Friday, August 17, 2018

Rewriting the Biographical Sketch about John Riddell (1877-1975)

I first wrote the biographical sketch about John Riddell in 2014 for the multi-volume book I am writing about the descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869), my three times great grandfather. John Riddell was one of his great grandsons. (John Ridell >> John Ridell >> Martha Muir >> Robert Muir)

John was born on 26 April 1877 in the village of Kirkton, East Kilbride to John and Helen (Bain) Riddell.  He was their third child, but only his sister, Margaret, was still living at the time of his birth. She had been born in 1875 and in 1876 his mother had a premature baby girl who died the same day she was born. When John was 14 months old, his mother had David Riddell in 1878, but he died of tuberculosis at the age of four months. In 1879 a son, Robert Riddell, was born.

In 1881 the family remained of village East Kilbride where his father worked as an agricultural laborer. However, by 1885 the John's family had moved to Cambuslang Parish where his parents rented a house at 12 Silverbanks Row. When the 1891 census was enumerated the family lived in Vicarfield Terrace in the village of Cambuslang.

At the age of 13, John was already working in the coal mines. His father died in 1897 and by 1901 John, his mother, and brother, Robert, were living in the village of Bishopbriggs, in Cadder Parish. Also living with them was a 5 year-old granddaughter of John's mother, named Ellen. John and Robert were listed as being single. My assumption is Ellen was the illegitimate child of John's older sister Margaret, but I can find no registration record for the child's birth.

On 6 October 1904, John Riddell and his friend, Thomas Sorbie, boarded the Anchor Line's S/S Furnessia. They traveled in the steerage section and landed in New York on 18 October. Both John and Thomas were miners. John lived in Glenboig before leaving Scotland and Thomas had lived in Dalserf.  Thomas Sorbie's parents were John and Margaret (Hamilton) Sorbie. Interestingly, John Riddell's grand uncle, Thomas Muir's first wife was a Sorbie, Janet Sorbie (1844-1870). Perhaps Thomas Sorbie was a cousin of John's.

Anchor Line's S/S Furnessia; photograph courtesy of ClydeSite

When they arrived in New York, they told U.S. immigration officials their destination was Imperial, Pennsylvania. Imperial was in Allegheny County about 17 miles west of Pittsburgh. Underground was the northern tip of the Pittsburgh coal seam, the thickest and most extensive bed of coal in the Appalachian Basin.

During first decade of the 1900s, when John Riddell and Thomas Sorbie arrived in Imperial, mining companies were sinking new mines at a rapid pace. The growth of mining was so massive and so intertwined with coke production for the iron and steel industry that the era was called the "Golden Age of King Coal, Queen Coke, and Princess Steel." By 1910, however, the golden age was fading, new coke production technology used a lower quality of coal than that of the Pittsburgh seam, which greatly reduced demand.

Pittsburgh coal seam; map courtesy of Wikipedia

Regardless of the reasons why John Riddell left Imperial, he was not there when the 1910 U.S. federal census was enumerated and has not been found in any U.S. documentation after his arrival.

The Rest of the Story

And the rest of John's life remained a mystery until a few weeks ago when a DNA match provided his year and place of death.

It seems the United States didn't suit John for whatever reason and he likely returned to the United Kingdom aboard the Cunard Steamship Company's RMS Campania, arriving in Liverpool on 10 March 1906. He only stayed a few months before immigrating to New Zealand aboard the New Zealand Shipping Company's SS Tongariro, which departed London on 9 August 1906 bound for Wellington. The voyage would have taken 30 to 40 days.

In 1908 John's widowed mother, Helen (Bain) Riddell and brother Robert joined John in New Zealand.

In 1910, John married Amy Alberta Roberts, who was born in 1882 in Bolton, England, to Jessie Alberta Roberts. Amy's mother married John Linihin five years after her birth. In 1901 the Linihin family was enumerated in Farnworth, England, where Amy's step-father worked as a coal miner. They immigrated in 1905.

John's mother died in 1914 and Amy's mother in 1924. John's brother, Robert, died in 1961.

John and Amy lived their lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and had four children, though one was born stillborn in 1915. Amy died on 22 January 1957 and was interred at the Waikumete Cemetery in Glen Eden. John lived to be 98 years old and died on 13 August 1975. He was interred beside his wife.

The children:
  1. Jessie Bain Riddell born 13 May 1911 in Auckland; died 15 May 2011; married David William Storey in 1935.
  2. Margaret Alberta Riddell born 16 February 1918; died 15 January 2002; married George William Allan Laird in 1941.
  3. John "Jack" Victor Riddell born 18 Aug 1920; died 31 July 2015; married Lennox "Lyn" Blanche Jones.

A new DNA match provided enough clues to find my "lost" second cousin twice removed. And sometimes one more clue is just what you need to continue your research:

Family tree attached to my new DNA match; courtesy of

The tree attached to my new DNA match said John Riddell was born in April in East Kilbride, Scotland, and died in 1975 in Auckland, New Zealand. I had a John Riddell born in April 1877 in East Kilbride. Could they be the same person? I suspected they were as his daughter's middle name was Bain and that was his mother's maiden name. After hours of research, I know the end of John Riddell's story.

Now if I could just find John's missing sister, Margaret Riddell! She's the only one in the family who is still "lost." Margaret was born on 18 January 1875 in East Kilbride, Scotland, and was enumerated in the 1881 and 1891 census with her family. If anyone knows her story, please contact me.

John Riddell (1877-Unknown)

Descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869), Volume II: Descendants of John and Martha (Muir) Riddell

Thursday, August 2, 2018

52 Ancestors #31: Alice (Muir) Jennings (1906-1993): Grandma Jennings

Ancestor: Alice (Muir) Jennings, grandmother

Alice Muir was born on 16 March 1906 in Novinger, Missouri, to Robert Muir and Ida Mae Riggin. She was their second and last child as her mother died of tuberculosis in 1909. Alice was born blind in her left eye, having a detached retina. In 1910 newly widowed Robert Muir lived in Nineveh, Missouri, with his two young children -- Henry and Alice. The children's paternal grandmother, Margaret (Semple) Muir and her youngest daughter, lived next door.

Alice's father remarried in 1911 and Alice and Henry were sent to live with their grandmother, Margaret Muir, while their father raised a new family in East St. Louis, Illinois, and he worked in nearby coal mines. Robert Muir moved his family to West Virginia some time before 1920 as one of his daughters was born there that year.

When the 1920 census was enumerated, Alice continued to live with her grandmother in Nineveh, but her brother had left and joined his father in West Virginia. Grandmother Muir died on 31 May 1920 three days after an operation. At the age of 14 Alice Muir was on her own. She lived for brief periods of time with various Muir aunts and uncles.

According to an article in the Troy Call, she attended the fifth annual Riggin family reunion held at her maternal grandmother, Clementine (Wells) Riggin Collins' home on 19 August 1921 in Troy, Illinois. Eventually, she made her way to West Virginia, and worked with a family as a maid/governess in War. There she met Marvin Edward Jennings, a clerk with the Norfolk & Western Railroad. They met at a silent movie. Alice was reading the movie to her employer's young son and Marvin and his friends sat behind Alice and mimicked her during the movie.

Marvin and Alice dated for a few months but eventually Alice moved back to East St. Louis. When she discovered she was pregnant, Marvin quit his job with the railroad, traveled to Illinois, and married her on 13 May 1924 in East St. Louis.

Alice Muir standing on the station platform of the East St. and Suburban
Railway, which was an electric commuter train, circa 1925; personal

Their daughter Pearl was born on 19 September 1924 but died a few months later on 30 December 1924. The coupled lived at 870 North 80th Street in East St. Louis, just a few houses away from a house her father owned. Her husband worked for the Illinois Central Railroad Company.

Marvin and Alice's oldest son was born in 1927. Alice, my grandmother, used to say after Uncle Marvin was born, she was unable to get pregnant and went to a doctor in St. Louis. He told her that her womb was twisted. So she went every week for 26 treatments, which apparently consisted of untwisting her womb a little bit at a time. Two months after her last treatment, she was pregnant. Their youngest son was born in 1931.

Marvin and Alice (Muir) Jennings with their sons; personal

When the Depression struck, Marvin Jennings lost his job with the railroad. He did odd jobs to make a little money but the family was on Relief for a period of time. In 1941, Marvin took a job with the federal government and the family moved to Washington, DC, where they lived for a year before buying a house in Arlington County, Virginia.

Marvin Jennings died in 1961. Alice was left with a mortgage and a $1,000 in the bank. She got a job as an accounting clerk with the U.S. Navy and worked on expense reports submitted by Naval officers. However, to get to work, she had to buy a car and learn to drive. My father, her youngest son, always said teaching her was quite an experience.

Alice sold the family home and lived in a series of apartments until she retired. She and Marvin had bought a fishing shack on a tidal creek of the Chesapeake Bay in Deale Beach, Maryland, just before his death. Her youngest son, winterized it and built an addition, and she retired there.  She also began wintering in Saint Petersburg, Florida. When her sons moved to North Carolina, building homes next door to each other, Alice bought a mobile home and had it placed on their property, living there until her death.

Alice (Muir) Jennings died on 14 December 1993 of a cerebrovascular accident in Pamilco County at Britt Haven Nursing Home, where she had been treated for two months prior to her death. She was interred beside her husband at National Memorial Park in Falls Church, Virginia.

Alice and her husband were active in the Odd Fellows and the Daughters of Rebekah lodge organizations and both held offices in their local chapters. After her retirement, Alice indulged her love of travel visiting Europe several times, the Middle East, Hawaii, and took several cruises.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. The theme for this week was "Oldest," which I did not follow.

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, Alice (Muir) Jennings, is Ancestor number 5 on my family tree:

5 Alice Muir was born on 16 March 1906 in Novinger, Missouri, to Robert Muir and Ida Mae Riggin; died on 14 December 1993 in Alliance, North Carolina; married Marvin Edward Jennings on 13 May 1924 in East St. Louis, Illinois.

5.1 Pearl Marie Jennings born 19 September 1924 in East St. Louis, Missouri; died 30 December 1924 in East St. Louis.

5.2 Marvin Edward Jennings, Jr. born 23 July 1927 in East St. Louis, Missouri; married Rachel Mildred Lange, daughter of Gustav Lange and Wilhelmina Schalin, on 5 April 1952 in Arlington County, Virginia.

2 Charles Theodore Jennings born 14 December 1931 in Centreville, Illinois; married Dorothy Ailein Lange, daughter of Gustav Lange and Wilhelmina Schalin, on 15 November 1957 in Arlington County, Virginia.

'Alice Muir at train station,' personal collection
1910 Federal Census, Census Place: O'Fallon, Saint Clair, Illinois; Roll: T624_323; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0155; Image: 641; FHL microfilm: 1374336
1920 Federal Census, Census Place: Nineveh, Adair, Missouri; Roll: T-625_902; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 17; Image: 330
1930 Federal Census, Census Place: East St Louis, St Clair, Illinois; Roll: 557; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 61; Image: 55.0; FHL microfilm: 2340292
1940 Federal Census, Census Place: Signal Hill, St Clair, Illinois; Roll: T627_879; Page: 19B; Enumeration District: 82-35
Global, Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current, 1993 Alice Jennings
Riggin Family Reunion, Troy Weekly Call, 25 August 1929
Riggin Family Reunion, Edwardsville Intelligencer, 8 August 1948
Social News Notes, Troy Call, 19 August 1921
US, City Directories, 1822-1939, 1926 East St Louis, Illinois (Alice Jennings)
US, City Directories, 1822-1939, 1928 East St Louis, Illinois (Alice Jennings)
US, City Directories, 1822-1939, 1930 East St Louis, Illinois (Alice Jennings)
US, Illinois Marriage License,  No. H-11915
US, Illinois Marriage License 1924 Jennings, Marvin - Muir, Alice
US, Missouri Delayed or Special Certificate of Birth, No. 524307
US, North Carolina, Certificate of Death 060-482
US, North Carolina, Certificate of Death, Book 26, Page 181
US, North Carolina Death Index, 1908-2004, Deaths: 1993-96
US, Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume I, 1993 Arapahoe, North Carolina (Alice M Jennings)
US, Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume II, Alice M Jennings (St Petersburg, Florida)
US, Virginia, Find A Grave Index, 1607-2012, 1993 Alice M Jennings