Friday, July 31, 2009

Sometimes "Crazy" Works


What's In A Name?
Just between you, me, and the gatepost, just how many ancestors have you tried to find that have the name "Mary"?  I don't think that I have enough fingers and toes to count how many Mary's are in my family tree.  Mary is such a common name, then couple that with the fact that a Mary usually marries, changing her last name.  All of which makes finding the correct Mary extremely difficult.

One of My Mary's
This is the exact problem that I had when I tried to find what exactly happened to my grandfather's younger sister Mary Marschall.  In the 1910 census, she and my grandfather were living with their older sister Antonetta "Nettie" Marschall Legatos, Nettie's husband Nick Legatos and their children in Galveston, Galveston County, Texas.  My grandfather Joseph [17 yrs old at the time] was fishing with Nick for a living, while Mary [15 yrs old at the time] was keeping house for a private family.  By 1920, my grandfather had married and moved to San Antonio, and Mary had done the obligatory "disappearing act".  [Big Sigh.]  How was I going to find my Mary?  Where and what was Mary's story?

Playing Hide-and-Seek With Mary
The first thing that I ruled out was her death before marriage.  She wasn't to be found with her maiden name in the Texas Death Index and a Texas death certificate didn't "pop-up" for her either.  Therefore, I knew she probably hadn't died between 1910 and 1920 before getting married, if she, indeed, married.  I tried "looking" for her in her other sibling's households to no avail as well.

Come Out. Come Out, Wherever You Are
I was thinking that she probably married, and my major stumbling block was that I needed to find out to whom she married.  How does one go about finding in the great big state of Texas [if she married in Texas] possibly between 1910 & 1920 a Mary who married?  Well, I took a look at what might make my Mary stand out from all the rest.  I knew some important facts about Mary's parents, and I knew where all of her siblings were living.  Using, I decided to search in the 1920 census of Galveston, Galveston County, Texas for a Mary born in Galveston, Texas in 1895 [exact birth year verified from Baptismal records].  I printed the 3 pages of Mary's out, and I began to look each one up looking for a Mary with a father born in Prussia, Germany, Poland or Posen [all of which he had listed in previous and future census records] and a mother born in Texas. Pretty crazy, huh?

Tag!  Your It.
It might be crazy, but on page 2 just past half-way, I found a Mary Espersen married to a man by the name of Harry Espersen.  This Mary had a father born in Poland and mother born in Texas.  Would you believe me if I said that out of all the Mary's living in Galveston in 1920 born in Galveston in/around 1895, she's the only one that had parents with these birthplaces and not living with her parents?  With the German population at the time, it's unbelievable.

So, was this the correct Mary? Was she mine? 
With this last name to go by, I looked for a death certificate for a Mary Espersen, and was able to find one for her and her husband pretty easily [with last name spelled Esperson]. With the death certificate, I was able to verify that this Mary was indeed "my Mary".  It listed my great-grandparents [John and Emma (Schleicher) Marschall] as her parents, and Jane's [her older sister] husband, Otto Rosin, was listed as the informant.  In piecing together her short life, I found that Mary Marschall married Harry Esperson sometime between 1910-1920.  They lived in Galveston, Texas in 1920, where Harry was the owner of a dairy.  By coinicidence [probably not, though], her brother, John Marschall was a dairyman in Galveston at the time as well as her brother-in-law Otto Rosin in San Antonio.  By 1921, Harry and Mary moved to San Antonio and bought a house.  [Though not from my grandfather, Joseph Marshall, who hadn't yet begun his real estate development there.]  Tragically by 12 Mar 1922, Harry died from complications due to diabetes and Mary followed in her death just over 2 months later on 25 May 1922 of septicemia.  Mary and Harry were both buried and rest today in Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston, Texas.

So, go find your Mary's!


  1. I don't think this is crazy at all. I found my maternal grandmother 75 years after my mother last saw her when given up for adoption at age 4. I did it my searching the social security death index for people with my grandmother's first name and birth date. Then I waded through and selected the most likely candidate, using intuition and geography, sent for her social security application and it was her.

    Thanks for posting this great story!

  2. You say "crazy", I say "lateral thought"! I've been thinking about using recently published probate indexes to rule out some of the "maybe"s for the death of a James. I hope I have the same luck with it that you did!

  3. It's good to be crazy this way; I actually didn't know the name of the "missing" sister of one family, but figured she had to exist. Why? The mother was said to have 7 children living and I found 6 boys but figured the 7th must have been a girl, born between 1880, when she didn't appear on the census with her parents, and 1890, when the father died. I eventually found her through those Texas death certificates - Alice Floyd Ezell Bibb, who tragically died in the influenza epidemic on the same day as her second husband (the story is somewhere on my blog - this family had so much tragedy).

  4. Excellent sleuthing! Perhaps I'll have such luck with my Joseph and Mary Smith, who had a child named Mary, who had three sons who married Marys.

  5. Not crazy at all - unless of course we're all a little nuts! Congratulations on finding Mary.


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