Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tragedy Strikes Daughters of Sara Woodfin

Sara Ellen (or Ella) Woodfin was born on 29 August 1902 in Chesterfield County, Virginia, to George Allen Woodfin and Nancy "Nannie" Waddell Dillon. Her father worked in the mechanical shops for a railroad. She married Carlos Scott Blankenship on 25 November 1919 in Chester, Virginia. He was a carpenter who had been born in Christian, West Virginia. During the course of their marriage, they had nine known children.

On 30 May 1940 Carlos abandoned his family and on 29 March 1943 the Chesterfield Circuit Court granted Sara an absolute divorce. Sara married again on 30 September of that same year and died on 14 November 1994 in Chesterfield County.

Two of her daughters experienced great tragedy in their lives.

Virginia Fay Blankenship was the eldest child of Carlos and Sara. She was born on 4 November 1921 in Chesterfield County. She married Ralph Vincent (or Vinson) Lewis in 1940. They were married about a year when Ralph and his brother, Ed, Ed's wife, and Ralph and Ed's mother were traveling in their car when it was struck by a speeding vehicle. Ralph was taken to Petersburg Hospital where he clung to life for five or six hours before succumbing to his injuries. Virginia and Ralph had a daughter and Virginia was pregnant with their second child when Ralph was killed.

On 10 June 1944 Virginia married Ernest Frank Mackey, a sailor in the U.S. Navy. If possible, this marriage was shorter than Virginia's first. On 27 June 1946 Virginia was granted an absolute divorce because Ernest had deserted the marriage the day after the wedding ceremony!

Ernest Frank Mackey and Virginia Fay Blankenship divorce decree; courtesy

A younger sister of Virginia's married Maxie Chaltain Martin on 2 January 1949 in Chesterfield County. They were married 10 years when Maxie went duck hunting with three other men on 25 November 1959. Their boat disappeared and Maxie's body was discovered the next day.

Death certificate of Maxie Chaltain Martin; courtesy of

I am frequently struck how often one family group will experience a cluster of tragedies.

Monday, October 17, 2016

DNA Discoveries: Finding Anna Eleonore (Schalin) Skale (or Skalay)

I first learned about Eleonore Schalin in a book by Lucille (Fillenberg) Effa entitled Our Schalin Family, 1770-2003. She was the youngest of eight known children of Johann "Samuel" Schalin and Anna Dorothea Rosno or Rosnian, who were my three times great grandparents. Eleonore was born in Maliniec, Kolo, Wilkopolskie, Poland on 9 February 1844. She married Gottlieb Skale in 1860 in Zhytomyr, Zhytomyr, Ukraine.

The Master Pedigree Database maintained by the Society of German Genealogy in Eastern Europe (SGGEE), included information about that marriage and three known children:
  1. Anna Justine Skale born 4 June 1866
  2. Gustav Skale born 1 Sepember 1879 in Kostopil, Rivne, Ukraine (in the colony of Maschtscha/Marzelinhof)
  3. Henriette Skale born 3 January 1885 in Kostophil, Rivne, Ukraine (in the colony of Maschtscha/Marzelinhof)
What I learned through one of Mom's DNA matches was there was at least one other child: William (probably born Wilhelm) E. Skale.

Eleonore (Schalin) Skale in family tree of a DNA match; image courtesy of

After a lot of research, I was able to prove that Eleonore Schalin and Anna Lenore Schaline were the same person. 

Eleonore (Schalin) Skale first appeared in U.S. records as Annie Skaley and lived with her son William E. Skaley and his family at 1135 Broadway in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Annie said she immigrated in 1900 and had two children who were still living. (This is the only bit of information that gives me pause.) She died on 23 March 1913 of organic heart failure at her son's home and was interred at Crystal Springs Cemetery in the same city. Her daughter, Henriette (Skale/Skaley) Hoffman was the informant on her death certificate. 

1910 U.S. Federal Census for the William E. Skaley family, including his
mother; image courtesy of

I have not found the passenger manifests for Anna Eleonore (Schalin) Skaley or her children Anna Justine, Gustav, or Henriette. In fact I have found no trace of Anna Justine except for her entry in the SGGEE master pedigree database. Perhaps she died young. I believe Gottleib Skale was likely deceased when his wife immigrated to the U.S. 

Gottlieb and Anna Eleonore (Schalin) Skale's children:
  1. Anna Justine Skale
  2. Gustav Skale (also known as Gustav Skalay or Skaley) died married 1) Mary Schultz about 1902 and 2) Bertha (Krause) Schonert on 31 March 1923 in St. Joseph, Michigan. He and Mary had eight known children.
  3. Wilhelm Skale (also known as William E. Skalay) died 19 March 1939 in Benton Harbor; 30 June 1959 in St. Joseph; married Paulina Tober on 5 May 1903 in Bainbridge, Michigan. They had eight known children.
  4. Henriette Skale (also known as Henrietta "Hattie" Skalay) died on an unknown date[1]; married Rudolph Leopold Hoffman on 23 December 1905 in St. Joseph. They had eight known children. Leopold died in 1960 and I suspect Henrietta married again and was interred with her that husband, which may explain why there is no death date for her on Leopold's headstone. She filed a life claim in November 1960 with the Social Security Administration a few months after her husband died and listed her birth date as 1 January 1887, which is different than the date listed in the SGGEE database. 
The death certificates for Gustav and Wilhelm/William list some version of Schalin as their mother's maiden name. Neither informant knew the name of their father, which I believe supports my theory that he died when they were young and still living in what was then Russia. However, both of their marriage registrations listed Gottlieb Skale (or some version) as their father.