Monday, September 17, 2018
Velva? Or Viola?
One of the ways that help me return abandoned photographs to family members is by tracing what became of the subject's descendants. In the case of the project I'm working on right now, though, the only daughter of Adolph and Vernie Brockman of Nebraska has been introduced to us with two different names. In the 1920 census, we learned that the Brockmans' daughter was named Velva—at least, if we can trust the enumerator's handwriting. But in the 1930 census, she was listed as Viola.
The obvious answer was to look for her in the 1940 census, but that was only an option if she remained in the same town in Nebraska with either of two names: Velva Brockman or Viola Brockman. By 1940, the Brockmans' daughter would have been at least twenty six years of age, very possibly a married woman.
It was in our favor that we looked first for her father's entry in the 1940 census. In a reversal of what often becomes the pattern, it was Adolph's wife who had passed away first, dying at the age of forty six in 1938. Adolph was not to follow her until four years later, in 1942—allowing just enough time for us to spot him in the 1940 census.
Along with Adolph, we find his daughter was still living at home. That is good news on two accounts. First, we confirm that her given name was actually Viola, not the overwritten "Velva" of the 1920 census. Second, we get the bonus of discovering Viola's married name, for in the Brockman household were two additional people: a lodger, and Viola's husband, Owen Blair.
Unlike her parents, Viola was long-lived, according to her memorial on Find A Grave. Based on the only obituary I could find for Viola, she may not have had any children—or, if she did, they predeceased her. There was no mention of descendants in the brief newspaper entry.
That presents me with a problem. Apparently, not only did Adolph and Verna Brockman spend their entire lives in the same region in Nebraska, but their daughter Viola did, as well. Gone are any conjectures that the Brockmans' wedding photo was carried off to California by their grandchildren. Though it may certainly be the case that the Brockmans—or perhaps either set of their parents—had mailed a copy of their wedding portrait to friends and distant relatives, it will be unlikely that we'll discover the link that landed the picture in my hands.
In the meantime, there is one more search in this quest: the search for a family member who would be interested in receiving Adolph and Vernie's photograph. While it obviously won't be a grandchild to receive the keepsake, there are still other options. As it turns out, Adolph came from a family with at least seven siblings, and Vernie from a family of seven or more children. Even if none of them removed to northern California, there might be someone who would be interested in receiving this photograph.
Above: Wedding photo of Adolph and Vernie Brockman, taken circa 1911 in West Point, Nebraska; currently in possession of author until claimed by a family member.