Genealogy Research: The inevitable family scandal

Genealogy Research: The inevitable family scandal

I'm pretty sure that if you dig deep enough into anyone's family history you are going to find it; dirt, filth, SCANDAL.

I didn't have to go back very far in my genealogy research to find my family's scandal. I never knew him, but it seems that my Grandpa Fred has a very interesting story.

Grandpa Fred died 3 decades before I was born. My mom was an infant, and it was the heart of the Great Depression.

My Gram, whom I've mentioned in previous posts, raised two kids on her own without any support from Grandpa Fred's family. She survived Grandpa Fred by nearly 50 years.

She never talked about him, so I was starting from just his name. This is what I found:

Grandpa Fred was born in Missouri in 1884.

He was the youngest of 4 children, and his father, Robert Chappell, was 50 years old when he was born.

By 1900, he and his family were living in Chicago, IL, and Chicago remained his permanent residence for the rest of his life.

I found a World War I Draft Registration Card for Grandpa Fred from 1918 which was really fascinating, because it has his actual signature on it.

The card shows that he was living on Michigan Blvd (it changed to Ave sometime later) and his nearest living relative was his wife, Mae V. Chappell.

<<<<<< SCREECHING BRAKES >>>>>>>

Who in blue blazes is Mae? My grandmother's name was Ellen!!!


Sure enough, Grandpa Fred was married to Mae Dougherty on November 25, 1915.

They traveled to Havana, Cuba, and to the island of Bermuda.

The census records show them living together until 1920, but between 1920 and 1930 something happened.

By 1930, Mae was living at the address they shared in 1920, but Fred was living in the Bernard Hotel, a residential hotel on the south side of Chicago, right on Lake Michigan.

She listed herself as widowed, he listed himself as divorced. So I started looking for paperwork on their divorce.

I can't find any. There is nothing online that says they were officially divorced. That doesn't mean they weren't, it just means I can't find anything online.

I'd have to go to the Cook County Courthouse to see if they have anything official. <heavy sigh>

I'm not up for another research trip to downtown Chicago just yet; I think I'll compile a large list of questions before I go again, and this is a good start.

So that's the new big scandal in the family - Grandpa was married before he married my Gram, and we can't find any divorce papers. Yikes.

The other part of that scandal is that Gram and Grandpa Fred were not married in the church.

It seems they hopped a train (they both worked for the railroad) to Arkansas and got married at the courthouse there.

As an Irish Catholic, I'm sure my Gram's family wasn't too pleased. The story goes that my Grandpa Fred's family wasn't very pleased either. Now, I understand why!

As for that possible great-uncle I mentioned in a previous genealogy post, I requested his death certificate from the wrong archive. Now, I have to request it from the correct one to find out who his parents were and if we're related.

The research continues.

Genesis 2:24 (CEB)

24 This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh.

Ephesians 5:33 (ESV)

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.


Have you found a family scandal in your research? You can tell us about it here in the comments!

Come over to my Facebook page and like it! We can share stories and encourage one another in our research.

If you liked this post, you may enjoy these, too:

Genealogy Research: Learning about my fascinating ancestors

Genealogy Research: My top 5 challenges doing genealogical research

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