I’ve been tidying up my RootsMagic 5 research database. This is the “full” database, not the pruned one currently displayed on our BrennerFamilyTree website. Hopefully, as I check through sources and citations, as well as places and facts, I will have the database ready to transfer to the website before too many months pass by.
As I was reviewing the record for my father, Donald George Brenner, I made my first foray into searching the 1940 census. No! I hadn’t rushed headlong into the NARA images on April 3rd using Steve Morse’s Unified 1940 Census ED Finder. Nor had I breathlessly turned to Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org as soon as they had completed indexing and publishing the results for Ohio (stalking grounds for most of my 1940 ancestors). I figured that the information would still be there in 6-8 months so I have been in no hurry to dig into the 1940 census. Today,however, seemed like a good day to begin… with the added bonus of distracting me from the detail work of tidying my database. I easily found records for my parents and Brenner grandparents. I entered the information into RM5 and, after creating a Master Source for “Census, U.S. – 1940,” I provided source citations for the entries. I could easily have returned to my tidying at this point, but the Princes of Serendip began to call.
The Three Princes of Serendip is an old Persian fairy tale. Giaffer, king of the country of Serendip, provides for an excellent education for his three sons, but fearing that they have been too sheltered, sends them out into the world. The three princes prove themselves to be filled not only with wisdom, but also with remarkable intuitive sense arising from their keen attention to detail. Our word “serendipity” is coined from the fairy tale. It refers to the accidental discovery of things not searched for, of finding far more than expected. I know that a “research plan” is an essential ingredient for many genealogists and family historians; but, unless I am planning a trip to the Family History Center or the Midwest Genealogy Center, I like to “wing it.” Since I often let my genealogical search take me on rabbit trails and side roads, I am always hopeful that the Princes of Serendip will accompany me. Today they did. Things began to get rather interesting when I searched for Mom’s father, Harley Hartman Deeter.
Mom’s mother had died in 1937. Both Mom and her younger brother (Gilbert D. “Pete”) had been married in 1939, the last of the Deeter children to leave home. (To confirm Uncle Pete’s marriage, I did a search on FamilySearch.org. I found his marriage to Helen Louise Luth (3 August 1939) in a West Virginia marriage index and an image of their marriage application, license, and certificate from the Hancock County Clerk’s record book. Another gift from the Princes of Serendip. Mom’s maternal grandparents had been living with the Deeters (found in both the 1920 and 1930 census). Mom’s grandmother (Emma Lavina Barthel) died in 1929. So I expected to find Mom’s dad (Harley Hartman Deeter) and her grandfather (Dayton W. Smith) at their home, 216 South Hazelwood Avenue, Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio. A search for “Harley Hartman Deeter” (“Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio, United States”) in the 1940 census on Ancestry.com had not yielded any prioritized results. As I quickly scanned down the page of results, looking for “Youngstown,” I saw an entry for “Harley Deiter” residing in “Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio.” That person was born “abt 1882” in “Ohio” and was listed as a “Lodger.”
A quick look at the record for Harley Deiter made it seem possible that this was my grandfather (although he spelled his surname “Deeter”). Harley Deiter was listed as 58 years old (my grandfather was born 15 October 1881… that fits). The census record had his birthplace listed as Ohio (my grandfather was born in Tennessee… that doesn’t fit, but it is likely that my grandfather was not the informant for this household. Ohio would be a likely guess… wrong, but reasonable). The census record listed occupation as a Rail Road Conductor (my great-grandfather was, indeed a conductor for the Eire Railroad).
There was also another interesting name listed as a lodger at the same address (445 Warner Street). The other person was “Lottie Kracker/Krocker.” This caught my eye because within the next year or two, Harley Hartman Deeter was to marry Charlotte Krocker. “Lottie” / “Charlotte” … could be!?
Before jumping to a conclusion, however, I had to discover what had happened to Harley’s father-in-law, Dayton W. Smith. A search in Ancestry.com brought the result of a “Dayton Smith,” head of the household, residing alone at 3425 (rear) Mahoning Avenue, Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio. Dayton was 82 and listed “Dayton” as his birthplace (my great-grandfather was born in Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, 12 April 1859… it fits). I was pretty sure at this point that I had found both my grandfather and my great-grandfather in the 1940 census.
I was curious about their former residence at 416 South Hazelwood. This time, using Steve Morse’s Unified 1940 Census ED Finder, I quickly found the correct census page which indicated that the “Christine Kazy” family was now residing at that address. The interesting serendipity, however, was to see George Simstad, who would become my uncle, residing at the next enumerated house. He was living with his sister’s family. There was a vague memory, rattling around somewhere in my head, of my Uncle George and Aunt Dorothy talking about Milton. It would have been his brother-in-law (and head of the household), Milton Freshwater, Jr. This was before George married my Dad’s sister, Dorothy.
Earlier, shortly after discovering the Harley Deiter and Dayton Smith entries in the 1940 census, I had called my 97 year-old mother to see if these facts coincided with her memories. I didn’t get an answer at that time. It was now time to try again. When Mom answered, I told her what I had found. She confirmed that her Dad had moved out of the house on South Hazelwood and was boarding in a house “down near the hospital.” When I mentioned Warner Street. She indicated that Warner was the location of her father. She also told me that Charlotte Krocker’s sister Lottie was living in the same area… that was how Harley met Charlotte. I told Mom that Lottie was boarding in the same house. That seems to have cinched it… Yes, “Harley Deiter, “ lodger at 445 Warner Street was Harley Hartman Deeter, my maternal grandfather. As a lodger, Harley was probably not the one who gave information to the census enumerator. It would have been quite easy for the information-giver and/or the enumerator to write down either “Deiter” or “Dieter” instead of Deeter. As mentioned earlier, the enumerated birthplace (“Ohio”) was probably just a guess by the person providing the information.
When I mentioned that Dayton Smith was residing at the “Rear” of 3425 Mahoning Avenue, Mom informed me that her granddad had noticed an abandoned chicken coop behind one of the houses down the street. He had asked the owners if he might fix it up for a place to live. Dayton W. Smith was a carpenter and a house builder… so, fix it up he did and then he moved in. Isn’t it nice when all the data seems to gel at once. The Princes of Serendip were smiling on me today. I had not spent much tine researching Charlotte Krocker / Crocker. I decided to try this side street next. I did find a death certificate (on FamilySearch.org) for Charlotte Wickham Deeter, born 3 November 1881 (the same year Harley H. Deeter was born). This Charlotte Deeter died on 16 Cotober 1961 in a nursing home in Canton, Stark, Ohio. (My grandfather died in the Mary Day Sanatorium in Massillon . Canton and Massilon are next door neighbors, about 7-8 miles apart. Charlotte’s death certificate indicated that she was born in Dayton, Ohio. It named her father as Frank Marshall and her mother as Henrietta Darlington.
An Ancestry.com search for “Charlotte Wickham Marshall” yielded more interesting data. First, in the an entry in the “Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962″ a “Lottie Marshall” is listed as being born on 3 November 1881 to Frank and Ettie (nee Darlington) Marshall. The location was Dayton, Ohio. Just as in the story of the Three Princes of Serendip the pieces are starting to fit together in a consistent whole. I had not only found my maternal grandfather, but I had also found his third wife. In addition to a birth record, I found two 1900 census records for Charlotte Marshall in Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio. Both records indicate an 18 year-old who was born in Ohio in November 1881. One was living at 307 Perry Street with her mother, Etta Marshall, 5 younger brothers and sisters, and 13 boarders ranging in age from 1 to 57 years old. The other Charlotte Marshall was a boarder with the Wickham family at 305 S. Perry Street (about a half mile away). What caught my attention was that both Charlottes were born in Ohio in November 1881. One is living with her mother Etta (Henrietta?) and the other boarding with a family whose name (Wickham) is listed as the middle name on Charlotte Wickham Deeter’s death certificate. The two houses are about a half mile apart. Etta Marshall’s household was enumerated on June 1st; the Wickham’s, June 6th & 7th. Each was enumerated by a different enumerator. Is it possible that Charlotte Marshall was enumerated twice in 1900? Without further data, one cannot say for sure… but it seems as if that might be a possibility. And, if there were two Charlotte Marshalls,which one would eventually be married to Harley Hartman Deeter? Did Charlotte Marshall eventually marry a Wickham (most likely Harry who was born in June 1881… both were 18 at the time of the census enumeration). Lot’s of questions; not so many answers at this time. Perhaps another trip with the Princes of Serendip at a later time.
Wait a minute! All this research on Harley H Deeter’s third wife, raises another rabbit trail to pursue… I am well aware of Harley’s second wife, Mabel Estelle Smith. She was my Mom’s mother, my grandmother. But there has always been a mystery about Harley’s first wife. We know that they were married for only a short time (2-3 years at most). She must have died about 1906, because Harley purchased a number of grave sites at the Forest Rose Cemetery in Lancaster, Fairfield, Ohio in 1906. My Mom and sister visited Forest Rose Cemetery a number of years age. Harley’s parents and a large number of his mother’s relatives are buried at Forest Rose Cemetery or other cemeteries in Fairfield County. But they could find no records of Harley’s first wife. I knew from the 1900 Census that Harley H. Deeter was living in Basil Township, Fairfield County.
I searched for Deeter (no given name), death in Ohio between 1902 and 1908 in FamilySearch.org’s “Ohio Deaths and Burials, 1854-1997″ index. on FamilySearch,org. The sixth entry on the results page was for Sarah E. Deeter, born in 1881 (Cosnachton, O); died 26 March 1906 at Lancaster, Fairfield, Ohio; her residence in 1906 was Lancaster. Once again, a marvelous gift from the Princes of Serendip. While acknowledging that there is no mention in the record of the burial place, Sarah E Deeter’s residence and place of death fits with the Deeter/Knepper family connections with the Forest Rose Cemetery in Lancaster and with Harley’s purchase of a plot there in 1906. I was puzzled by “Cosnachton, O” as Sarah’s birthplace. I know of Coshocton city and county in Ohio, but have never heard of Cosnachton. Since I was dealing with an index and not an original image, I was pretty sure that Cosnachton was a mis-reading of Conshocton. To be sure, however, I did a Google search for “Cosnachton, Ohio.” All the results were for Coshocton. I next searched the “Ohio, County Births, 1856-1909″ index and images for Sarah E. (no surname), born in Coshochton County between 1880 and 1882. Two results look promising: Sarah Elizabeth Corder, born 22 August 1881 in Virginia Township, Coshocton, Ohio, to J. W. Corder and Mary Bird; and Sarah E. Didinger, born 21 January 1880 in Clark Township, Coshocton, Ohio, to Jonas Didinger and Lany Wilson.
There is more work to do here, but I don’t want to over-tax the Princes of Serendip… and, beside, I’m tired and it’s bedtime… so my strange odyssey into the land of Serendip must come to an end for the day. But it was quite a day! Yes, indeed, quite a day!
I had not spent much time researching Charlotte Krocker / Crocker. I decided to try this side street next. I did find a death certificate for Charlotte Wickham Deeter, born 3 November 1881. This Charlotte Deeter died on 16 October 1961 in a nursing home in Canton, Stark, Ohio. Massillon and Canton are next door neighbors (7-8 miles apart)