One of the most overlooked yet useful fields in 20th century census records can be found on the 1900 and 1910 census that describe how long a couple has been married and how many living and deceased children a woman claimed. At times the marital questions are the only clue we have about when and how often a woman was married. This clue can help us sort out which children in a household are hers and from which marriage.
I’ve started looking at ways to make progress on my Amarilla Cox problem in anticipation of writing an analysis to prove the connection between my great-grandfather James Myers, his mother Amarilla Cox and her parents Martha G and John S Cox. I’m somewhat jumping the gun in anticipation of the new rules the DAR is going to release on using autosomal DNA as a part of an analysis (hoping those rules apply to generations 4-5-6).
This trail begins with the 1860 Census for Liberty Township, Putnam County, Missouri.
The arrows highlight two small children Mary S. Cox female aged 2, and Henry (female) aged 2. Twins, right? I thought so for a long time. Then one day I was contacted by someone who had a photograph of Mary S. with her sister Martha Elanor (born after this census). I asked her about Henry and was told that Mary S. was not a twin. She had no idea who Henry was.
Then one day it occurred to me who Henry might be: James Henry Myers. Notice there is already a James H. Cox on this record. It would have been confusing for there to be another James H. It was not at all uncommon for orphans to be living with their grandparents. The complete absence of this family from the 1870 census compounds the problem of identifying Henry or verifying that he was indeed an orphan.
I turned my attention instead to learning more about Mary S. Cox.
It never occurred to me to wonder where my grandmother got her looks until I saw the picture of Mary S. Cox. The very first thing I thought when I saw Mary’s photo was: OMG, she looks exactly like my grandmother.
Louvre got her looks from her paternal grandmother, Amarilla Cox.
Next I wondered why ThruLines wasn’t showing me any DNA matches with descendants of Mary S. Cox when I have matches for her older siblings Lucinda, James and Jerome? For one thing I hadn’t done any of the work to find any descendants of Mary S. Cox.
That’s when I ran into problems: trying to figure out if Mary S. even had children. First I needed to find a marriage.
Mary S. was 20, John W. Shoemaker was 23. I checked all the other women named Mary in the county at that time and all were either already married or the wrong age. I feel comfortable with this document. The 1880 Census shows the couple with no children. The 1900 Census shows John W. Shoemaker married to another woman, Cynthia A.
In the column labeled ‘Years Married’ it says 5. There is a 14-year-old son named Grover, a 3-year-old girl named Nancy M and a step-son William R. McCollum, aged 12. This suggests that William and Nancy belong to Cynthia A. The fields for Number of Children Born and Number of Children Living were left blank. It appears Grover is the son of John W. Shoemaker from a previous marriage. Was that the marriage to Mary S. Cox? At this point, I can’t say. I added Grover to my tree and looked at the hints, particularly the other family trees for him on Ancestry.
Not surprisingly all but one of the trees had Cynthia A (West) as Grover’s mother. Let’s look at the 1910 Census:
This time the number of children born and living is filled out: Cynthia A claimed three surviving children out of 4. Nancy M is most likely hers, as is the Rob Shoemaker (who was listed as William R. McCollum in 1900). The length of the marriage is comparable. What jumped out at me was the number of marriages John and Cynthia reported: 3 each (the little 3 above m in the marital status column). I suspected Cynthia had been married at least once before because of William Robert McCollum (Shoemaker) being listed as John’s stepson. No luck finding other marriages for them.
The other trees for Grover Shoemaker did have some information I could use, however: a sister for him named Arrie Shoemaker.
This death certificate does confirm that Mary (Mollie) S. Cox was her mother. The birthplace of Randolph County is given for Mary’s birthplace, but deeds suggest the family was living in Putnam County at the time of her birth. It places Mary and John in Chariton County in 1883. Grover was born in 1885; it is plausible his mother was Mary S. Cox and not Cynthia A (West). It would be great to have access to his death certificate but he died in Missouri in 1978 so his document isn’t yet available on their site. Reclaim the Records has won their court battle to get the death index from the State of Missouri but the state hasn’t yet complied. I don’t know if that index will show maiden names; I hope it does.
None of this solves the problem of not having any DNA matches through Mary S. Cox. Poor Arrie only lived to be 29 but she managed to have three children that I know of. Grover and his wife had at least eight children. There are descendants out there who might have taken Ancestry’s DNA test, so what’s the hold-up? Those other trees are the roadblock right now. ThruLines relies heavily on these trees to deliver possible matches. As long as they all have the improbable Cynthia A (West) as Grover’s mother, ThruLines isn’t going to deliver results for Mary S. Cox. So I’m rooting for that Death Index when it finally gets published to have mother’s maiden name included. It would be good to have something besides a resemblance to my grandmother to claim Mary S. Cox as a DNA match to Amarilla Cox.