Thursday, June 6, 2019

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

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:


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

 Copyright © 2019 Peter E. Small All Rights Reserved

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" - Sir Walter Scott

Using a dial-up modem with my telephone land-line I soon found the 1900 Federal Enumeration of the Roxbury section of Boston. There was a Small family consisting of Elvin (head) Catherine (wife) John F. (son) Jessie (daughter) and five other sons and step daughters. Roxbury is a stone’s throw from Forest Hills and just as my aunt had said, there was her father Elvin’s daughter Jessie.

A Boston marriage register entry for Elvin E. Small and Catherine "McCarthy" in 1889 was located. It recorded Elvin’s father as Alpheus and his mother as Adeline. Elvin's age was 24 and place of birth was Southport, Maine. Most of this information, with the exception of his father’s name, was a complete fabrication. Likewise, his bride provided information that was blatantly false. The names she gave as that of her father and mother would later show up on the same page of the church register where Elvin and Catherine’s marriage was recorded.   The bride and groom indeed had the same names as that of her reported parents, but both were in their 20’s and had been married a month or two after Catherine was married.

Another example of misinformation was found in the 1896 Boston marriage register entry for Elvin’s
brother Arthur Small and his bride Mollie. He told the presiding minister his father’s name was Elvin and his mother’s name was Harriet. I am still researching Mollie but, from the information I have gathered, it may be the case that everything she volunteered was a fabrication.

This meager information did, however, allow for a major break-through.

With the acquisition of the Town of Southport’s vital records I was able to locate the marriage of Alpheus E. Small and Rinda S. Brewer in 1863. Rinda, I would find out later, was the daughter of Alfred Brewer and Harriet Peirce (sic). My grandfather’s President Pierce pipe dream has been debunked, but it was somewhat instructive that he knew there was a Peirce in our family.

The births of a son, Austin Manford Small in October 1867 and a daughter Adelaide Small in possibly 1871 were the only other entries for the family in the Southport records. The Town Clerk recorded Alpheus’ name three different ways on four different entries.

My great grandfather Alpheus Small was a Master Mariner and ship’s captain while only in his twenties. The ships he commanded, at this time, were probably part of a fishing fleet that sailed along the New England coast. Some time after the birth of their daughter Adelaide the family relocated to Gloucester, Massachusetts where they took up residence. The birth and death of a daughter, Lottie Small, is recorded in the Gloucester town records. Lottie died in 1875. The only other family entry was the death of Rinda in June 1877. The cause of death was an infection resulting from childbirth. But, no birth(s) were recorded. It is possible my grandfather and his brother Arthur were twins and were born in Gloucester in the later part of 1876.

After the death of his wife, Alpheus Small packed up his four children and headed back to Southport. The 1880 Federal Census enumeration of Southport recorded sons Austin and Arthur living with their Brewer grandparents and Adelaide was living with one of Rinda’s married sisters. No record of Elvin’s whereabouts could be located.

Arthur’s place of birth is recorded as “Mass.” This may lend some credence to my Gloucester theory.
Alpheus Small abandoned his children and was later found living in the Fishtown section of the City of Philadelphia down by the docks. There he married a young widow who had lost her husband to the sea. She was living with her three times widowed mother. A daughter was born in Philadelphia and sometime after 1883 they, and his mother in law, sailed off to begin anew in California.

Adelaide Small stayed in Southport and eventually married a man named Holton from Boothbay, Maine. Austin Manford Small became a ship’s Master in his own right and spent his remaining years on the west coast.  Elvin and Arthur took their show on the road and made their way to the city of Boston. Arthur would later be arrested and incarcerated in the Maine State Prison at Thomaston for robbing the Southport Post Office with an accomplice from Canada.

My grandfather, Elvin Edgar Small, as previously stated, married a Canadian woman who had two daughters. He and his wife then had six children of their own. When his wife died in 1904, he took a page out of his father’s play book and farmed out the children to various people. He assumed the name Albert and moved to New York City. He never saw his children again. The one exception was the 1929 trip with my aunt, which to this day is inexplicable.

Once in Manhattan, he met and married my Swedish grandmother and started another family with the birth of my aunt and my father. He used the name Albert on documents he knew would be made public (City Directories, etc) and Elvin on birth, marriage and other official records. His own children were not privy to his real identity, it would seem. I have not seen my aunt’s birth certificate so I do not know which name he gave the attending doctor. But, at least in my father’s case, if he had requested his birth certificate it would have revealed his father’s true name.

In 2005, my aunt was in hospice care. She had trouble speaking so I was advised to limit the number and duration of my phone calls. Bringing up her father’s name change was a hard decision. I thought, maybe, if she knew I was still pursuing our family history it would cheer her up.

When I mentioned my father’s birth certificate she said “that’s not right”. When I said the doctor who
delivered my father on the kitchen table, a story I was told many times in my life, lived in the next building she said “he’s wrong.” I laughed to give her the impression she was probably right and after all these years it wasn’t that important anyway. But I knew, emphatically, what the truth was and it may be the case that either she never saw her birth certificate or her father had used his assumed name.


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:

*  Part II:
*  Part III:

*  Part IV:
*  Part V:

*  Part VI:

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

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Copyright (c) 2019, Peter E. Small

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