The Common Wife…

How would you feel if you or your mother or sister or grandmother or any other female relative of closeness was referred to as a ‘common wife’? For myself, I am not entirely sure I am completely kosher about this… A wife is so much more than common. Right?

This brings me to Nathaniel. Or rather, Nathaniel’s common (law) wife. In 1920, Nathaniel is found in a Louisiana Census (as shown below) as a ‘roomer’. The Census also tells us that Nathaniel is married. Learning this drove me absolute bonkers, I swear.

Nathaniel Census.png

What kind of situation in 1920 leads a twenty-five year old husband to live in a Rooming House APART from his wife?At that age, how long could they have possibly been married? What problems could they possibly have had that were so severe a separation of any kind was called for?

But then again, I’ve watched WDYTYA and FYR same as you… I know that divorce, while frowned upon back then, did happen. I also know that there were also those rare occasions when brave women and the means to leave abusive or unjust situations would intersect and separations would occur. Could this be the case with MY Nathaniel? As you may well have guessed by now, I have a vivid imagination. So, you can only guess the wild things I was thinking as I continued searching out as much as I could on dear old departed Nathaniel…

Maybe he was a thug, who loved the street life… Could he have been an alcoholic, perhaps? What if he wasn’t the problem? What if this unknown wife was some kind of floozy, as my grandmother would say, and his heart couldn’t take her stepping out on him anymore? And then of course, there was the boring, no adventure explanation, like maybe he was away from home due to work… What if he came back to Louisiana to be near his dying parents (though, I almost immediately trashed this notion, as it seems extremely implausible, even more so than my adventurous guesses as to why he was married and in a rooming house.

In a followup search of Mr. Nathaniel, I came across his WWI draft which only confirmed a marriage, but did not (as you probably know) provide me with the lucky lady’s name.

Instead of finding some outlandish tale like those I described above and much like the writer in me wanted to find, I found Nathaniel’s Draft card for WWII.

Nathaniel Draft.png

Edna Johnson is his common [law] wife. I did not even know such a thing existed back then. I have so many questions… Why did these two people not get married? What happened to the woman with whom he was married to in 1920 and on his WWI draft? And who was she? Could Ms. Edna be the same person as the mysterious wife previously listed and if so, why would her title go from wife to common wife? I don’t get it.

I do not believe there is any official recognition of common wives. Again, I don’t get it.

Honestly, I don’t care if she is the same person or not.

I am stuck on this common law wife thing. But maybe that is my born in the 19 something’s women are empowered thinking. I feel like he is diminishing what a wife actually does and all the work that goes into being a wife… And he didn’t even live with her, so he wouldn’t even know any of this! Why would he not give her the honor of being his real, government recognized wife???

(I’m sorry. I will try to tone my indignation down.)

Even as I am typing out these words  my imagination- like a good friend- is right there, ready to run wild… What if they couldn’t get married! (For example, it was an interracial relationship)… Eh- but if that were the case, wouldn’t the same fear that kept them from wedded bliss keep him from putting common wife on an official Government document? Hmmm. More research is in order, clearly. Until then, I remain angry that he would not honor the lovely Edna before God and her church.

Have you ever gotten angry with an ancestor for a decision they appeared to make or not make? I would love for you to tell me about it in the comments! As always, likes, shares and follows are appreciated!

1920 US Federal Census. Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations Inc 2010 Retrieved March 2017

US WWII Draft Registration Cards 1942. Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations Inc 2010 Retrieved March 2017

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F.A.G. Credited With Finding Missing Couple

Late last night, Perry and Ada Johnson, along with two of their children were found- as presumed- still dead in a Gretna, Louisiana cemetery. Early reports indicate the pair had been hiding out in FAG’s archives for at least two years, sources close to the case have said. It is unclear as of yet why the couple were not found in previous searches of Find a Grave or why they chose to reveal themselves at this time. A cursory search of the McDonoghville Cemetery’s and us airforcewife’s photos have turned up zero results as to the whereabouts of any remaining family.

Perry Johnson gravestone.jpg

Ada Johnson gravestone.jpg

Still unaccounted for are the couples children Earline (who may be yet among the living) of Gretna, Joseph, Perry Jr, Herman, Roland, and Aaron all presumably of Gretna and all probably long dead. It is possible that there may be another daughter, however this information can neither be confirmed or denied at this time.

It is believed that someone in the area knows how to find other members in the Johnson family, as evidenced by the fresh (at the time of this photo) flowers on Ada’s headstone. Could that someone still be placing flowers at the grave site?

Any persons with information on the Johnson family of Gretna, Louisiana is asked to comment immediately on this thread or email the author directly.

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As if having the surname of Johnson wasn’t hardship enough, I have the added challenge of having little to no information at all. My grandmother, who was divorced from my grandfather (Roland) for years prior to his death in 2005 has requested that I not bother her with ‘this nonsense’ any more. Just before this pronouncement, I vaguely recall her mentioning a LIVING sister and that she had no recollection of the people I was ‘pestering’ her about. My mother believes there is a living sister, but doesn’t know how old she is or where she is living- nor does she have a copy of the obituary (which is shocking because between her and my Nana, there is a copy of EVERYONE’S obituary) and both my grandfather’s children (my father and my aunt) have left this world, taking all the information with them. My mother also promised to see if she had this sister’s address, though it has been twenty four hours without any mention of an address or a name, so my hope meter is falling with each passing minute.

Simply finding Ada and Perry on FAG was a great discovery for me and I truly do not know why I didn’t see them all the other times I have searched for them on the FAG site, but I am glad to have finally found them. I am hopeful that tomorrow will allow for me to dedicate more than a few spare minutes into digging deeper into this developing case.

For now, I am going to rest up for the challenge that lays ahead of me…

Have you ever wanted to put out an APB on one or more of your ancestors? I would love to hear about it- did you eventually ‘get your man’? If so, what are some of the tricks of the trade that worked for you? If you haven’t found your missing person yet, what are some of the things you have tried thus far?

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and opinions! And of course, if you are in the LA area- especially Gretna, Jefferson Parish and want to volunteer some on the ground man power- it is absolutely welcome and appreciated!

And as always, if it made you smile or even chuckle- please give a like and a share, thank you and see you next time! 

Photo Credit- us airforcewife, Find A Grave member

Never Ask A Genealogist…

I have made it a personal goal of mine to actually talk to living people in a face to face manner, everyday. You probably just read that and now your mind is all like, “wait. what?” I apologize and I will try to clear up the confusion post haste. If you are reading this, then you likely know that I talk to dead people (duh). Not the crystal ball, “John wants you to know that it is okay to get married again” kind of talking- though, if that is your thing, more power to you! But in the “who the heck are your parents and why can’t I find them???” kind of way. Yes. There is absolutely a difference. Anyway, sometimes, I tend to spend a lot of my time conversing with the dead and not nearly enough time cultivating living relationships with people other than those faceless names in my favorite Facebook hangouts. Surely, I am not the only one. And if I am, well this is a no judgement zone. So there.

Anyway, back to spending time with living, breathing people… I actually left my house- in a presentable fashion (which means I did all the things you are supposed to do on a daily basis, but I occasionally forget to do until 4 in the afternoon and I even put on CLEAN clothes that were not consistent with lounge pants or pajamas) and went out to meet Susan. (Her name isn’t really Susan, but she might be reading this and I want to save her as much embarrassment as possible… like she didn’t already stick her foot in her mouth and swallow it whole…) So, if your actual name happens to be Susan, I am not talking about you, so kindly delete the mega email you were about to compose…

Susan and I get together and we encourage each other to accomplish our goals. We are accountability partners, if you will and we strive to challenge each other to think completely out of the box. In all fairness, it is Susan, who encouraged me to develop my elevator pitch and who has pushed me to handle the business side of things and not just  the fun stuff.

So, imagine my surprise, when today, Susan asks me, “if you could talk to anyone past or present and have them answer your questions and tell you the lessons they have learned, who would it be and why?” I swear, I looked at her like she was speaking perfect Latin. In other words, this was the expression on my face- O. She knows I am a genealogist or family historian or whatever. She knows that whenever we get together, I am inevitably going to be late because I was having trouble tearing myself away from the latest mystery or hunt that I was pursuing among the dead people. SHE KNOWS THIS.

I know she was trying to challenge me to think and be a better person or whatever people who don’t talk to dead people all day think when they throw that question around; perhaps she even even expected me to say Martin Luther King, Jr. or President Obama or Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama- all interesting, for sure- but, come on, I TALK TO DEAD PEOPLE.

I asked her if she was serious. She looked at me with her innocent eyes and told me she was.

I whipped out my phone and shoved it in her face, as I simultaneously said, “I have two people.”

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I don’t know her name, but she is a Creek Indian and I have been studying her facial features, trying to determine if we share any likeness. I would ask her who she was and if she knew Rebeca (Rebeca McIntosh is one of my 2x great grandmothers, who is a documented Creek (Freedman) Indian, but other than a name and a spot on the Dawes Roll, I know next to nothing about). Then I held the phone next to my own shimmering face and asked Susan if she thought we resembled each other.

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And this is another of my 2x great grandmothers. I believe her name is Melissa Shaw and she is standing next to the one and only, FLOTUS Eleanor Roosevelt and shaking the hand of an equally important, Mary McLeod Bethune. I have no other information other than the names and the picture, so you can imagine all of the questions I want to ask her.

I went on to explain that both these women hail from my dad’s side of my tree and those branches have been not only difficult to find, but also not so forth coming in the life stories department. And then I took a breath, ready to delve into all the things I really wanted to know, but I saw the look on her face… Her eyes had begun to get all glossy-like and I think she might have even been nodding off. ( I deducted this from the bit of saliva running down the corner of her mouth and onto the palm of her hand, which I’m pretty sure was the only thing holding her head up.) “What’s wrong?” I asked her. And do you know what she had the nerve to say to me? She said, “you’re talking about all your genealogy stuff.”

I was answering the question. Wasn’t I? WASN’T I?????

And I think that is when she realized, there are certain things you NEVER ask a genealogist. In fact, I know this is when she discovered this tidbit of life changing information, because she said, “I guess, I should have thought about that before I asked you, considering what you spend all your time doing.”

Needless to say lunch was over fairly quickly after that. Apparently, I had violated some unspoken agreement between us, in which I do not talk about talking to dead people, as I motivate her or she motivates me. Honestly, I think she just made this up, because I can’t really see myself agreeing to not talk about my dead people, you know?

Anyway, that pleasant experience got me wondering a couple of things about you guys… If you could converse with anyone from your family tree, who would it be and why? And also, has your genealogy work ever come up at in an inopportune time and caused a disruption in the task at hand? I would love to hear your stories and tales of woe! Leave me a comment, so we can commensurate with each other and  if you wouldn’t mind, please like and share! Thanks! See you next time luv!