Monday, November 3, 2008

A Mystery Woman: My Ancestor's Third Wife ...

I happened to be looking at Chris's blog not too long ago, and I couldn't help but notice a post he had on a book. Why? Well, for one, the book is set in Michigan, and since I'm a Michigander, I can't help but notice articles on anything that has to do with Michigan. In addition, the surname, Sparling, caught my eye. Sparling just might happen to be the maiden name of my ancestor's third wife.

On my ancestor's death certificate, his wife's name was given as Lora Sparling. Of course, this is the only record I have so far that lists what her maiden name was. I have yet to find his marriage to Lora (or Lore as her name has been spelled in a couple of census records). In fact, I hardly know anything about her, and most of that information portrays her in a negative way. Thus, you can say she is a mystery to me. So, here is what I know about her:
  • 1920 and 1930 censuses suggest she might have been born in Ohio around 1880. I have not been able to find her in any censuses prior to the 1920 census. (And of course, I have to keep in mind that the information on the census could be incorrect.)
  • In 1920, she was married to my ancestor, John Oswalt, and they were living in Osceola county, Michigan.
  • In 1930, she and John were living in Douglas, Allegan county, Michigan. This census also suggests that her marriage to John was her only marriage at that time, and that she married John when she was 37. From the censuses, a possible marriage year might be 1917. (John's second wife died in 1915 in Kalamazoo county, Michigan and between then and the 1920 census, I do not know where the family was living.)
  • She was literally like the wicked step-mother one reads about in fairy tales. She hated children, and thus, she and John never had any children. John had children from a previous marriage, and she made her step-children's lives a living hell. (They would eventually run away from home once they became teenagers.)
  • After 1930, I do not know where John and Lora lived, or for how long they continued to live together. John apparently wanted to live in Gladwin county, and Lora refused. (This is according to family stories.) Around 1936, John became ill with pneumonia. Lora contacted his children (who now had families of their own), and told them to take care of their father. John's children cared for him, and decided to take turns letting him live in their homes for six months out of the year. (John would continue to go back and forth between his children's homes until he died in 1940.)
  • After John fell ill, his children did not keep in contact with their step-mother, and as a result, no one in our family knows what happened to her.

Most of the information above came from family stories that my grandfather told me. Outside of the census records, and the death records for John and his second wife, I do not have any other information. I do not have a record of when John remarried, and I am little unsure as to where I should look. My first instinct is to look for a marriage record in Michigan because that is the state in which John and Lora resided. Obviously, if I knew where John and his family were living in the five years between 1915 and 1920, I might be able to figure out where John and Lora married. I do know that the marriage was not recorded in Saint Joseph county as I have checked the marriage records. Of course, if I could find Lora in the censuses prior to 1920, I might be able to possibly come up with another county to look for a marriage record. The FamilySearch database does not appear to have a marriage record for John and Lora, but there is the possibility that database is not complete yet.

In addition, I am a little curious as to what happen to Lora, only if it is to find out when she died. I would like to be able to wrap up that lose end in my research on my ancestor. If anyone has any suggestions as to where I should look for a marriage or what I can do to determine what happened to Lora, please leave me a comment. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!

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