15 January 2014

Wishful Wednesday - 52 Ancestors Week 3 - Jeffrey Girls

When I saw Amy Johnson Crow’s suggestion about 52 Ancestors, I immediately responded that I thought it was a fabulous idea. Taking the time to focus on one ancestor a week and writing a blog post about that ancestor seemed like an easy enough task. Of course, here we are in Week 3, and I’ve yet to get a post done. I thought I’d quickly write a post about my Granny Frances and her two sisters, Bessie and Adelaide. You know, for Week Three. Because there were three of them.

Except, my math's not so hot and there was a fourth. Actually, I knew this; Isabel, the oldest daughter of George and Fanny Jeffrey was born on 31 May 1886, according to State of Michigan records. The written entry shows she was born to “George Jeffrey” a “carriage maker” and “Fannie”; George is from “Canada” and Fannie is from “Michigan”. This all jibes with other evidence I have and explains the lovely photos of ‘Isabel’ that I found among my Granny’s photos:

In order to write a quality post (you know I strive to do that, right), I decided to take a fast look at my ‘Documents’ folder in my digital library under the surname ‘Jeffrey’. I thought I might be able to add a document or two to my other sources for the Jeffrey girls in Family Tree Maker. As my eyes scanned down the list of unprocessed material, they stopped at an entry that says this:

                                  Jeffrey Edna B3 p237

Um, who’s Edna? The other entries, GIF file images from the State of Michigan, County of Kalamazoo Birth Records, read like this:

Jeffrey Isabel B3 p146

Jeffrey Bessie B3 p284
Jeffrey Frances Isabel B4 p129
Jeffrey Adelaide B5 p142

I remember when I pulled these images back in December, 2011. What I didn’t remember is pulling FIVE records.  Here’s where it gets really hinky; check out the dates of birth (again, according to what’s written in the log books):

Isabel - 31 May 1886
Edna - 21 December 1888
Bessie - 31 May 1889
Baby** - 22 Apr 1893 **A notation was added “7-1-58 Frances Isabel”
Adelaide B - 10 May 1901

I did verify that the ‘Edna’ entry was a daughter of George and Fannie, from Canada and Michigan. George’s occupation is listed as ‘Mail Carrier’ and I know that my George was indeed a Mail Carrier in Kalamazoo for 30 years, as confirmed with the US Postal Service. So, what’s wrong with this picture?

As I mentioned, before, I like to think I’m smart. The time period between Edna’s birth 21 December 1888 and Bessie’s birth 31 May 1889 is only 5 months. While babies are viable at that time frame, it seems highly unlikely in the late 1800s. It also seems a bit strange that Bessie and Isabel share the exact same date of birth, although again it’s not impossible. What’s really bizarre is that my cousin Kathy, the daughter of my mom’s sister Jacqueline, 'corrected' my information when she saw it online, telling me that the family celebrated Bessis’s birthday around Christmas and that her birthday was December 21st. Uh, oh.

It’s far more likely that Bessie was born in December 1889, and any family historian worth their salt knows that hand written records, even official ones, can be incorrect. In Kalamazoo County, at that time, it was still commonplace to provide information about the birth of a child well after the actual date. Is it possible that Bessie was born on 31 December instead of May as was written in the log? The strange thought that perhaps to ‘honor’ her departed sister they decided to say that she was born on the same day, but a year later, also came to mind but seems unlikely. Maybe George or Fanny misspoke when giving the information to the County when asked the child’s date of birth.

I've been unable to locate a death record, or any other record for that matter, for Edna Jeffrey. I can only presume that she died very close to, or on, her birth date and that’s why she was never mentioned by my Granny. Of course, now I wish I’d asked my Mom about her a few years ago when her mind was working a lot better, although I doubt that she’d have known anything about Edna. She didn't know about Isabel until we were going through old photos after my mom’s sister passed away in 2006.

Wishful thinking: there’s no such thing as an ‘easy’ post. *sigh*

Rather than bail entirely, I'm hanging with my original idea and posting about the three (surviving) Jeffrey girls:

Bessie Jeffrey was my grand aunt. She was an unusual woman; she never married, but worked for the US government her entire life. According to my Mom, her Aunt Bessie smoked like a chimney and rarely ate, which is why she was always frighteningly thin. She lived in Chicago; at one point she lived in a building that overlooked what used to be a Chicago architectural icon: the Edgewater Beach Hotel. I know she traveled; I found photos of her in Florida, Bermuda, and Mexico. I know little else about her. She died, at her sister Frances’ in Villa Park, Illinois on 24 July 1965 at the age of 76.

Frances Isabel was my Granny. That’s how I knew her and always referred to her as did the rest of my contemporaries. She was a strong woman to be certain; my grandfather had ‘a drinking problem’ and as a salesman was either traveling or moving the family. I’ve written about her wedding date: December 7, 1917. Her husband, Victor Wersel had started at the Bryant Paper Company as a salesman where she was a secretary. After they married they waited before starting their family and had two daughters, Virginia in 1922 and Jacqueline 1924. Then in 1933, shortly after Frances celebrated her 40th birthday, my Mom surprised everyone with her entry into the world. Frances was a sweet, caring person. She would buy Christmas presents throughout the year, wrapping them very carefully and storing them in her room until it was time to celebrate. She made potato coquettes, which to this day are a family tradition. Victor died in 1963, leaving her a widow; she never remarried, living the rest of her life alone. I don’t believe that they’d saved anything, so she worked. As a matter of fact, she was commuting from the western suburbs of Chicago to the downtown Goldblatt’s store when they ‘suggested’ she retire after working there for 20 years; I think they’d found out she was 85 years young. Frances died 24 August 1990 in Elmhurst, Illinois at the age of 97.

Adelaide was my grand aunt. Like Bessie she was a bit eccentric. She was born in 1901, so her sisters were a bit older than her. I think the term ‘precocious’ would have fit Adelaide to a ‘T’.  It's uncertain whether or not Adelaide was officially married to George Thurston, the father of her two children Patricia and George, but her 1930 US Census entry indicates she was divorced and living with her parents. And, five years later, she was married and living with her husband, Adolf Koop. From the family photos I found, it appears that my grandfather Victor (Frances' husband) and Adolf got along really well and were the life of the party. Heh. Sadly, Adelaide died of ovarian cancer on 31 October 1956 in Villa Park, Illinois at the age of 55. 


Oh, there's lots more to tell, which is what is going to keep this challenge so, well, challenging. On to the next ancestor. 

Hmmm, I wonder who it will be...


  1. Love this post and the pics are terrific!

    1. Thanks, Dawn! I'm fortunate to have a family that loved pictures. :-)

  2. However many Jeffrey girls there were, this was a great start.

    1. Thanks, Susan. Hoping the next post doesn't take 10 hours. Heh.

  3. Very nicely done! I agree that there's no such thing as an easy post!

    1. Thanks, Dawn! This challenge shines a spotlight on the love/hate relationship with research: how much is enough for an easy post. LOL

  4. Lovely post, Laura. More questions, more research. Great photos!

    1. Celia, as always you're so kind. Thank you!!

  5. This was a nice post! Your Granny sounds like an amazing woman...still working at 85 years young. That's awesome!

  6. You have no idea, William! I ran into her, as she made her way home to her apartment from the bus, as I was walking home from high school. She was carrying two shopping bags and I offered to carry one for her...what a mistake! Thing weighed a ton and by the time we got to her place my arm was burning! LOL. She was an incredible woman. :-)


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