Thursday, April 18, 2013

William’s Kid Brother


When we read the obituary for Maud Woodworth Bean’s father, William Woodworth, last week, it mentioned the closeness of the passing of two brothers. Speaking of William, the Covina Argus observed,
He is the third member of his family to pass over the great divide in the past year, L. D. Woodworth, a brother, having answered the call last November....
That L. D. Woodworth who “answered the call” was William’s younger brother by nearly five years. Named for their father, L. D. was actually Lafayette Woodworth, junior. Like all his siblings, L. D. was born in Wisconsin—in his case, the date was May 31, 1872. Unlike most of the older ones, he—along with his brother William—moved from Wisconsin with their parents to settle in southern California in 1886.

By the time L. D. was twenty one, he had met and married his bride, neighbor Olive Hostetler—or Hostetter, depending on which transcription you choose to believe. The wonder of online records is instant access to multitudes of documents of interest to genealogists; the horror of online records is how easily errors can be disseminated through one inadvertently placed typo. I’m voting for the FamilySearch.org entry with the later marriage date—by a mere four days—because the earlier one (thankfully) includes an image which reveals that the first date is not for the wedding, but for the affidavit’s filing date. At any rate, that image seems to confirm the spelling as Hostetler. A picture may not need to be worth a thousand words—when all it needs to give me is one solitary letter.

By September 17, 1893, that squabble over the letter “t” versus “l” became a moot point, as life began as “Mr. and Mrs. L. D. Woodworth.”

Struggles with transcribed records, whether the newlyweds were aware of this or not, were not to be over for the Woodworths. Evidently, several census records contributed to misrepresentation of various members of the family for years to come. For example, the 1900 U. S. Census, under the surname, "Wordworth," listed their second born, a daughter, with a name that appears to read, “Verdera.” However, the 1910 census showed this second daughter to be named LaFay—only you can’t really be sure about that, because the “F” overwrites another letter. In 1920, unfortunately, that daughter—whether “Verdera” or “LaFay”—was nowhere to be seen. One can only assume she left this household to marry and start a home of her own. Or—who knows?—perhaps to assume another identity of her own.


All told, the L. D. Woodworth family consisted of two sons and two daughters: Carroll and Harvey, and Margery and Verdera/LaFay. From their start as a couple in 1893, to the point at which they bought a barley field in 1897 and converted it into their family home, and onward through those years with their four children, Lafayette and Olive most likely had many of the same ups and downs of family life as many of us have had.

There were, of course, some exceptions to this average-life litany. There is one of them, in particular, I’d like to take a closer look at—but that is a task I’ll save for another day.

12 comments:

  1. Tracking spelling across numerous records is an interesting little pastime. I've watched my German lines go from Ebert to Epart to Eppard. In this case it's easy to hear the German pronunciation as a clerk might have heard it and thus spelled it. Many people didn't know how to read or write, so they wouldn't know how their own name ought to be spelled. Looking at your Hostetter/Hostetler case, I am sure both names existed much like Johnson and JohnsTon. A clerk might have written the more common form just "assuming." More likely, either an errant crossing of the T or failure to do so could account for the multiple interpretations of their name. But I know you know that.

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    1. Oh, I've been there with that spelling grief on the German side, too, Wendy. But you're right--in this case, it most certainly was a few "errant crossing" situations...handwriting gotten out of hand.

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  2. Given Olive's father was recorded as "Franklin Lycurgus Hostetler" in the voter's rolls, I think its safe to say the name had a "tl".

    As for Verdera/Lafay goodness... seems like two different people!! Until you notice the name is Alice Verdera Lefey.

    (http://books.google.com/books?id=Q_RUAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA854&lpg=PA854&dq=verdera+lafay+woodworth&source=bl&ots=pMGVvv6IoI&sig=PY6J9vZ5hg7YCMxG2OhU760XxBE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iP5vUeb_AoWy4APO94B4&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=verdera%20lafay%20woodworth&f=false)

    and further supported by a family tree in Ancestry.Com

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    1. Thanks for the link, Iggy! And I did see that Ancestry.com family tree entry. The only part I'm missing is any verification for the part that adds the name, "Alice." Wonder where they got that from...

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  3. 1928 must have been a tuff year for that family. I do empathize with the name problem -- if those ancestor-types weren't misspelling, using middle names, or just making up new names, our job would be so much easier.

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    1. I suppose that's what makes it fun, though: the chase, with all its frustrations, still has the draw of a who-done-it.

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  4. Iggy! I've got to get you working on my family :-)

    I agree about all the name issues. One I run across in one of my lines in the 1880s-1900s in the midwest is one I rarely seen discussed. Has anyone else seen this one?
    I have women who basically 'hyphenated' their maiden name and married name. And the maiden name was usually recorded on censuses and other records as the middle name. For example, Pearl Evelyn Rockwood married Hall. When asked her name, she would apparently say "Pearl Rockwood Hall". And she was recorded as Pearl R. Hall. This happened again and again, for a number of women over many records. Yet family informant records, ie death certs, would give Pearl Evelyn Rockwood Hall.
    I waver between "You go, Girl!" and "Darn, that's confusing. Have I got the right person?"

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    1. Linda, I think that custom was pretty widespread--either as a given name for the children (sons given the mother's maiden name as a middle name) or for the women themselves, as they became married. I've seen that a lot in previous time periods, but it's not just isolated to one past era. Actually, at times, I've done that, myself.

      I think the more confusing scenario is when someone has, for a middle name, an obvious surname--for instance, in the case of this family, Harvey Payne Woodworth. "Payne" obviously is not a typical given name, so it makes one think it is a family name...but I've yet to discover whose family the name is derived from! I can't just assume it was his mother's maiden name--and further research carried out that fact--but it sure could be tempting at first glance.

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  5. Years ago..the census takers would talk to who ever answered the door...even small children who could not spell. Many of the Census takers could hardly spell and sometimes the penmanship was horrid. I think this add to many problems:..but you are making headway:)

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    1. I've wondered about that, Far Side. I've seen some census records that got me wondering just who it was who provided the information at census-taking time. Sometimes I think it wasn't even a relative--maybe just a neighbor filling in when the folks weren't at home!

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  6. As it happens, today in my family tree searches I saw on census records about a dozen quite silly variations of the fairly common surname Fraser. Not only Frazier, but Forca, Frorsi, Fracho . . . you get the picture. I'm thinking the census takers didn't ask for names to be spelled, or no one offered. I'm learning to recognize our family name through a mishmash of letters that just gesture in the name's direction. It's kind of like reading a Captcha. Verdera and LaFay are indeed kind of distant, tho. (Today I had Eugenia N and Vergina H., which are plausibly alike.)

    I think we all find this an intriguing and frustrating subject!

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    1. Mariann, you need an award for perseverance to have found so many variations on what should be a fairly straightforward surname. I can understand Fraser/Frazier, but Forca?!

      That also illustrates why I prefer looking at the actual document, rather than the transcription. It is indeed hard to index terrible handwriting (believe me, I've tried indexing, myself), but when you know the bigger picture about your own family line, you can make a better judgement call when it comes to which way a squiggle of handwriting should fall. If all the first names, ages and states of birth line up, but one letter causes ambivalence in transcription calls, you would know what letter to fill in the blank better than someone who knows nothing about the context of that family grouping. I could see how a "Vergina" could be transcribed as a "Eugenia" quite easily.

      Of course, that's why I mourned the removal of so many images of documents on FamilySearch.org. It was so much better to take a look and decide for myself, than to have to second guess the work of a stranger who was second guessing a document about my family that I couldn't see.

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