Friday, August 30, 2019

Tracing Eva's Family

If a person was fairly young at the time, yet experienced an untimely death in 1918, what would you think might be the cause?

A date of death in 1918 might lead to the savvy guess of military cause, if it was due to a wartime casualty at the conclusion of the Great War—but the place of death in such cases would most likely be in Europe, not North America.

Robert Rawlin, however, did not die on the war-torn European continent. He died in Spokane, Washington. He breathed his last on October 23, 1918, on account of complications following a case of influenza in the midst of the worldwide influenza pandemic begun that same year.

Robert's arrival in Spokane was at the end of a long journey. He was born in July of 1877 in Australia in a city called Grafton. Son of Australians Nicholas and Marion Rawlin, Robert nonetheless chose, in his late twenties, to sail for California, and arrived at the port of San Francisco in 1904. Though I can't, as yet, determine just how—or why—he journeyed from San Francisco to Oregon, within eighteen months, he had found himself a wife in Malheur County, Oregon.

That wife was the former Eva Tucker, daughter of Samuel and Annie Tucker, whom we've been discussing, ever since locating several photographs of their family in a northern California antique shop over one hundred years later. Just shy of thirteen years later, Eva was once again without a husband, having lost Robert to a case of pneumonia subsequent to his exposure to the flu.

Tracing Eva, after Robert's 1918 death, was best accomplished by locating her whereabouts in each of the subsequent census enumerations. Less than two years after Robert's death, Eva was by then married to a man whose name is, by now, recognizable to us: Leslie Earl Purkey. This second Purkey-Tucker liaison produced a son before the couple split, and Eva went on to marry a Kansas man by the name of James P. Thomas, who served, at least briefly, as step-father for her three Rawlin children, as well.

Of course, one of Eva's children—if I can ever find him or his descendants—would be interested in a photograph I have of Leslie Earl Purkey. But we now also have the chance to locate Tucker descendants through the three Rawlin children—at least one of whom had a daughter by the time of the 1940 census


  1. How challenging to be a widow with young children during those times. And then to have it happen twice. I was oblivious to the epidemic issue until I discovered the newspaper obituary for my great grandmother. Her death certificate had stated pneumonia. The newspaper account mentioned that two family members, including her father, were unable to attend due to illness. I checked death certificates for them and both died a week later. A librarian looking over my shoulder said "Oh, the influenza epidemic".

    1. What a devastating time that must have been. And what an interesting story you shared, Miss Merry. I wonder how many of us had ancestors whose lives were touched by deep losses brought on by that epidemic. And yet, one hundred years later, we have no idea how deeply that cut through so many family ties.


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