One of the best parts about Genealogy is finding the truth about your ancestors. This includes the family that is close to you. Growing up my parents were very tight-lipped about their pasts. My sister and I weren’t raised around family so, we didn’t have anyone we could talk to in order to find out information on them. When we did live near family I was aged 12 to 14 and the last thing I was thinking about was my parents’ past.
My dad, Douglas Hughes was born on August 18, 1915, and my mother, Emmajane Smith, was born on April 25, 1919. They didn’t get married until December 13, 1948. So, a lot of living happened before they tied the knot. My dad died on June 24, 1974, when I was 19 years old. The only information I knew for a fact was that my brother, who was 18 years older than I, was not my dad’s son. This, of course, means my mother had been married before.
After my dad died my mother told us that my dad had been married once before and he had two daughters. These girls and their mom died of scarlet fever. She then confessed that she had been married twice before. Her first husband had died of a heart attack in 1937. The second one was killed in a house explosion in 1948. She had been left a widow twice. She said she had wished them dead and they died! She refused to answer any more questions so we finally gave up asking. My mother died on June 16, 1999. This is when I started my Genealogy journey.
Over the next few years, I was able to piece together some of the missing pieces. I found a photo of my dad and his wife Mildred and their daughter Lola. My mother had written their names on the back of the photo. I found some very interesting things about my dad and his life, all of which were nothing like my mother had told us. These stories I will keep till another time.
I found my mother’s marriage license to her first husband online. She and Earl Wilson got married on September 4, 1936. My brother, Gordon arrived 8 months later. I searched the newspapers for obits for Earl but I couldn’t find one. I searched for a death certificate but none was to be found. I got desperate and looked for divorce papers, no luck there either. I did find Earl in the 1940 Census along with a new wife, 2 more kids, and my brother! I then traced him down and found he died in 1980.
Next, she married George Lierman on July 19, 1940. Again I tried to find information about him and the house explosion. Believe it or not, I found a newspaper article about it dated May 17, 1948. Apparently, he tried to light a stove and it started a fire. So there was some truth in her story. What was left out was that in May 1947 George had married a woman named Georgia and she had 2 boys. So sometime before then my mother and he had to have gotten a divorce.
Now to my dilemma. Have you ever had a newspaper clipping or document that you believe you had read all there was written in it? Well, that happened to me. I found an obituary for my mother’s stepmother who died on February 4, 1948. I had read through it several times however, a couple of years ago I discovered something I had overlooked. As was the custom of the day the surviving stepchildren for Nellie Smith were listed. The two stepsons were listed as Raymond Eugene Smith and John Pleasant Smith Jr. Then came the two stepdaughters listed as Mrs. Otto Claxton and Mrs. Ike Cook. It had never dawned on me that Mrs. Cook was my mother. I can’t find any marriage documents for them. I even searched the surrounding states because my parents had gotten married in Arkansas. I also tried all the variations of the “nickname” Ike.
So it appears that my mother was married 4 times not 3. She was also never a widow until my dad passed away. All of my mothers’ family who may have known about her and her life have passed away. I have run out of ideas as to how I can find more information about the married to Ike. Any suggestions?
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.