Monday, November 19, 2018

Another Way to 'Splain It

It sure seemed that it was owing to the matchmaking prowess of a next-door neighbor that the widower George Banfill came to say "I do" to the widow Clara Alice Knapp. But there may be another explanation. I can't quite find all the documentation other researchers seem to intuit in their trees, but I'll lay it out for you to see for yourself.

It's no secret that it's possible to see the work of other family history researchers online, wherever publicly available trees can be posted. In the case of George Banfill and his first wife, there are a couple curious details which some researchers assertminus any documentationthat you may find interesting.

Bottom line to this curiosity: when George remarried after the death of his first wife, he may have married his sister-in-law. Here's how the story could possibly unfold: George's first wife's maiden name was Hoover. So was Clara Alice's. Clara Alice Hoover's parents were Samuel Hoover and Ellen Frettinger, a domestic servant Samuel met in the Benton County, Indiana, household of George and Caroline Krugh, where Samuel was also employed in 1870.

In that same census year, on November 6, Samuel Hoover and Ellen Frettinger were married in that same county, and went on from that point to have at least five childrenaccording to the several family researchers whose trees I was able to locate. Of those children, we already have met one: Clara Alice Hoover, who marriedand later became the widow ofWilliam Malphus Knapp. Her siblings included Ana, Charles, and Ellen Jennie, apparently lost in infancy in the same year that her mother also died.

From the point of those 1879 deaths, I have not able to find any verification or burial information that matched Ellen Frettinger Hoover's previous record from the 1870 census. Neither have I found the widower Samuel and his five children in the 1880 census. Not, in fact, until the 1910 census do I find Samuel againat the point at which his daughter Clara Alice, herself now a widow, had moved back from Washington with her own children to live with her father in Oklahoma.

There was, however, another daughter of Samuel and Ellen Hoover. Some family trees show her name one way, others report a wildly different take on this daughter's name. While some researchers assert her name was Beda Mamestes Hooverwithout providing any verificationothers say her name was simply Myrtle. For Myrtle, we have some indications of such a name; witness the possibilities at Wichita, Kansas, where we see Myrtle as the wife in the George Banfill household in the 1900 census, and likewise in the Kansas state census in 1905.

There is, of course, another way to see whether George's first wife was sister to his second wife: look for any records concerning the children of that first marriage. With that method, we have three chances for verification: one for their son Charles, and one for each of their two daughters, Vina and Hazelle.

With Charles, unfortunately, I've struck out. Though I can find records for an uncle, his namesake, I find nothing for the Charles Banfill who was born in December of 1899. Perhaps his family's appearance, sans Charles, in the 1910 censuswhere we first found them in Douglass, Kansasis an ominous sign of what became of young Charles Banfill. We won't be finding any clues as to his mother's maiden name in that case.

As for his sister Hazelle, we have the easiest route to finding any record of her mother's identity. Born July 16, 1897, Hazelle Grace Banfill married Homer Crump in Major County, Oklahomawhere the widowed Clara Alice Knapp had been livingon November 5, 1917. By 1930, Hazel and Homer and their only child, eleven year old Homer Walter Crump, were living far from Oklahoma, in Gustine, California, where they remainedat least until the elder Homer Crump's passing on April 28, 1938.

Homer Crump was buried in a cemetery in Modesto, Californiain the next county to the north of Gustinewhere, by 1950, Hazelle was eventually married to Arthur Rathhaus. A year after his father's death, Homer and Hazelle's son, also named Homer, was married, providing us with documentation that his mother's maiden name was indeed Banfill. His career in the Air Force ended abruptly in a headlines-producing collision of two B52s carrying him and fifteen other crewmen over an airfield in Spokane, Washington, the cause of his untimely 1958 death.

Hazelle lived until 1981, eventually moving from Modesto to the oceanside city of Montereyor at least the county by the same name. I cannot find her burial informationat least, not yet. But was it a confirmation of her mother's maiden name to discover that the California Death Index gave the answer to that question as Hoover? Or, as is often the case in moments of such stress, did a distant family member give the wrong information? After all, we know for sure that her step-mother's maiden name was Hoover. It could have been an easy mistake to make.

There is, however, one other option: reviewing the records of Hazelle's sister Vina to see if we can find any confirmation of this possibility that their dad's two wives were actually sisters.


  1. Replies
    1. Not everything can be found online, but when the path gets as tangled as this one is turning out to be, sometimes you just need that documentation, just to be sure. Unfortunately, I'm a long way from Kansas right now...


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