While Flora Shields Montague may have lived to see nearly ninety years of life—despite early newspaper reports seeming to indicate the contrary—some of her family members didn’t fare so well. Perhaps that is another wake up call to face reality in the early 1900s in rural America.
Flora’s sister Ella Shields Bean lived to squeak past the eighty year mark. Another Shields sister, Lillian Taylor, did likewise—though she did suffer the loss of a child at an early age.
But it’s those others that remind me of the harsh life that we no longer experience first hand.
Oldest Shields child, Alice Newell, lost her life before the youngest of her three daughters became a teenager—a loss of memories for a child growing up.
The Shields’ family’s second-born, son Adolphus, made it past the seventy year mark, but lost his own wife—or at least she disappeared from the records—before the 1920 census was taken.
And like her sister Alice, younger Josephine, wife of Wright Henry Spencer, passed away before her youngest child was even five years of age, if indications from the 1910 census prove to be correct.
The tricky part for the researcher is that these life events fell during a span of time in which documentation is not readily available online. With no sign of a death record to be found online, how can I be sure, then, that these departures weren’t disappearances owing to another cause? While divorce was not as common during those times, it is a possibility. However, the California Divorce Index on FamilySearch.org doesn’t begin its records until the year 1966—hardly helpful for someone trying to find missing wives prior to 1920.
Another option—that of searching for obituaries in local newspapers—is also impeded by lack of online resources for those specific dates.
It is as if that specific period of time has entered a Black Hole—or, if you prefer, a “Cone of Silence.” The frustrating lack of resources for the time period being sought—in the face of an apparent abundance of other digitized genealogical material—may seem just as inept as Get Smart Agent 86’s insistence on repeatedly going back to the same source of faulty coverage.
Sometimes, the only answer is to just get in the car and drive to the city where the real resources are kept.