Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Unraveling a little mystery.

The Clues.

A photograph, with the words "Detroit Cousins" written on the back. The photograph was one that my aunt Phyllis had loaned to me for scanning a few years ago. When I asked her who the "Detroit Cousins" were she could only give me one first name, Mercedes. She said she remembers them visiting when she was young. (Photo at bottom of post.)

Franklin and Emily Robison Bair were married in 1861 and had five children, one was a daughter whose name was given as Laura Lemmon in Franklin's obituary of 1917. It also stated that she was of Detroit. Emily had died about 1877 and none of the children are listed with Franklin in the 1880 census.

The vague recollection that one of my ancestors "took in" a child to raise. I did a search of notes in my genealogy database for "Bair" and it didn't take long to find what I was looking for.

The Records.

The will of my 3rd great grandfather, William Hamilton Dunfee, bequeaths "the sum of Fifty Dollars" to "Flora C. Bair to be due and payable to her when she attains the age of twenty one years." And, the obituary for his wife, Catharine (Jones) Dunfee, dated February 25, 1903 lists as one of her survivors "Mrs. M. C. Leaman, who was from infancy cared for in the home of Mrs. Dunfee, and loved as her own."

I went back and checked the obituary notices for the children of William and Catherine Dunfee to see if I had overlooked anything. The obituary for Henrietta Rebecca Dunfee of September 27, 1941 published in the Columbia City Post, stated that "She is survived by one brother, William Dunfee of Columbia township, and a foster sister, Mrs. Jack Hampton of Detroit." No mention was made of surviving sisters in the 1942 obituary of Henrietta's brother, William James Dunfee.

Is Laura Lemmon actually Flora Leaman?

The 1880 Indiana census lists the family of Wm H. Dunfee (on page 423) in Columbia Township, Whitley County.
Wm H. Dunfee, 58, farmer, born Pennsylvania, parents born Pennsylvania
Catharine, 52, wife, born Ohio, father born Virginia, mother born Pennsylvania
Rebecca, 28, daughter, at home, born Indiana
William, 26, son, works at tile yard, born Indiana
Flora Cathy, 8, daughter, at school, born Indiana
[The 3rd child of Wm. and Catherine was Sophia, who had married William P. Wise in 1873. They are my 2nd great grandparents.]

Whitley County Marriage Records (Book 6 page 6) show that Flora C. Bair was married to Massilon C. Leamon on October 4, 1898. The Marriage Applications Book 1893-1901 gives his first name as Masilon. Her given name is Florence C. It doesn't list her father's name but her mother's maiden name is Robinson.

There is a Guardianship Packet for Emily Bair in the Whitley County Archives. I've contacted the county archivist to try and set a date to look at the record since the last three times I've stopped by, during the posted hours, she hasn't been there!

Transcribed death records show that "Infant Male Layman died December 5, 1899 age 1 1/2 days. Parents were Malsea Layman and Cora Bair." I haven't seen the record so can't determine whether Cora is really Lora, or not.

The 1900 census for Whitley County shows the Leaman family residing on Ellsworth Street in Columbia City (page 53a).
Morlande Leaman, head of household, Jun 1873, 26, married once, born Indiana, father born Pennsylvania, mother born Ohio
Flora C., wife, Mar 1875, 25, married once, two children one living, born Indiana, father born Pennsylvania, mother born Indiana
Mycituis, daughter, Dec 1894, 5, born Indiana
Alban Bear, uncle, July 1839, 60, born Pennsylvania, father born New Jersey, mother born Pennsylvania

In 1910, I found the family in Fostoria, Seneca County, Ohio (page 28/5a)
Murt C. Leaman, head of household, 37, married once 12 years, born Indiana, parents born Indiana, general painter
Flora, wife, 36, married once 12 years, 1 child 1 living, born Indiana, parents born Indiana
Mercedes, daughter, 15, born Indiana

I didn't find M. C. and Flora Leaman in the ancestry census index for 1920 or 1930 in Ohio or Michigan. Thinking perhaps Flora had married Jack Hampton before 1920 I searched for Flora Hampton. One hit in 1930 only: George H. Hampton and wife Flora in Clinton, Macomb County, Michigan. She is 54, married 22 years, born in Michigan. Not the right Flora.

I'm not sure why, but I then did a search of the 1930 census for Mercedes Hampton, born in 1894, living in Michigan. Up came this family, living in Detroit District 30, Wayne County (page 36):
Robert Hampton, head of household, rents home for $60, 53, first married at age 23, born Canada-Eng, parents born Canada-Eng, Steel worker, Auto Company
Katherine, wife, 54, first married at age 17, born Indiana, father born Pennsylvania, mother born Ohio
Mercedes Wilkinson, daughter, 35, divorced, first married at age 17, born Indiana, parents born Indiana, Saleslady, Ladies Clothes

According to the 1880 census (see above), Flora's middle name was Cathy. So, is it a stretch to think this might be the right household? Of course, the husband's name is Robert and not Jack. But maybe he was called Jack by family members? Katherine is the right age, she and her parents were born in the right places. Same for Mercedes. Note that Mercedes is listed as Robert's daughter but he was born in Canada and her parents were born in Indiana.

I did not find Mercedes Wilkinson in the 1920 census index but did find the Robert Hampton household living on Oakland Street, Detroit Ward 3, District 111, Wayne County (p42/2a)
Robert Hampton, head of household, 40, married, immigrated 1911, alien or naturalized has "Pa" in column, born Canada, parents born Canada, Moulder, Auto Factory
Katherine, wife, 40, married, immigrated has X in column, alien or naturalized has "al" in column, born Indiana, parents born Indiana

I searched the SSDI for Mercedes Wilkinson, but got no hits. Then searched it for Mercedes (first name only), born in 1894, card issued in Michigan.

I got two hits. One for Mercedes Ginther, born December 6, 1894, died Sep 1978. The other was for Mercedes Hernandez, born February 2, 1894, died Feb 1983. I found them in the 1930 census and based on the fact that both are married in 1930 and their place of birth (Mrs. Ginther was born in Michigan and Mrs. Hernandez was born in Mexico) neither one is the "right" person.

*** Update 12:30 p.m. December 3, 2008 ***

Found in the "Index Cards to Naturalization Petitions for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, Detroit, 1907-1995" database on ancestry.
REPAT (in upper right corner)
513 (written) 1211 (typed)
Hampton, Flora Katherine
3-14-1874 BD
*** End of Update ***


Laura Lemmon, named in her father's obituary, is the same Flora Cathy Bair who was "adopted" by William H. and Catherine Dunfee, and she is the same Flora/Florence who married Massilon C. Leamon/Leaman.

Using her middle name Katherine, Flora married a second time to Robert Hampton, aka Jack Hampton. They lived in Detroit, Michigan.

Flora Katherine Hampton was still living in September 1941 but, since she is not mentioned in the obituary of William James Dunfee, she may have died prior to May 1942 (or whomever provided his family information didn't include her, for whatever reason).

Flora and M. C. Leaman had a daughter named Mercedes, who could be the Detroit cousin known as Mercedes. Mercedes married Mr. Wilkinson at age 17 and divorced before 1930, when she was living with her mother and step-father.

*** Update 8:30 a.m. December 3, 2008 ***

As Randy pointed out in his comment, I have no "real" documentation for many of my facts and conclusions. He suggests checking the online Michigan death index as well as Detroit city directories. Thanks, Randy, and I will follow up on those suggestions.

I should have stated in the original post that my conclusions are preliminary and are based on the information that I have gathered thus far. Additional research is definitely needed to "prove" those presumptions.

*** End of Update ***


Of course, as more information is uncovered, additional questions arise. What happened to Mercedes? Did she marry again? Did she have any children? When and where did she die? When and where did Flora Katherine die? Was Robert really called Jack?

Photograph identified only as "Detroit Cousins." My aunt said the ladies' name was Mercedes.

Enlargement of the above photograph.

Enlargement from another photograph. I think the lady in the middle in this picture is the same person in the top picture. What do you think?

Mae Dunfee was the adopted daughter of William James Dunfee and his wife Mary Elizabeth Walker. Hazlette is my grandmother; Jane and Bill are her sister and brother. I think the lady in the middle is Mercedes who would have been about 8 years older than my grandmother who was born in January 1902. I'm not sure that the boy is grandma's brother Bill. He was only 3 years younger than she and, to me, this boy looks younger than that. I'm guessing that this picture was taken about 1920, give or take a few years.


Randy Seaver said...


This is a pretty good analysis and conclusion, although you don't have any "real" documentation of many of the facts and conclusions.

The changing given names doesn't hel much, does it?

Have you checked city directories for these locations? Doesn't Michigan have an online death index 1971-1996 on Ancestry?

20th century research is especially difficult for females!

Cheers -- Randy

Becky Wiseman said...

Thanks Randy, I appreciate the feedback. I've checked the Michigan death index but haven't found anything for Flora or Mercedes. I suspect that Flora Katherine Hampton was deceased prior to 1971 since she was born about 1875.

I did find an entry in the Naturalization Index for Flora Katherine Hampton. Her second husband, Robert Hampton, was born in Canada so when she married him, she became an alien resident.

I've added two notes (so far) to the original post.