Library attempted to help me but let me know that burials at that time were not put in a designated place in the county, nor were there many records. The potters field could have been in the backyard of the funeral home (which no longer existed), or it could be in an area that was now off limits because a bridge had been built and even another possibility was 'near' the parking area of the county school bus system. The records of these burials were simply not kept in one place, therefore making it very difficult to find them. I did find that later that year E. W. Groff charged the county $25 for the burial of Clarence, if only I knew where he put him!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Anniversary Grandma & Granddad

April 19, 1941
Dorothy Leeming and William Patrick Bellew
Married at St. Mark's Church; Adams, MA

Monday, April 13, 2009


Has it been almost a week without a post here? I've been so wrapped up and time is just flying by!

I have been doing some research and I've been doing a lot of communicating with other researchers, but nothing "earth moving" is going on with my genealogy right now and honestly, I've had a bit of writers block. It seems that in reading some other genea-bloggers sites out there, many of us are experiencing a bit of a writing or posting slump right now. Not that I don't have plenty to write about - the thoughts just aren't coming to me at this moment.

I have managed to add yet another surname to my list - McDermot. This would be another Bellew connection that I'll be attempting to chase down - where oh where are the Ireland records? I must admit that I tend to rely very heavily on the internet for my research and while I can usually turn up lots of info, Ireland has really been a challenge for me.

So, it's quite possible that another week will slip by me here on Everything's Relative or I'll have an AHA! moment and my writing will pick up again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Samuel B. Keener

My 3rd Great Grandfather
Samuel B. Keener
b. Sept 11, 1809, d. Jan 9, 1897
Husband of Mary E. Johnston
Son of George Keener and Margaret Miller

This stone and many others of this line of the Keener family can be found on private property in the Keener Cemetery, in Taylor County WV. A great big thanks to Melissa Wisen - a distant Keener cousin of mine, who photographed the stones in that cemetery and made them available on the Find A Grave website and gave permission for me to use them here on my blog.See all of Melissa's memorials here, or visit Find-a-Grave to search for your own ancestors.

Friday, April 3, 2009

One Mystery Solved - An Uncle and The Mining Disaster

Another of my Bellew men was a bit of a mystery. Not one that I went chasing after too much, but an early death, not really much information. That is until recently.

William Bellew, the son of Patrick Bellew & Elizabeth Hall was my great grand uncle. Born in 1891 in Preston, Lancashire, England. I found his death record registered in 1910 and was told some years ago that he worked in the mines and died from that. Actually it was put to me "He worked in the mines... and he died". I never really knew what he died from - assuming (incorrectly) that it was of some disease caused by that kind of work.. but so young?

I've not been doing much lately with regards to my research and I was recently contacted by another researcher of this family. William's name flashed across my screen a few times in the last two days and I began to wonder what happened to him. This other researcher, I'll call them "D" suggested that I look into any mining accidents of the time. His death was not registered in Preston, but rather in Bolton.

Well a quick search on Google and it only took about two minutes for me to find what I was looking for. A website with an incredible amount of information and a major mining disaster in the history of England - actually listed as the 3rd worst ever in England - The Pretoria Pit Disaster - occurred at 7:50am on December 21, 1910. With 344 men and boys confirmed dead and only 3 survivors, it was a horrific tragedy. My Uncle William Bellew was among the dead, he was 19 years old.

The recovery of bodies was such an undertaking that they gave each one a number at the time it was located and marked it's position on a map of the mine. They also marked the last known place of the worker at the time of the explosion on the map - black numbers where they were working and red numbers where they were found. As I made my way around the site, getting the information for William I couldn't help but feel the loss of all these men but what really hit home was the map with little black and red numbers all over it. You could clearly see where the men piled up to make their escape from the disaster, only to succomb to the gas that was filling the tunnels where they spent their days. Each recovered body was given another number, Uncle William was recovered on December 24th 1910, he was recovery number 147.

All the personal details available for each man are also there on the site. William was living at 3 Library Street, Westhoughton (a lodging place for the miners). He was listed as born in Preston, body recovered 90 yards above No.2 jig (a term on the map). Identified by his father Patrick Bellew of 180 St. Georges Road, Preston. Cause of death was gas. He was survived by his parents Patrick and Elizabeth Bellew (both 47), and siblings John 21, Frances 16, Isabella 10.

Much of the information contained in this post and the images contained are from the following website: