Thursday, June 13, 2019

"A Mother's Love ..... or Something Else" by Peter E. Small: Part V

Genea-Musings reader Peter E. Small solved a family genealogical mystery and wrote a report about it, and I offered to publish his work on my blog.

This will be a multi-part series posted over several weeks - probably on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Earlier parts were published in:

*  Prologue:
*  Part I:
*  Part II:

*  Part III:

*  Part IV:


A Mother’s Love…..or something else?
 A True Genealogical Mystery Solved

 Copyright © 2019 Peter E. Small, All Rights Reserved

O! be some other name: What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet. -- Wm Shakespeare

Carrie Augusta Teters or Teeters was born 1873 in Warsaw, Indiana. Her father was Daniel W. Teeters, a Civil War veteran who died 10 February 1877. After her father’s death she and her mother are recorded in the 1880 Census as living with her maternal grand parents in Indiana.

In the 1885 State Census of Pitkin County, Colorado, Carrie and her mother are living with a hotel owner named Thomas Mason. The enumerator recorded all three as Mason. A marriage record for Carrie’s mother and Thomas Mason can not be located. Likewise, the existence of adoption papers for Carrie is unlikely.

Did the enumerator just make a fairly common error? Were Carrie’s mother and Thomas Mason living in a common law marriage? Or was the recording of the Mason name intentional for some unknown reason? We may never know. But from this point on Carrie assumed the maiden name of Mason and used it extensively during her lifetime.

1890 found Carrie in New York City. She married a Canadian by the name of Wallace Burdick Smith.  He was 28 and she had not yet reached her 17th birthday. The Certificate of Marriage indicates she is 19 and her name is Carrie Mason. This despite her father’s name being recorded as “Teters” on that same document. They were married in the rectory of a prestigious 5th Avenue Episcopal Church. Consuello Vanderbilt and Charles Spencer Churchill, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, were married in this church.

In June of 1891 a daughter, Dorothy, was born. This date of birth was taken from Dorothy’s death certificate which was recorded 31 August 1892. A physical record of her birth has eluded me.

On 8 July 1893 Joseph Shuter Smith was born in Philadelphia. Joseph was addressed extensively, if not too kindly, in our author’s biographical book. At the outbreak of World War I, Joseph renounced his US citizenship in order to join the Canadian Army which was being sent overseas in 1914. Later he would transfer to the British Army, and in 1918 when the United States entered the war he would change uniforms once again. After the war, he married an aristocratic English or Scottish lady who had large property holdings in England. Years later he would apply to regain his US citizenship.

Carrie’s third child, Harold Perry Smith, was born in Denver, Colorado in November of 1898. Harold did not leave much of a foot print during his life. His so-called brother did not think to mention him in his book.

The 24 May 1904 issue of The Seattle Star newspaper had an announcement with the heading “He was just indifferent.” On this day Mrs. Carrie Smith instituted divorce proceedings against her husband Wallace Smith on the ground of cruelty. It seems Wallace “frequently refused to speak to her for days at a time and flaunted in her face his lack of regard.” She asked for the custody of her two children.

Apparently her divorce was granted but she did not get custody of her two sons. Wallace B. Smith’s marital status in the 1910 Seattle Census is “D” (divorced) and his two sons are living with him. This is also the year Wallace re-married.

I believe that Carrie’s aversion to using her real maiden name, Teeters, has been obvious. After her divorce from Wallace B. Smith and later the birth of a fourth child, Paul C., Carrie Teeters-Mason-Smith began, intentionally, misrepresenting facts of her life to authorities, the public in general and perhaps her own family. Perhaps.

As an example, she applied for a US passport in May of 1922 for the purpose of travelling abroad to visit her son in England. The first line of the application begins “I, Carrie Augusta Smith, a widow” etc. Further, it states “Wallace Burdick Smith my deceased husband was a native of Port Hope, Ontario, Canada”.  Wallace Smith died in 1939.
Carrie Augusta Smith’s 1922 Passport Application

For the purpose of verifying her identity she enlisted the aid of a man reported to be her ex-husband, A.M. Small. He solemnly swore in his affidavit that he knew her for five years. The fact that he had a son [Frederick Brewer Small] with her in 1909 must have slipped his mind. She was granted the passport and did visit her son in England.

Fabricating information on a U.S. Passport is no small thing. But here we are in 1922 and apparently anyone could be whoever they wanted to be simply by producing two accommodating witnesses. But to what purpose did she represent herself as a widow? Was divorce such a stigmatizing event in 1922? Or was this a case of reaffirming the lies she may have told her son Paul C. and others.

Mason is the mother’s maiden name in the Frederick Brewer Small birth index entry.

It didn’t take much searching to find an entry in the “Register of Births in King County, State of Washington” for one Paul Dormitzer born 24 Nov 1905. He was born “alive” and was also “legitimate.”  The mother’s maiden name was Carrie Mason who was born in Indiana in 1876. She stated this was her fourth child. The father was a 35 year old lawyer, originally from Missouri, by the name of Paul C. Dormitzer.
The birth of Paul C. Dormitzer 24 Nov 1905 in Seattle, Washington. Mother recorded as Carrie Mason. Father Paul C. Dormitzer.

I do not have a law degree, but I believe the legitimacy of Paul C. Dormitzer is predicated on his parents being married to each other.

I accept that despite Carrie’s life long struggle with the truth, and the absence of a marriage certificate, it is possible a marriage may have taken place. My acquiescence stems from the fact that Mr. Paul Clifford Dormitzer’s life was extremely complicated when it came to affairs of the heart.


Randy's NOTE:  Stay tuned for the next installment of this multi-chapter report.  I will add all of the chapters to this post, and the other chapter posts, as they are published. The chapters to date are:

My thanks to Peter for sharing this mystery and its' solution with me and the Genea-Musings readers.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2019, Peter E. Small

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at

1 comment:

VictoriaRegina said...

Carrie’s life was quite colorful!