Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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

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:

*  Part V:

*  Part VI:


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

 Copyright © 2019 Peter E. Small, All Rights Reserved


Pleased to meet you, Hope you guess my name. But what's puzzling you, Is the nature of my game… “Sympathy for the Devil” – The Rolling Stones

Finding Paul C. Dormitzer, Jr’s birth record was a very satisfying result to what seemed to be an

insurmountable impasse.

Many hours were devoted to searching every possible resource I could think of to find yet one more
person that didn’t exist, Paul C. Small.

Now I had documented proof of his actual name, date and place of birth and parentage. Things were
beginning to fall into place. Smooth sailing, full speed ahead. One would think.

But something unexpected happened. It was “deja vu all over again” to quote Yogi Berra.

As I began researching young master Dormitzer it became evident that there were a limited number of people with that surname. The majority of them were either in the Midwest or an area centered on Boston, Massachusetts. A standard search on for Paul Clifford Dormitzer born 1905 +/- 2 years, etc. returned no results. Changes were made to the search criteria which, in turn, gleaned the same negative results. Similar searches were performed on the Family Search and Google websites and they too did not find my prey.

“One step forward, two steps back” was not exactly the phrase I was thinking of after several hours of
searching and finding no results at all for Paul C. Dormitzer, the younger.

I had located his birth in a 1905 Washington State register. He was enumerated as Paul C. Small in the 1910 and 1920 Census’. He was too young to have registered for the WWI draft in 1917/18. Was the name Dormitzer mangled beyond recognition by an enumerator or a transcriber? Had he relocated to, and died, in a state whose records were not available? For whatever reason, my new found fish had gotten away.

I put Paul Clifford Dormitzer on the back burner and turned my attention to Austin Manford Small’s
oldest son Lester. A copy of the newspaper clipping which reported him missing in action during WWI sat on top of a stack of papers on the corner of my desk. The reference to Lester being the half-brother of a Lieutenant J.S. Smith still intrigued me and I initiated a search to find their family ties.

I started by reading both books, about trench warfare, which were authored by Lieutenant J.S. Smith.
Neither mentioned Lester Austin Small. His obituary in The Canadian Statesman newspaper dated 31
August 1950 made no mention of family members other than his father and mother. They were referred to as “the late W.R. Smith (sic) of Port Hope and Mrs. Smith.

A search for Carrie Mason’s first husband Wallace Burdick Smith produced many results. They included documents supporting his birth, marriages and death, etc. Several Family Trees, on both the Ancestry and Family Search websites, were also included as a result of the search.

As previously reported Wallace and Carrie had one daughter and two sons. The Family Trees, in the
search results, included a third son Paul C. Smith. The Tree owners recorded his birth as 24 November 1908 or 1907 in Seattle, Washington without a primary source citation.”

So, Paul C. Dormitzer, Jr.and/or Paul C. Small had not died, as I had hypothesized. Instead, the two had some how morphed into a Paul C. Smith with a different year of birth. What was the impetus of this metamorphosis?

There are 16 births for 24 November 1908 recorded in the State of Washington Birth Register. None of them has the surname Smith or anything which might be misconstrued to be Smith.

I had performed a cursory review of several “Public” Family Trees on Ancestry which included Paul C. Smith. Carrie A. Smith being Paul C. Smith’s mother was the closest thing to reality in the trees I reviewed. 

Reviewing unsubstantiated information was a waste of time. It also may have resulted in me spinning my wheels by chasing another non-existent phantom.

I tried inputting various search criteria in Ancestry’s “Search” function. When asked for a “Place your ancestor might have lived” I alternated between Washington State and California.

The search using Washington State yielded a California Death Index, 1940-1997 result for Paul C. Smith who was born 24 November 1908 in Washington State and died 15 June 1976 in San Mateo, California. This was, possibly, the source for his birth date in some of the Family Trees. Not an unusual transgression. I plead guilt to using birth dates from the Social Security Death Index when a legitimate source could not be found.

I do record a comment in the “notes” section of my genealogical database program highlighting that fact. Using California as part of the search function resulted in a 1940 enumeration of a San Francisco entry for a Paul C. Smith who was born in Washington State in 1909. He was single and worked as a journalist for a newspaper.

A light came on and I remembered that one of the Family Trees I had reviewed included 28 “facts” and one of those “facts” for Paul Clifford Smith was that he was the Editor and General Manager of the San Francisco Chronicle.

I returned to the tree for a second look. Most of the “fact” entries were not your usual BMD (birth,
marriage and death) type entries. Instead, the tree owner recorded almost every major event in his life, year-by-year, in chronological order. When he graduated high school, all the different jobs he had worked, his military service, etc. were all listed. Unless Paul C. Smith and the Tree owner were very closely related, which didn’t seem probable, where were all these “facts,” which were not sourced, coming from?

If Paul Clifford Smith had been the San Francisco Chronicle Editor and General Manager our friends at Google would most likely know about it. Within a few minutes I was reviewing pages of items which referred to my “wayward son.” Evidently, in 1964 Mr. Smith had written his autobiography, the title of which was Personal File. This was likely the source for all those “facts” in the family tree I had perused.

My next stop was to where I found and purchased a copy of Personal File. Once the book was in my possession it would not take much of a detective to unravel the mystery surrounding Paul Clifford Smith.


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

No comments: