I posted this tombstone previously in June of 2009. At the time, I couldn't figure out why the wife was listed - as she was no longer his wife (although I could find no record of her death, so I haven't a clue the circumstances).
I recently obtained an abstract of his obituary and it left me with even more questions. So I started at the beginning of his life again and tried to map out what I know about the family. I am still left with the same questions and cannot seem to solve the mystery of his headstone and his obituary nor find any deaths or burials for his three wives...
George J. Keener was born 26 May 1852 (date according to his death certificate is 1853), to Samuel B. and Mary Johnston Keener of Taylor County WV. On 12 Apr 1868 he married Tryphenny S M Thomas in Taylor County WV. In the 1870 census the couple is found living with his parents, along with their new daughter Mary. I cannot find any further records of this wife in the county or surrounding area. It is assumed that she died prior to 1872...
On 23 Apr 1872 we find another marriage record for George J. Keener and Letis A. Poling. This union resulted in the following children: Amos, Nella, Virginia, Isaac, Selena, James, Rachel and Ray. All of these children were born between 1873 and 1887. In the 1880 census, Mary (the daughter from his first marriage) was listed in the household of her Grandparents Samuel and Mary.
In the 1900 census we find George J Keener at the age of 48 with yet another wife, Nora age 27, (aka Honora, Hanolla, Hanna). Two of the children of the previous marriage are listed in the home (James and Rachel) and he and Nora have another 4 children: William, Samuel, Harry and Clarence. Another son, Robert would be born later in the year.
In case you've lost track, thats a total of 14 children born to this man and his three wives.
So where is the confusion or the "mystery?..... here
First problem with the headstone is the year of death. It appears that it says 1925, but his death certificate issued by the state of WV clearly states March 1, 1926. The bigger problem with this headstone is that Lettie Keener is noted as his wife when his last wife was Nora (note the certificate states he is a widow so Nora clearly died prior to him) - this would be yet another death certificate that I cannot find. It is possible that only the children from the marriage to Lettie were involved in his "arrangements", which would also explain the obituary - which left out all of the children born to Nora, listing only his first daughter Mary and the children born to Letting who were still living.
G. J. Keener Passes Away. The Grafton Sentinel. Grafton, WV. March 2, 1926.
Abstract--Geo. J. Keener, s/o Mrs. and Mrs. Samuel B. Keener, died yesterday at the home of his daughter Mrs. H. McWilliams, 720 Pearl Street. Inflamation of the stomach was the cause of death. The deceased was 72 years, 10 months and 2 days old, and had been a resident of Taylor county practically all of his life. He has been in ill health for nine months. He is survived by five daughters, Mrs. David Mowder, Wheeling; Mrs. Irvin F. Kinter, Fairmont; Mrs. Claude Griffith, Mrs. Logan Trader, amd Mrs. H. McWilliams, all of Grafton; two sons, James B. Keener of Fairmont, and A. S. Keener of Grafton, one sister, Mrs. Margaret Utterback of Brownsville, Pa. Funeral services were held in the home of Mrs. H. McWilliams. Interment was in the Philippi cemetery.
This obituary raises yet another question about the interment - George was buried at the Current Cemetery in Taylor County, not at the Philippi Cemetery which is in Barbour County (this would be the county that Lettie's family was from).
So, please weigh in - why are there no death records for any of his wives? Can anyone find them? I have searched the WV Culture site thoroughly, all counties, all dates.. I cannot find anything that fits. Where are his wives buried? And something I may never know - why did Lettie's children not list the others in the obituary and why did they put her name on his headstone?
As this post is written, I have been busy weeding through much information that I have received from another found cousin in my Keener line of the family. First, I must tell you that I met this cousin in a chat hosted by the Ancestorville Genealogy Facebook page. If you don't join the chats being held there, you could certainly be missing out! They have state-focused chats and chances are, if your family has a large presence in a certain state, you may find someone with common research interests. Such is the case with me and cousin Nancy who I "met" on a recent WV chat.
She has shared much with me already - especially photographs. She's been researching this family for years and is glad to share her knowledge with me - someone who has not done much on the collateral lines. Thanks so much Nancy!
Today I highlight her Great Grandfather, my 1st cousin 5x removed; Lewis S. Keener.
Lewis was born in 1841 to Thomas Ullery Keener (aka Ullery Keener; Ulrich Keener) and his wife Sarah Ann Kisner, in Fetterman, a town in now Taylor County WV. Lewis enlisted as a soldier for the Confederacy on May 13, 1861 and fought for Company A, 25th Infantry Regiment of Virginia and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on July 9, 1864. He married Catherine B. Jackson on December 8, 1864, in Abermarle County VA and the couple was listed in the 1880 census for Whitehall, Abermarle, Virginia. Lewis and his wife had 7 children: James, John, Thomas, Catherine, Mary, Susan and Andrew. I had not even realized that a very large part of the Keener family had gone to this part of Virginia and a nearby town called Crozet - assuming (incorrectly of course) that they all remained in Taylor County because I was so focused on my direct line that I've not bothered to see where all the other brothers had wandered off to.
Nancy shared the photo below with me, of Lewis and his brother James Alfred Keener and their wives.
Photo privately held
Yet again, it pays to be a part of the larger genealogy community on the web. Without reaching out to others, making connections and joining groups or chats, we cannot corroborate or share our research fully with others.
Born Nora Jemima Elizabeth Hott, on Sept. 5th 1873 in Hampshire County WV, she was the daughter of Mary M. Henderson and Samuel William Hott.
On October 31, 1891 she married Benjamin Lee Shanholtz (NO doubt a distant cousin but who's counting?) and had three children; Mandel, Charles, and a daughter named Ida. I am unaware of what became of this marriage, but do know that she married another man, Raymond Franklin Roles prior to 1909. From this marriage she had three children; Archer, Edward and a daughter, Virgil.
In 1910 she was living with her husband Raymond and their children in Aquia, Stafford, Virginia. In 1920 the family was in Providence, Fairfax, Virginia. In 1930 Nora was living in Washington DC with her sons Edward Roles & Charles Shanholtz and her widowed sister, Sally Anderson.
This is the only photograph that my family has of Nora. She is standing in the photo below. Seated is her sister Sally (my Great Grandmother) and an unidentified child in Sally's lap. The date of this photo is unknown.
CAN YOU HELP ME FIND THEM? This blogger is searching for a couple of specific people, maybe you can help me find them:
A cousin, her maiden name was Brenda Anderson. Brenda was born in 1960 in Maryland. She is the daughter of Russell Keener Anderson and Peggy.
My Uncle (or any descendants of) Hugh Bellew. Last heard from sometime in late 1950s, believe to be in the Chicago area at that time. Born in 1916 in Preston, Lancashire England. Came to the US, grew up in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Hugh's parents were John and Margaret Bellew and he had two brothers in the US, Al and William.
If you have information about either of these family members please get in touch with me!
I'm a wife & stay-at-home mom to 5 beautiful kids! I've been researching families for about 17 years and teach small local adult-education classes for beginners. I love the hunt for ancestors - mine and everyone else's.