Well, huh…

Thanks again to helpful readers, the mystery of Grandpy’s first marriage is finally cleared up!

No, not really. In fact, it might be even murkier…

It seems that Charles L. “Kune” of Boston, MA married Berthelma H. Waters of Kirksville, MO on July 25, 1910 in Moberly, Missouri.

snip

keene-waters-1910-marriage transcript

Now, before you think, “Ah, ha! Kune isn’t Keene!”, let me show you something.

In the 1930 census record for Grandpy and Nana, Keene has been incorrectly transcribed as “Kune.” You can see this in the record below.

kune-transcription-1930-census

I know this is the right family, because this is the transcription for the census page below:

keene-kune-1930-census.JPG

Those are my grandparents and their children, including my father, Charles, Jr. The double-e in Keene has been misread as a “u” by the transcriber. Just as it had been on the 1910 marriage record between Charles and Berthelma.

Now, back to their story.

Here is the 1910 census record for Thelma. I believe that she was working as a waitress in a hotel when the census enumerator came around on April 15, 1910. Which is why she is listed with seemingly unrelated people.

waters-berthelma-1910-census transcript.JPG

Charles and Thelma most likely met when he was working as a chef, perhaps in the same hotel. And, I can place Charlie in Moberly, MO in July, where the marriage to Berthelma took place, based on a postmark of July 5, 1910.

On their marriage record, Charles has claimed that he is over the age of 21, which is correct, as his birthday was April 24, 1883. He would have just turned 27.

According to the census, Thelma was born in 1893, which would have made her only 16, as her birthday wasn’t until September, according to her death certificate. But, the death certificate gives her year of birth as 1892, making her 17 at the time of her marriage to Charles.

Somebody fudged the truth on their marriage certificate, regardless. Thelma’s age is stated as being as over 18. Which can’t be true given either 1892 or 1893 as her birth year.

I think that this record of marriage is correct for Charlie and Thelma, but that begs the question just whose is the first marriage certificate found for Charlie and Anna?

In fact, I have a lot of questions.

Who is Charles L. Keene of the St. Joseph, MO, February 10, 1910 marriage license? This Charles also gives his hometown as Boston, MA and his age as over 21.

My Grandpy was in St. Joseph when this marriage license was granted, based on postmarked cards sent home, from January 10 through March 9, 1910. What are the odds that two different men with the exact same name and hometown were in St. Joseph at the same time?

I don’t know!

I did find a “Charles L. Keene” on the 1910 census in St. Joseph, Missouri, but his birthplace is New Hampshire in 1880. However, he, too, is working in a hotel as a cook. keene-charles-1910-census transcript.JPG

I am not sure that this is my Grandpy, as we have a postcard from him dated April 11, 1910 from New York, NY. (Remember that the census was taken April 15.) But, he certainly could have been back in Missouri by the 15th, if he rode the train. But, then, why the incorrect information of hometown and birth year? This Charles is listed a “single”, so he couldn’t the one who married Anna just two months prior.

Arrggg….. But, wait, there’s more!

Why is Thelma’s maiden name “Waters” on the marriage record, but “Page” on her death certificate?

What happened to Charles and Anna? Although not exhaustive, I did search the 1910 census for them. They should have been enumerated as a married couple, as the marriage would have taken place in February, and the census was taken in April. However, I could find them under neither Keene or Kune.

Perhaps an annulment? A quicky divorce? (Seems unlikely in 1910.)

I am thinking that a more likely possibility is that the marriage between Charles and Anna never actually took place. The records are for an application for a marriage license and a marriage license was granted. But, perhaps someone got cold feet.

And, now my head hurts. As I’m pretty sure does yours.

 

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Answers… and More Questions!

Thanks to some kind readers pointing me in the right direction, I now have Thelma’s death certificate.

I had looked at My Heritage, FamilySearch, NEHGS, etc., but I hadn’t checked Ancestry. I don’t have an personal account, so I went to my local library and used the Library Edition. And, that’s where it was.

keene-thelma-1911-death.jpg

Thelma passed away on September 3, 1911, of typhoid fever, just one day after the last postcard we have from Charlie about her:

9/2/1911, from New Bedford, MA: Dear Mother. I telephone to Thelma every night and she is still about the same except last night she had a slight hemorrhage but has not bled any more since. We are still hoping for the best. I will see you next week some time. Charlie

She was gone the next day, only three days short of her 19th birthday.

And, while death certificate does give me more information, it also raises even more puzzling questions.

Thelma’s name is given on the DC as “Berthelma H.” Her maiden name is “Page.” Neither of which are on the marriage license dated February 10, 1910. The bride’s name there is “Anna L. Backus.”

Is it possible that there was another Charles L. Keene from Massachusetts, who married this Anna, in St. Joesph, MO at the same time that my Grandpy and Thelma were also in St. Joseph?

Or, did she give a fake name, as she was underage? And, then, who was “Mrs. Mary Handley/Haudley” who signed permission as Anna’s mother? It’s interesting that on Thelma’s DC, the information for her mother and father are marked as “unknown.”

Thelma was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn, MA, where many more members of my family are buried.

I need to go visit her.

 

My Grandfather’s Mysterious First Wife

So, one day I was searching online for my grandparents’ marriage certificate when I pulled up something that made me gasp out loud. It was certainly a marriage certificate for my grandfather, The Mariner, but the wife most definitely wasn’t my Nana.

keene-backus-1910-marriage

Right there on the page, No. 150, was listed my grandfather, Charles L. Keene, of Boston, MA. But, the wife’s name is given as Miss Anna L. Backus, of St. Joseph, MO. Both the application for the license and the marriage license were issued the same day, February 10, 1910, in Buchanan Co, Missouri.

I can place my grandfather in St. Joseph, MO. He wrote home to his parents quite often, and the postmarks verify his location. So, I’m pretty certain that this is the right Charles L. Keene.

Charles was specified as being over 21, as he would have been 27 on his birthday in March of that year. Anna’s age was specified as being under 18.  Because she was not yet 18, her mother had to give permission. She is listed on the application as Mrs. Mary Handley/Haudley.

This was all a pretty big shock to me, as I had never heard of my grandfather being married prior to marrying my grandmother. There were, and probably still are, things not spoken of in my family. I’m thinking most families are like that, but it’s still a bit of a shock, for example, to go to an uncle’s funeral, one whom you have known all your born days, to find not only his first wife, but also a daughter, in the front pew. Stuff like that happens.

But, back to this story.

My Grandpy married my Nana June 4, 1912, just a little more than two years after he married Anna. There was a story here, and I determined to sniff it out.

And, promptly came to a dead end.

I asked my Uncle George, son of Charles (and my father’s brother), if he knew anything about it. He seemed to faintly recall someone, somewhere, saying something about a possible marriage that might have taken place. But, he couldn’t say for sure.

Uncle George’s wife, my Aunt Gwen, about the same time, shared with me binders of family records, letters, and genealogy that she had collected over the years. My Grandpy was a chef, and traveled all over the US for work, and he faithfully sent postcards to his parents. (This was before he joined the Matson Line.) I noticed that in those he sent to his parents from 1910-1911, there were quite a few from “Charles and Thelma.”

Thelma? Anna? What was going on here? How many wives did Grandpy have???

Aunt Gwen, bless her, had transcribed these postcards. I began to put the transcriptions in chronological order, hoping to sort out the story. I found no mention of Thelma in the postcards from the date of their presumed marriage until September of the same year, 1910.

9/23/1910, from Atchison & Lenora: We leave here Saturday. Will send address as soon as possible. Thanks for the cards and pictures. Looks just like Father. Will be home in the spring. Thelma and I are both well. Hoping everyone is well at home, Love from Chas and Thelma

10/4/1910:  Will send address soon. Both are well. Chas and Thelma

From 10/9/1910:  Hello Mother: We are in Kansas City for a while working at the Savoy Hotel. Will write you a letter tomorrow. Address 709 East 9th Street. Thelma & Charley

10/12/1910, from Kansas City, MO: Dear Mother, We both wish you a Happy Birthday– and as soon as we are able will send something to show that we still think of you. We are both well and hope that you and Father are also. 709 E. 9th St. Love from Charlie and Thelma

No date: Dear Mother. Am out of work for a week on account of sores breaking out on my face and hands but the Doctor is giving me plenty of strong medicine which by the feeling surely ought to cure me. Thelma is working hard every day.

11/23/1910: Dear Mother. Your letters and paper received. Am very glad to get them. I can go to work Saturday. Love Chas and Thelma 

On a postcard with no date, from Amarillo, TX, continuation from another card:  …and I get my board free so that helps a little. We came here with the intentions of working and saving our money until spring when we will come home but this month I don’t think we can save anything and so near Xmas we will be poor this year but have not given up hope. I hope you and Father are well and when I am stronger I will write more. Love from Chas and Thelma

No date, picture postcard from Dallas, TX: To Mother from Thelma

No date, picture postcard from Dallas, TX, : To Father from Thelma

2/1/1911, from Dallas, TX: Dear Mother Keene. We rec’d your letter with the Christmas cards the other day. Have neglected sending a card–waiting for a letter in answer to ours. It is very warm here. We are getting along as well as could be expected. Mrs. C. L. Keene

And, then, a dark turn…

8/1911, from Wood’s Hole, MA:  Dear Mother. Just went to see Thelma. She is beginning to improve. Temperature dropped to 102 and rational all the time now. Chas.

8/1911, from New Bedford: Dear Mother. Just telephoned New Bedford. Thelma is better. I will go to see her Thursday…Love from Charlie

8/17/1911, from New Bedford: Dear Mother. Thelma is better. Temperature is 99 this AM. Dr. says everything looks very favorable and with good luck can come home in four weeks. Charlie

img153.jpg
Postcard from 8/17/1911, from St. Luke’s Hospital, New Bedford

8/21/1911, from new Bedford, MA: Dear Mother; Last night Thelma was generally improved. Temperature normal. Sounds very encouraging. Am very busy and poor help. I am well and quite strong. Hope you and Father are OK. Will see you in Sept. Love from Charlie

8/29/1911, from New Bedford, MA: Dear Mother. Thelma is a little better this morning. Love from Charlie

9/2/1911, from New Bedford, MA: Dear Mother. I telephone to Thelma every night and she is still about the same except last night she had a slight hemorrhage but has not bled any more since. We are still hoping for the best. I will see you next week some time. Charlie

And, then nothing…

Until five months later, February 20, 1912, when Charles wrote a passionate love letter to my grandmother-to-be, Perpetue, also known as Ducky, also known as Pearl.

Charlie and Pearl married June 4, 1912 in Northampton, MA. They are entry #84 in the record below. Charles was 29, and Pearl was 19. Charles is recorded as a widower.

keene-bergeron-1912-marriage.jpg

It appears that Thelma passed away sometime between September of 1911, when she is still in the hospital, and February of 1912, when Grandpy wrote of his love to Nana. But, I can’t find any record of that. In fact, I can find no records of Thelma at all.

I have searched for census records, deaths, anything, using all the varieties of Thelma’s name I could think of: Thelma Keene, Anna L. Keene, Anna Backus, Thelma Backus, etc.

Nothing.

I’d so love to find out the rest of this story…