In a previous post I shared my number one priority to solve on that banner day. The riddle of conflicting information on my husband's grandparents death certificates had caused many a hair pulling incident.
Our tale begins with Francis Starr, my husband's grandfather, a traveling salesman residing in Chicago, Illinois during the 1920's. Legend states Francis headed out one day in search of an employment opportunity. At that point Francis disappeared from the family never to return.
Slowly I have gathered various documents detailing the lives of Francis and Mary Starr.
Luckily, I discovered a trunk full of family documents in the attic. Among the various books, photographs and mementos I found papers with birth and death dates recorded. This is where I located the death date for my husband's grandmother, Mary Starr.
On receiving her death certificate an interesting and educational journey began.
|Mary Starr death certificate - date of death 9/18/1950 - widowed|
Above we see the death date of September 18, 1950 and marital status widowed. How did the family know Francis had died? From all indications there was no contact after he departed.
The next piece of information discovered was this California Death Index for Francis A. Starr. The birth date and birthplace matched those of our errant ancestor.
What gave me pause was the death date of June 15, 1964. If Mary was widowed when she died in 1950, how could this possibly be her husband?
The only way to answer this question was to send away for this Francis A. Starr's death certificate.
|Francis Starr death certificate - date of death 06/15/ 1964 - divorced|
Ripping open the envelope I was stunned to discover this was my husband's grandfather! Now I was thoroughly confused.
Which record was correct? When Mary passed away Francis was still among the land of the living. How could she be widowed? Was there a divorce?
This is why the census release was so important to my research. Each day I waited on pins and needles in hopes of finding Mary or Francis.
Using the address listed on Mary's death certificate I headed over to Stephen Morse website. Plugging in the information I was directed to the following record.
|Mary Starr 1940 Census - marital status divorced|
There I discovered this 1940 United States Census surprise. Mary Starr lists her marital status as divorced!
What can I deduce from this record? It appears the information my mother-in-law placed on her mother's death certificate was incorrect. She most certainly knew her parents were divorced, being in her twenties at the time.
On a side note, my husband's reaction when learning this news was to laugh out loud. He could imagine his mother firmly stating her father had passed. From all indications what occurred many years ago left a lasting impression.
My next course of action will be to track down the possible divorce decree. On the census record Mary lists her address during 1935 as Chicago, Illinois. Looks like I will be spending time researching that area for new leads.
The most important lesson learned during this process is to NEVER take vital records as gospel. There could be many incorrect or misleading facts. For years we took the information on Mary Starr's death certificate as fact.
Thanks to the 1940 United States Census I am one happy family historian! Finding the answer to this riddle has been an exciting and memorable experience. Still doing the genealogy victory dance!
I will keep you posted as the story of Francis and Mary continues to unravel. Anyone with advice on obtaining a Chicago divorce decree please leave a message.