Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DNA Discoveries: Lillian Pearl (Wells) Porter Porter Walker (1889-1990)

As I was working on some new DNA matches, I got to "meet" Lillian Pearl Wells all over again. She been in my tree for years as the wife of of Joseph "Jesse" Isaac Porter, without known parents or death information. I knew Jesse and Lillian married sometime before 1930 and he had previously been married to and divorced from Emma Mabel Riggin, daughter of Theodore Augustus Riggin (1840-1910)[1] and Caroline (Vangundy) Pritchett, and my first cousin three times removed.

Because of my new DNA match, I did a lot more research into Lillian and I believe my working theory is correct.

Lillian Pearl Wells was born on 10 April 1889 in Chicago, Illinois, to George Washington Wells[2] and his first wife, Ida Logenia[3] Ewing, daughter of Sylvester Ewing and Mary A. Briggs. George and Ida married on 21 June 1885 in McLean County, Illinois, where Ida grew up. After moving to Chicago, George became a policeman and at least one more child was born to he and Ida -- Arthur Washington Wells, who died on 4 May 1894, the same day he was born. His mother died two days later. At the age of 36, George married Bessie Sackett on 9 September 1894 in Chicago.

George Washington Wells (1858-1920); courtesy of
Michelle (Wells) Ward

Lillian Pearl, who sometimes went by Lily, married Daniel Ethan Porter in 1906 in Monroe County, Illinois. He farmed on rented land in 1910 but by 1920 worked as a pipefitter. Together Lillian and Daniel had five children:
  • Lorene Lillian Porter (1909-1992)
  • Clara Porter (1916-1917)
  • Eunice Porter (1917-1984)
  • Nellie Porter (1919-2009)
  • Nettie Porter (1922-2013)
Sometime before 1927 Daniel Porter was committed to the Alton State Hospital, a hospital for the insane built in 1917. He remained a patient until his death in 1955.

Lillian married Daniel's older brother, Joseph "Jesse" Porter[4] soon after Daniel was committed. They had one son, Robert George Porter in 1927 (died in 1991) and the family was enumerated together in 1930. Joseph was an engineer at a flour mill. This second marriage did not last.

By 1940, Joseph and Lillian divorced. Lillian married Francis Marion Walker, a widower, and lived in Henderson County, Kentucky. Her two youngest children lived with she and Marion.

Francis Marion Walker died in 1948 was interred in Fernwood Cemetery in Henderson, Kentucky, beside his first wife. Lillian Pearl (Wells) Porter Porter Walker died on 4 October 1980 in Henderson County.

I have several DNA matches to other descendants of common shared ancestors James M. Wells and Mary Hearelson through their children: Clementine, Daniel, and George. And these matches are also shared with this new match which allowed me to discover Lillian wasn't "just" the second wife of my cousin's husband, but also an ancestor. But before I sorted all the relationships out, I spend several hours very confused!

Diagram depicting the relationships described in this blog post; created
using Microsoft Powerpoint[5]

[1] Theodore Augustus Riggin was a son of my three times great grandfather, Alfred Riggin (1811-about 1850). I descend from another son, John Wesley Riggin.

[2] George Washington Wells was the youngest son of James M. Wells and Mary Hearelson, my three times great grandparents and parents of Clementine Wells, the second wife of John Wesley Riggin (mentioned above).

[3] I had not known George Washington Wells had been married twice. Ida Logenia Ewing was a new discovery.

[4] Joseph "Jesse" Porter had been married and divorced two times previously. First to my cousin, Emma Mabel Riggin; and second, to Margaret (Bone) Purkhiser, whose first husband worked for the railroad and appeared to leave her in Illinois with two young children. He died in California in 1949.

[5] The correct surname of Lillian's third husband is WALKER, Francis Marion Walker.

I descend from James Wells and Mary Hearelson as follows:
Clementine (Wells) Riggin Collins
Ida Mae (Riggin) Muir
Alice (Muir) Jennings

New Wells/Murphy Family Tree Branch
Squabbling Siblings
The Wells Spinsters
New Wells Family Tree Branch

Monday, September 11, 2017

John Ronald Miller (1915-1952): The Uncle Most of Us Don't Remember

John Ronald Miller, who went by Ronald, was Aunt Ruth's first husband. He died before my younger Lange first cousins and me were born or were old enough to remember. According to Mom, he was born in Britain; never knew who his father was; and was raised by an aunt who had a bit of money but who died of cancer when he was young. As he cared for her in the final stages of her life, he became addicted to the morphine her doctor's prescribed to manage pain. Eventually after a 12-year marriage to Aunt Ruth, he committed suicide.

Not long ago, I looked at the information I had collected about Uncle Ronald (it seems weird to call him that), and realized there were a lot of gaps in the paper trail. So I went digging.

John Ronald Miller (1915-1952*); personal collection

Ronald was born on 16 September 1915 in Grimsby, England, also known as Great Grimsby, a large seaport on the Humber estuary close to where it joins the North Sea west of Leeds. Britain makes birth records available to genealogists and family historians after 100 years. I should be able to find the registration of his birth, but I have not. I am left wondering if John Ronald Miller was his birth name or one assigned to him later.

On 22 March 1930, 14-year-old Ronald boarded the Cunard Line's RMS Antonia along with thirty other boys from the National Children's Home (NCS), which had been established in 1869 by a Methodist minister. By the time Ronald lived at the NCS, the organization operated a number of homes across England, including one in Leeds, which may have been where Ronald lived. There was always pressure on the NCS to find homes for the children in its care so their would be space available for new arrivals and emigration played an important role in achieving that end. Many of the NCS administrators believed the children would have the opportunity for a better future in Canada. Ronald arrived in Halifax on 31 March 1930. He indicated to immigration officials, his foster father was Sidney Rogers of Grimsby and he had been a student in the UK but intended to work on a farm in Canada.

On 27 July 1932 Ronald joined the British Merchant Navy in London. A few days later he signed on to merchant ship Esperance Bay in Southampton. He indicated it was his first ship and previous to that he fished for work.  Ronald served as a deck boy.

Merchant ship Esperance Bay; courtesy of State of Victoria Archive

By 1939 Ronald lived in Montreal and worked as a sales manager. On 6 November he arrived in Burlington, Vermont, by plane. He told immigration officials he intended to reside permanently in the U.S. and his destination was New Orleans where he would visit a friend. Interestingly, the building listed as friend's address is now known as the Maritime Building.

Ronald married Ruth Hedwig Lange on 16 September 1940 in Washington, DC. She was the daughter of Gustav Lange and Wilhelmina Schalin. She was born in Winnipeg in 1916 but had been raised on a farm in Prince George's County, Maryland. At the time of their marriage, Ruth worked in a bakery in Washington. Surpringly, neither Ronald or Ruth were listed in the 1940 census, which was enumerated earlier in the year. A month after their marriage Ronald registered for the Army draft. He was a Canadian citizen, as was Aunt Ruth, and they lived in an apartment in a row house at 1201 C Street, NE.

1201 C Street, NE, Washington, DC; courtesy Google Maps

Ronald worked for the Standard Drug Company, which had been established in 1919 in Richmond by two pharmacists. Stores were later opened throughout Maryland and Virginia and the chain thrived for decades before it was purchased in 1993 by the company now known as CVS. The remainder of the records I have for Ronald are border crossings returning from trips to Canada in 1943 and 1945. He and Ruth continued to live at 1201 C Street, NE, during that time.

Mom said Ronald and Ruth would move around the country frequently so that he could obtain prescriptions for morphine. When a doctor discussed a detoxification clinic, it was time to move. They were in Pelham, New York, when a doctor convinced Ronald to be institutionalized in order to withdrawal from morphine. However, after a few days, he called Ruth and begged for her to get him released. She did after seeing his terrible physical deterioration. According to Mom, Ronald committed suicide in 1952 in Pelham, New York, a few days later. The New York death index for that time period is available and I have found one record that could be Ronald's but have been unable to verify it. If it is for "my" Ronald Miller, he died in 1956 in Poughkeepsie.

Ruth (Lange) and J. Ronald Miller in happier times; personal collection

Ruth married Robert Riffle Meek in a 1960 civil ceremony in Stamford, Connecticut. He was a divorcee with one adult son and worked as a real estate broker. Soon after their marriage they moved to DeLand, Florida, and purchased an apartment complex, which they managed for several years.

I can't help but think after spending several days researching and learning more about Aunt Ruth's first husband that his life began with hardship which continued through much of his childhood. Even though his adult life seemed normal to most casual onlookers, his demon's conquered him in the end.