Leta Ethel Smith, sister of Frank Edward Smith (my wife’s great grandfather) was born in Iowa on May 30, 1887. The only thing we knew about her, until today, was that she had twins named Merle and Berle. In fact we have pictures of Leta, Merle and Berle in our possession. There is some recollection that she and her husband “Bert “may have ran a gas station in Mount Kisco, New York for a couple of years. Grandma Patty Smith Barnes recalls her sister going to live with Leta and Bert in Westchester for a summer around 1930 after her father deserted the family. Besides this information, I had nothing to go on as far as leeds in tracking down this branch of the Smith family tree.
Then in July 2009, I found an interest post on a genealogy message board that gave me the name of Leta’s great grandson. His name was Shawn Butler. He was looking for information about his great great grandmother Julia Geeslin Smith, for which I have lots of info about. I tried to contact him without success. The problem was that his email address that he provided was no longer valid. I even tried contact some Shawn Butlers on Facebook. No good. You can read more about that part of the story here:
So with that dead end, I gave up on her for a while, until this morning. I’m not sure why I selected her for my research effort again. I guess it was because I just couldn’t accept the fact that I couldn’t find her or her family. With such unusual names involved, you would think finding a mother named Leta and two children name Merle and Berle would be easy. No way. It has been a nearly impossible task… until this AM.
This morning I decided to do a fresh search of Leta using four know variations of her name, including Leeta, Leda and Leeda. I stripped out almost all other search criteria except for her birth year and birth state and asked for exact matches. Then I added what was believed to be Leta husbands first name… Bert. Since I had no idea what the last name could be, I left it blank. I confined the search to the 1920 Census.
When I pressed the search button, there, at the top was a Leta E Record, married to a Bert Record with two children; Muyrell and Burnes (at least according to the person who translated the record into the Ancestry.com database). On closer examination of the actual 1920 Census record, I found the Leta E was born in Iowa, her mother born in Iowa and her father was born in New York. This information perfectly matched what I knew about Leta. Now, my concern was of the two children’s names. They looked similar to the names I was looking for, but far from a match. In addition, this Census Record was taken in the Rock Island, Illinois area.
What would Leta be doing in Illinois? But then I remembered. Back when I was looking for Leta’s son, I tracked down Shawn Butlers Internet Service Provider and they were in Illinois. Hmmmmmm. That’s interesting!
So I went back to the original article I wrote about Shawn’s inquiry to see if there were any clues that I missed. Nope, nothing there. I then went back to the original postings he made at geneaology.com. Nope… didn’t miss anything there either. But…. he had made inquiries into other surnmes at geneaology.com. So I went to check on his other postings. Sure enough, there was the confirmation I needed. He posted several messages indicating that he was in possession of the “Record Family Bible”. And the details of his post was even more interesting. In one post, he said:
“I have a family bible handed down to me with my great-great grandfather listed as well as his brothers and sisters. Grandfather Bert Record is buried in rock Island .”
Bingo.. Now the pieces have fallen into place. Leta Ethel Smith married Bert Record. And Merle and Berle do not appear to be twins, at least according to the 1920 Census. Now I just need to make the rest of the connections! Say tuned!