Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chapter 23: Cyrus Dies at the Sailors and Soldiers Home

Military pension files can be rich sources for biographical information because applicants had to establish details of their physical condition and, oftentimes, the facts of marriages and family relationships. Physician's reports and affidavits regarding personal habits dominate Cyrus Fawkner's file.

Cyrus had multiple physical ailments, including heart disease and a double oblique inguinal hernia. Several affiants -- all using the same language -- attested that the hernia was not caused by "any vicious or immoral habits." They said the hernia was not any fault of the veteran. In a May 1895, while a resident in the Sailors and Soldiers Home at Quincy, Illinois, Cyrus swore that the hernia was sustained about 1884 while working with hogs. Cyrus said that he could secure no testimonials for the cause of the hernia because his wife and daughter "who knew of it are dead and no one here knows about it." He said it happened some 200 miles away (in Fairbury) and consequently he could not witnesses who knew of it. In August, he stated that the injury was sustained in January 1888 when he took a severe fall in the hog lot.

Details of the accident may be sketchy, but Cyrus most certainly was in the hog business. A February 1881 newspaper reported that Thomas Weeks of Fairbury had sold "to Fawkner & Hanna this week, 20 head of hogs that averaged 480 pounds each. A run in with a 480 pound hog could do a man some damage!

An acquaintance from Fawkner's Fairbury days observed that he "was a drinking man but her never saw him drunk and that he [claimant] might have been drunk a good many times and affiant not know it." Genealogists understand the logic: just because there is no evidence of something happening doesn't mean it didn't happen. Another affiant state,"the claimant is a moderate drinker.” The Special Examiner for the Pension Bureau responded: “The claim will probably bear investigation.”

It is not clear how long he lived in the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy. He may have lived in St. Louis at least part of the time between 1900 and 1910, because he was examined by doctors there in April 1905 and February 1907.

He apparently recovered enough to be able to live semi-independently for at least a short time. The 1910 census recorded him as a boarder in a private home in St. Louis, Missouri. At age 72, he was still working as a saddler in a harness shop. However, he soon moved into the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Danville, Illinois – a mere 60 miles from his hometown of Danville, Indiana. Cyrus died at the Soldier’s Home 22 June 1911.[14 Burial was in section 6, row 8, lot 1,478 of the Danville National Cemetery.

NOTE: The 4Gen Genealogy blogger is hitting the road again this morning for a visit to Wyoming and Colorado to commune with geysers, hot springs, and granddaughters. He expects to resume blogging in the last half of October -- perhaps venturing into entirely new territory. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chapter 22.1: Breaking News: Cyrus was Thrice-Married!

Breaking News: Cyrus W. Fawkner married three times after all.

I have more than once told genealogists that writing is a good way to clarify what you don't know. Sometimes, that paragraph needs just one more piece of information to tell the real story. Well, something similar can be said about cleaning off your desk. Sometimes, you rediscover that forgotten file that reminds you that you should have known more than you remembered when you were writing that paragraph.

Last week's post (Chapter 22) is a case in point. First, you probably haven't noticed, but I sneaked been back into my Blogspot account to the next day to "update" the article about Cyrus W. Fawkner. While playing around in an online historical newspaper index, I found a one-paragraph article documenting the death of Cyrus' second wife, Ann Ogden, and added that piece of information to last week's post. A convenient thing about digital publication is that it is easy to quietly edit what you published the day before.

Then, a couple of days later, while sorting through piles on my desk, I discovered two documents that proved something I had written wrong. I had written about Cyrus' two marriages -- to Laurie Came and Ann Ogden -- and remarked that Cyrus hadn't matched his brother, James, in the marriage derby. I also told of Cyrus' son, Charles W. Fawkner, marrying Ellen Robinson 27 February 1890. While writing last week's blog post, I had glanced at an index entry for the 1890 marriage (Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900, At first I thought, oh my, Cyrus had married a third time. But on second thought, knowing that in his Civil War pension documents Cyrus had specifically said he had been married only twice, to Laurie and Ann, that "C. W. must have been Cyrus' son, Charles W. Fawkner. Born about 1869, he was a just the right age for an 1890 marriage.

Yes, he was, but guess what I found in my files? I found copies of both the application for license and the marriage return. The groom was 51 years old and the bride, 37. The marriage registration clearly states that the groom's parents were Jno. C. Falkner and Ann Faulkner -- the John C. and Ann Fawkner who lived in Hendricks County, Indiana, in the 1830s, and had a son named Cyrus.

So, now I know that Cyrus, like his brother James C., married three times.  I'm still not sure what happened to his son, Charles W. That research question is not high on my list of research priorities, but I would like to know if he produced any more Fawkner descendants.

Yes, I will now go back to last week's blog and add a correction note.

LESSON: Nothing you write is perfect. Don't let the fear that you might have made a mistake keep you from writing. But, also look back through your files from time to time to see if something new catches your eye.

Image source: Livingston County, Illinois, Marriage Applications, Book 5, p. 442, Family History Library microfilm no. 1,401,629.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chapter 22: Cyrus W. Fawkner, Horse-dealer, Saddler, Harness-Maker

Remember Cyrus, the deaf barber in Minneapolis (Chapters 15-16)? He was probably named after his Uncle Cyrus, the Indiana-born brother of James C. Fawkner. Born 21 May 1837, Cyrus Fawkner was the fourth child of John Fawkner and Ann Faulconer. Compared to his brother, James, Cyrus seems to have lived a more ordinary life. I say "seems to" because we only get brief glimpses through the fog of time of moments in lives lived more than a century ago.

Cyrus was 22 when he married Launie Cames 22 June 1859 in Hendricks County. There is some uncertainty about the bride's name because the 1860 census (June 1860) recorded Cyrus Fawkner  with an apparent wife, Mary, age 18, born in Kentucky. "Launie" likely was a mispelling of Laurie, because a Laurie Fawkner was buried in the East Danville Cemetery about 1860. Possibly, she was possibly the 7-year old Laura E. Cames in the 1850 household of Richard and Eliza Cames of Madison in Jefferson County, Indiana. 

In 1860, Cyrus lived in the county seat Danville. The census enumerator did not record an occupation for Cyrus. His apparent wife, Mary, was 18. Mary probably was Laurie; in response to a pension bureau questionnaire in 1898, Cyrus stated he had been married only twice -- to Laura Cames and Ann E. Odgen (see below). While the pension file obfuscation about James C. Fawkner's marriages puts a researcher on guard, no evidence has been found for a marriage of Cyrus to a woman named Mary. Some doubt remains because he 1860 census reported that Mary had been born in Kentucky, while the 1850 daughter of Richard Cames was born in Indiana (her brother was born in Kentucky). The 1860 census was taken 1 June, so if Laura/Launie’s death date is later than June 1, the two women are likely the same. The death date may be carved on the gravestone, but has sunk below ground level.

Much of what is known about Cyrus comes from his Civil War pension file (application 1,051,754, certificate 916,816). Having lost his young wife, Cyrus probably had little reason to stay home. He enrolled in the Kentucky Cavalry, 8th Regiment, 21 August 1862 and mustered out 23 September 1863. He held the rank of private and regimental saddler. He was received to duty as “Syrus Faulkner." During May 1863 he suffered from typhoid fever. Why did Cyrus enlist in Kentucky? Good question; no good answer yet.

Back home after the war, Cyrus probably sold horses with his brother George. An 1863 IRS tax assessment list for Hendricks County listed “Fawkner & Bro.” as horse dealers. In 1865, C. W. and G. S. Fawkner were listed as operating a harness manufacturing business.

Toward the end of the war, he enlisted again in the Indiana Volunteers, 154th Regiment in April 1865. A saddler, he was discharged August 4 as a private at Stevenson, Virginia. Soon after coming home, he married Ann Ogden 8 October 1865, and rejoined George in a harness-making business in Danville. IRS assessment records show that they were still in business together in March 1866, but by June, Cyrus had moved to Fairbury in Livingston County, Illinois, where Cyrus opened his own saddlery business. Cyrus had probably left Danville by April, when the Danville business was known as Fawkner and Dunnington.

Cyrus and Anna had two children in the next few years: Alice (about 1866) and Charles (about 1869). Both the 1870 and 1880 censuses reported Cyrus' Fairbury occupation as harness-maker. Cyrus and Anna had two more children: Minnie, born about 1872, and Frank, born about 1879. The family lived in town on Locust Street. His pension application indicates that, sometime between about 1888 and 1891, he moved to Naples in Scott County, Illinois, where he again was a saddler.

It is not known if Cyrus has any living descendants. His son, Frank, married a Missouri woman abut 1907, but censuses don't indicate any children. When an April 1898 Pension Bureau questionnaire asked "Have you any children living?" Cyrus listed only the two sons -- Charlie W. and Frank J. The daughters might have died young. He also told the Pension Bureau that the only two people -- his wife and daughter -- that knew how he had sustained a hernia had died. A Bloomington (Ill.) newspaper reported that Cyrus' wife, Ann, died 2 January 1888 of consumption. An 1891 newspaper article reported that Minnie, "afflicted with the consumption," had returned home to Fairbury after being sent away for a year to southern Illinois.

Charles married Mrs. Ellen J. Bowers Robinson 27 February 1890 in Livingston County. (Update: The C. W. Fawkner who married Ellen Robinson was not Charles, but his father, Cyrus. See Chapter 22.1, 24 September 2015). For the moment, nothing more is known about Ellen.was possibly living in St. Louis in 1900. Charles Fawkner died about 1915, buried Naples Cemetery, Scott Co. Illinois, but has not been found with certainty in the 1900 or 1910 censuses.

Frank was possibly in Jones County, Iowa, in 1900, and was in St. Louis in 1910. However, he was soon back in Scott County, Illinois, where he married Mary Hoffarth in 1911. Censuses don't report any children. . Frank Fawkner died 5 Feb 1945, Beardstown, Cass County, Illinois, and was buried in Antonia, Jefferson County, Missouri.

Ill-health forced Cyrus into the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois, where he lived in 1900, Quincy, Adams County. Cyrus applied for a pension 26 August 1891. All in all, he appears to have lived a mostly ordinary life for a Civil War veteran in the last decades of the 19th century. Next week, we will dig deeper into his Civil War pension file and learn about his later years in soldiers' and sailors' homes in Quincy and Danville, Illinois.

LESSON: Writing this week's post reminded me of a simple lesson. We just can't know everything about all the members of an ancestral family. We can't follow every descendant. There just isn't time. We have to pick and chose and focus on energy on questions we most want to answer.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chapter 21: Back to the Beginning -- Elizabeth A. K. Fawkner

After a week off with the loons Up North, it's hard to know where next to take this blog. I certainly didn't think I'd still be spinning out the Fawkner story after 20 weeks. Let's backtrack a bit before moving forward.  Way back in Chapter 4, we used guardianship records to identify James C. Fawkner's four siblings: Elizabeth A. K., John E., Cyrus W., and George S. Learning something about them might help us better understand James' family. (You might want to go back and review Chapter 19 to recapture the big picture).

I'll start with the oldest, Elizabeth -- a convenient beginning because the Thursday deadline is looming and I know less about her than James' brothers. Seventeen year-old Elizabeth married Eli Morgison, 5 April 1849 in Hendricks County, Indiana. The name variously appears as Margason and Morgason. Little is known about their life together, but several pieces of fragmentary evidence offer a sketchy outline. In 1850 and 1860, they lived near Wesley and Ann Sears in Marion Township. By 1870, they had moved to Bowdre Township in Douglas County, Illinois. Eli and Elizabeth had 10 children: John W., L. A. (female), James, Edgar, Nancy, Joseph, Dan, A. J. (m), and Kemp, and a baby girl.

The family likely went west to Douglas County about 1864, between the births of Dan and A. J. ("Jackson" in the 1880 census). The Morgison's presence in Douglas County might explain James C. Fawkner's move to Coles County in the early 1870s. An 1875 land ownership map showed Eli or E. Morgason owning about 433 acres just east and southeast of the town of Hinesboro.

Eli Morgason probably died about 1874. When Nancy, using the name Nannie, applied for a passport in 1918, she stated that her father was born at Lexington, Kentucky, and lived continuously in the United States from 1824 to 1874. (She had previously applied for a passport in 1910 as an unmarried dentist). Nannie was living in Coles County, Illinois, when she made her application. In 1920, Nannie was living in Oakland, Coles County.

Absent a photo of Elizabeth, Nannie's passport application photo -- indistinct as the image is -- may give some idea of what Elizabeth Fawkner Morgason looked like.

Her son, Kemp Morgason, was still living in Bowdre Township in 1900. The household included wife Adelia, 29, Helen, 3, and  Blanche, 1.  Kemp moved back to Terre Haute Township, Vigo County, Indiana, by 1910. He married Adelia Watts, daughter of George Watts,  21 February 1890 in Coles County, Illinois.

That's all, folks. That's all I know for now about the Morgison/Morgason family. However, the family's residence in east-central Illinois provided an important piece of evidence in the story of James C. Fawkner's life. It was Elizabeth whose 1892 affidavit implicitly denied her brother's second marriage to Elizabeth Stephens (see Chapter 11). Elizabeth stated that she had been present at the funeral of James' first wife (Elizabeth Sears) in the spring of 1854. Elizabeth Morgason, of course, knew James's third wife (Julia Ann Angell) well, but told the pension board that James "was never married to another except the claimant and surviving widow (Julia Ann).

LESSON: It almost always pays to follow siblings of your main person of interest. In this case, following the Morgason family to Illinois helps explain why James C. Fawkner moved from Missouri to Coles and Douglas counties of Illinois.

Source for photo of Nannie Morgason: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 449; Volume #: Roll 0449 - Certificates: 250-499, 03 Jan 1918-05 Jan 1918.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chapter 20: Doubling Back to the Montrose Graveyard

Note: This post is revised from the author's article that appeared in The New Montrose Journal, 7:4 (June 2011), p. 3 and was reprinted in the Keokuk (IA) Daily Gate, 19 May 2011, p. 5.

You may recall that the story of James C. Fawkner's life passed through the quiet Mississippi River town of Montrose, Iowa (see Chapters 8 and 9).

The satellite view of Montrose on Google Maps on my computer screen looks much like what I saw a a few years ago from 30,000 feet on a flight from Memphis to Minneapolis-St. Paul. I see a pleasant-looking town with a square-grid street layout fronting on the Mississippi River. On the north side of town, I see the roof-top of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. What I can not see is a gravestone that helped solve a family history puzzle.

I had never seen Montrose from ground-level, but I knew I needed to visit. As I knew then, and you know now, my wife's second-great-grandfather, James Fawkner, lived in Montrose from about 1856 to 1860. He and his wife Elizabeth lived next door to river pilot William Owens. As you also know, after his first wife died in the early 1850s in Hendricks County, Indiana, he remarried to Elizabeth Stephens, and the couple set out for Montrose.

Why Montrose? A look back to the 1850 U.S. Census gave a clue. James Fawkner had an older stepbrother, Cornelius Fawkner. Cornelius had been born about 1822 from one of their father’s previous marriages in Kentucky (see blogger's article in National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 99 (September 2011), 165-84). Cornelius Fawkner (spelled “Faulkner” in the census) was living in Montrose in 1850. He was a boatman living with – yes the same William Owens, a carpenter at this point in time.

Cornelius Fawkner had married Elizabeth Kite in Hendricks County, Indiana, in 1841. Oddly, with the appearance of Cornelius’ half-brother James in Montrose in 1856, I lost track of Cornelius and Elizabeth. (I later learned that Cornelius died in the 1860s in St. Louis, where he was a river boat pilot).

I knew that Cornelius’ Fawkner’s mother was Ida Cozine, whose family was part of what is known as the “Kentucky Low Dutch.” My curiosity about Montrose went up a notch when I attended the 2009 “Dutch Cousins” gathering in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. There, I met Linda Hayes of Montrose. Linda’s family was descended from the Low Dutch.

I have since learned that a handful of Dutch families – notably the Dorland and van Arsdal families – had settled in or near Montrose. I began to wonder about possible relationships between the Fawkners and these Montrose families. So, in April 2011 I posted an article on this blog (in its formerly active days) about some Dutch families that migrated from Kentucky to Montrose in the 1840s and 1850s.

The Internet connects people with common interests at warp speed. The next day, I got a phone call from a Montrose history buff who had seen my blog. She was Barbara Macleish, who lives just a few miles across the Mississippi from me in Minneapolis. She knew about Fawkners in Montrose. She told an amazing story about the St. Barnabus graveyard stones having been removed some 40 years ago and mostly lost. Then a few years ago, four stones were found under a row of trees near the old graveyard (which existed before St. Barnabas was established). Barbara put me in touch with Mary Sue Chatfield, a Montrose resident who had photographed the gravestones. It was my good fortune that one of the four stones reads:

Wife of
July 15, 1850

Elizabeth had died six weeks before the census-taker visited on August 28. I now knew a little bit more about the life of Cornelius Fawkner. I still didn’t (and still don't) know if he and Elizabeth had any children.

I did know, however, that I needed to visit Montrose to see the place that young Cornelius and James Fawkner brought their families. Although I had missed Montrose, I had been to Lee County before. In one of those serendipitous twists of family history, ancestors on both my and my wife’s side of the family passed through Lee County in the mid-1800s. My Romkey and Gerloff ancestors spent time a few miles north on either side of the Skunk River. So, Lee County has a strong family history pull for both my wife and me.

I have now been to Montrose, where Mary Sue and her husband gave me a grand tour around the small, history-rich community across the river from Nauvoo. And, I now have my own photographs of Elizabeth's grave -- not as good as Mary Sue's.  Elizabeth Kite Fawkner is not related to me.  She is only distantly related by marriage to my wife, but she has given me one of my most memorable family history research experiences.

The blogger will be vacationing next week in an Internet wilderness, so this blog will also take a one-week vacation. The anticipated next post will be September 10.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chapter 19: Seeing the Forest, not just the Trees

If you've been with us from the start some four months ago, you have gotten a close-up picture of the James and Julia Ann Fawkner family. You've learned the details, as best we know them at this time, of James' and his children's lives. More research will produce more details, but it is time to step back and look at the big picture.  It is time to describe the forest, not just the trees.

This can be a challenge for detail-oriented genealogists. Those family members around the Thanksgiving table don't always want all the details. They want to know the essence of the family.

This research adventure started with the biographical memorial booklet prepared for Elizabeth Ann Fawkner's funeral in 1952. It pointed to the Fawkner family in Arcola, Illinois. A little census sleuthing took the family back to Boone County, Missouri, where James had married Julia Ann Angell in 1862. This was pretty basic family history research, but it soon became evident that the story was not quite so simple.

  • James was over 30 when he married Julia Ann. Might he have been previously married?
  • Living with the family in Missouri in 1870 was Ann Sears, 21 years older than James and 34 years older than Julia. Was she related? (Remember, the census did not record family relationships until 1880).
  • An affidavit in James Fawkner's Civil War pension file mentioned the funeral of a first wife in Indiana. Who was she? Were there any children?
  • A probate file for James' son Fred indicated that Fred (deaf himself) had a deaf half-sister. Was she a child from the first, or other previous, marriage?
 If James' life could be placed in a nutshell, the story would be something like this. At age 10, James' life changed forever when his father died in 1839 on the Indiana prairie. After his mother remarried, he had three full brothers, one full sister, and xxx half-siblings. Raised in a blended family, James married his stepfather's daughter (from a previous marriage). She soon died and James remarried to Elizabeth Stephens and went west to the Mississippi River town of Montrose, Iowa, where Josephine and Ida were born. The marriage fell apart, James abandoned wife and daughters, and went back to Indiana, where he enlisted in the Civil War. The war took him to Missouri, where he married the "girl at the top of the stairs," but it also took him to a Confederate prisoner of war camp. James and Julia went back east to Arcola, Illinois, where James struggled with poor health and died a poor man.

James and Julia's childrens' lives also took unexpected twists and turns.

Robert Grant moved around working for the railroad. He  married a divorcee in 1895, but the couple separated before 1920 and lived hundreds of miles apart.  He had no known children.
  • Julia married George Watson, an Arcola man, in Colorado. They spent time in Indiana and back in Illinois, before farming in northeastern Minnesota. As was well until their son, Fred, was asphyxiated while taking a bath in his Uncle Cyrus' home and the daughter died just months after marrying.
  • Cyrus attended the Illinois Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and took up barbering in Duluth, Minnesota. Having moved to Minneapolis, he endured the tragedy of his nephew's death. His marriage might also have had a few bumps -- afterall, he advertised in a Denver newspaper for an eligible young woman -- marriage intended -- in 1922.
  • Elizabeth Ann married an Arcola man, Frank Ehlenbach. They were the first of the family to settle in the Duluth-Superior area. There marriage also frayed; they lived apart in 1920 and 1940 with Elizabeth stating she was a widow.
  • James Henry married in Superior, Wisconsin, in 1900, but his marriage soon failed. He moved to California, remarried, and worked in a variety of sales jobs until establishing a liquor business. Census evidence suggests he also separated from his wife.
  • Frederick Perkins was perhaps the star of the family. Deaf, like his brother Cyrus, he also attended the Illinois deaf school, where he learned the photography trade. He worked in studios across the eastern U.S., before dying in Virginia. He, too, late in life seems to have separated from his wife.
One might conclude that this family was not good at marriage. However, that would be too judgmental. We have no first-hand knowledge of events. We don't know what personal circumstances or challenges might explain events. Surely there were many more positive life stories that we simply don't know about. The problem for a family history researcher is, perhaps, that negative events are more likely to leave records, creating an unbalanced view of past lives. If there is a lesson in the Fawkner family story, it is perhaps that life could be messy -- even in the 19th century.

 But, wait, you say. What about Ida and Josephine -- the daughters of James and his second wife, Elizabeth Stephens? I am going to hold their stories back for a while. When we get back to them, their lives will only reinforce the theme. Families are complicated; each person has their own story, and that story can be amusing, inspirational, or tragic.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chapter 18: Man of some Mystery: Robert Grant Fawkner

Finally, we take up the first-born child of James and Julia Fawkner. Robert Grant Fawkner was born 10 August 1863 in Boone County, Missouri; might his middle name have honored Ulysses S. Grant?

Like his surviving brothers and sisters, he passed through the Duluth-Superior nexus. And, like his siblings, his life journey hit a few bumps along the way.  In 1889, when he was 26, he was a railroad conductor in Indianapolis -- about 20 miles east of his father's hometown of Danville. Indeed, living at the same address was his father, James C. Fawkner, who would die within the year. Nearby in Indianapolis was James' brother (Robert Grant's uncle), John E. Fawkner.

Robert Grant Fawkner of Arcola married Nellie B. (Marion) Brown of Upper Alton 23 October 1895 in Madison County, Illinois. Things had happened quickly. A one-paragraph newspaper story  reported that Nellie had within the week received a divorce from Richard Brown and had on Thursday married Robert Grant Fawkner of Arcola (Alton (Ill.) Evening Telegraph, 26 October 1985, p. 5). Nellie brought to the marriage a son, Garnett, from her marriage to Richard Brown. The family made its home in East St. Louis.

The family seems to have escaped the census-taker in 1900. Grant, as he was known in the family, still worked for the railroads. A 1908 directory of East St. Louis, Illinois, listed Robert G. Fawkner as a railroad switchman. The 1910 census listed R. G. Faulkner, 46, a railroad switchman, Nellie, 40, and a son Garnett, 17, at the same address. The census incorrectly reported Grant’s birth place as Illinois. Robert Fawkner, a 42-year old conductor from East St. Louis, was injured in a January 1910 accident on the Indiana Harbor Bell Railroad.

Genealogists sometimes get tripped up by the "same name, different man" problem. What follows could  be such a case.  On 5 September 1908, Mary E. Fawkner filed a petition for divorce from Robert Fawkner; the couple had lived together three years. Four months later, it was reported: "In the circuit court Thursday morning Mary E. Fawkner was granted a divorce from Robert G. Fawkner" (Decatur Herald, 6 September 1908, p. 7 and Decatur Daily Review, 21 January 1909, p. 11). The Fawkner name is unusual; might this have been Robert Grant Fawkner? If so, his life story just got more confusing. Remember, he had married Nellie Brown in 1895. While not found in the 1900 census, the family appeared intact in East St. Louis in 1910. Did something go wrong with the marriage between 1895 and 1910 -- something wrong enough to make room for a second Robert Grant Fawkner marriage?

In 1910, the divorced woman, Mary E. Fawkner, was head of household in Macon County, Illinois; Also in the household was a son, Lester, 24, and a sister, Lena combs, 42. Lester was probably actually Mary's brother. Lester and Mary were son and daughter of N. C. Combs in 1900 in Macon County. Already, in 1900, Mary E. Fawkner was listed as divorced -- remember, the divorce was apparently not official until 1909. No Combs-Fawkner marriage record has been found (an online Illinois marriage index only goes forward to 1900). Nothing can be concluded until a marriage record or court divorce file is found and examined, but because no other Robert Fawkner can be found in the vicinity, the man Mary divorced might be our man.

Whatever had happened earlier, something might have gone awry with the Fawkner-Brown marriage by 1920 when Nellie was living with her son in Leyden, Cook County, Illinois. Several hundred miles away, Robert G. Fawkner was living with his sister and brother-in-law (George Watson) in Carlton County, Minnesota. He was a "checker" for the railroad. Now a farmer, he lived next door to the Watsons in 1930; Nellie and Garnett still lived in Leyden. Grant continued to live in Carlton County in 1940.  His stepson, now married, lived in Leyden. Garnett's mother, Nellie, had died in 1935.

Robert Grant Fawkner's life remains mostly mystery. As best is known, he had no children -- no descendants with stories to tell. Like his siblings, he seems to have encountered marital problems. He apparently remained close to his sister, Julia. As always, more research might yield a clearer picture of his life.

LESSONS: First, this post reminds me of one of the benefits of writing a narrative account of what I know. It made me aware that there are some unsolved riddles in Robert Grant's life that beg for more research. Second, after writing about each of James and Julia Fawkner's children, I recognize the need to step back and look at the big-picture story of the family. I will try to do that next week.

Newspaper image: Alton Evening Telegraph (Alton, Illinois), 26 October 1895, p. 5; digital image,, accessed 12 August 2015.