I have recently spent a great deal of time researching a family line in which there is a peculiar lack of paternal lines present. Generation after generation, I found information on the mothers’ side of the family tree and nothing on the fathers. It has been quite frustrating! On the one generation in which I actually did find the father’s information, it is the mother’s information that is missing and the one that I am most interested in tracing down.
I began tracing this line of the family tree earlier this year. The information I was given to start off with was sketchy at best and included many alias’, states of residence and family stories that didn’t match up. The search began with a woman, recently deceased, known as Patricia “Pat” Dorothy Pillsbury. She was born in 1933 in Kansas City, Missouri. Having been estranged from her family since a very young age, her children and grandchildren had very little information.
What they had were multiples of alias’ she had used over time, the name of at least two of her husbands, the fact that she was a twin and a few brothers (though she hadn’t seen any of them in many years), and a million tales that she had spun over the years. Many of these stories had seemed absurd when she told them to her children and verifying most of the information she had given them was impossible. More than 90% of the stories and information she had told her children were fantasy. This wasn’t going to be easy.
Pat’s children had no relationship with their grandparents. One of the stories that she told them turned out to be true however, in that she was in fact born in a home for unwed mothers in Kansas City, Missouri, leaving a great likelihood that her father might never have been in the picture to begin with. They only other thing that they knew was that they had met their grandmother just once, long ago, and that she had a new husband with the last name of Seevers. Finally, we had something to go on.
I began to research the marriage records between women with the last name Pillsbury and men with the last name of Seevers. I struck gold. I found the obituary of a Marie Pillsbury Seevers, including all of the siblings, the new husband the grandchildren remembered meeting, and all of the siblings that had long been estranged from Pat. I traced each of them through birth and death records and verified that this was, in fact, the family of Pat Pillsbury.
After Marie had married Oliver Seevers, he took her to the orphanage and got her twin daughters back. The children that Marie and Oliver had together, along with the girls all grew up together until Pat left home at the age of sixteen, to remain estranged from them for most of her life. Here however, is where everything gets interesting.
The names of the Pat’s aunts and uncles were central to many of her stories. Knowing her likelihood to become creative with her stories, much of what she said was discounted. These aunts and uncles however had been introduced to her children a few times and they could verify their names and many of them were mentioned in her obituary as well. This was the closest thing we had to a lead.
In searching the 1930 census records, we found many of them living together. Four of the children had the same last name (Pillsbury), and one more son (Beene). The census also showed lodgers one of the uncles that her grandchildren remembered meeting and his son (Bishop). Their mother, Sadiebelle, was married to a man named Beene. After an exhaustive search of marriage records, I traced her through them. She had married many times, having children in each marriage and they all kept their father’s last name. In total, we have tracked down nine children, including four last names. Unfortunately, most of the fathers have remained a mystery.
Sadiebelle Lowery, born 1884 in the Indian territory of Oklahoma, was born to the first paternal line I could finally put in this family tree! Her father’s name was Isaac Lowery and her mother, per her death certificate, was “Unknown Bushyhead”. I have yet to be able to find any information about her father before he came to Emporia in approximately 1885 other than his participation in the civil war in Indiana, where he was born in 1838. Her mother, “Unknown Bushyhead” is a complete mystery as well. Hopefully, not for long though.
Sadiebelle Lowery was raised in Emporia, Kansas and led a very interesting life there. I found two 1901 articles from Emporia Gazzette about her. The first article, titled “Another Would-be Suicide” describes her attempted suicide. It says:
“Last night, about 11 o’clock, at the her home, 1115 East Street, Sadie Lowry attempted to kill herself by drinking carbolic acid. Drs. Hunt and Moore saved her life, at least temporarily, but she is still in a very dangerous condition and may die. She was out for a walk with a young man earlier in the evening. They had walked out the railroad nearly to East Lake, and, it seems, quarreled while walking along. Although not generally known some love affair existed between them. After their return she brooded over the trouble an hour or more and then went to her room and tried to drink two ounces of carbolic acid. She succeeded in swallowing about half of it and spilled the rest on her face, neck, arms and hands making frightful burns wherever the acid touched. When the doctors came she fought stubbornly, calling for more acid to complete the job, and refused to take any medicine. Finally she was given a glass containing an antidote, was told that it was more acid and she drank it. The doctors stayed with her until about 4 o’clock when they pronounced her out of immediate danger. She has been once married, her husband now being in the army at Fort Riley. They have not lived together for some time although they are not divorced.”
The second article, just two months later, describes her arrest at the age of sixteen for managing a “house of disrepute”. The article says:
“The disreputable places in town are coming in for their share of trouble. Seven persons were before the court this morning, three of whom were charged with being frequenters. These three put up $10 each to guarantee their appearance and then failed to appear, forfeiting the $30 to the city. They were all alleged respectable young men of the town. Roy Baker was brought up for being connected with the place and is now in jail. A charge of vagrancy is also lodged against him awaiting the disposal of this case. Emporia is developing a climate that is not suited to his health. The women were Sadie Lowry charged with keeping the house and Jessie Cooper charged with being an inmate. Both were fined $10 and costs – $3.50. Each paid $7.50 of her fine and promised the rest soon.”
Both articles are difficult to read but containing a great deal of information. We began searching for arrest records and marriage records trying to track down more information. I found her marriage records as well as the birth of a son in 1900. She had married at the age of fifteen just one day before the birth of their son. The husband however went off to the army shortly thereafter, leaving her married, a mother and alone at the age of fifteen. This was just the first of many marriages.
From this set of marriage records, we could trace her married names up through five marriages in forty years, including nine children that we know of. All of the different names of her children as reflected in the 1930 census were explained by all of the marriages. This search is currently still underway and remains a challenge to my research skills every time I sit down and try to tackle it all.