Friday, July 17, 2015

Alternate Theories

I just hate loose ends. Sometimes, though, there is nothing you can do about them; and all you can do is hope a future genealogist will find the elusive record the proves or disproves the theory. Joseph Hutchison was my first cousin twice removed and he may have been married once or twice. The obituary for his known wife, Ruth Anna Richardson, indicated they were married in Missouri in 1938 and those records are available from several sources. However, no record of their marriage has been found.

A first marriage is the theory. Did he marry and divorce Edna L. Ridgeway? Was her son, Harold Lee Hutchison, the known son of Edna's, an illegitimate child by a man she met before Joseph Hutchison? Did did he assume the last name of his step-father? Or was Joseph his father?

Known Life Story

Joseph Hutchison was born on 12 February 1901 at the family home on New Street in Stonehouse, Scotland. His parents were Alexander and Janet "Jessie" (Semple) Hutchison. His father worked as a coal miner at the time of Joseph's birth. When the 1901 census was enumerated, the month after Joseph's birth, the family lived at 31 New Street in Stonehouse.

On 21 July 1904 Joseph, his parents and siblings boarded the Anchor Line's S/S Furnessia in Glasgow. They arrived in New York City on 1 August and stated their destination was Kirksville, Missouri, which was where Jessie's mother lived.

In 1910 the Joseph Was 9 years old and lived with his family in Novinger, Missouri, and continued to do so for at least the next twenty years. By 1920 Joseph was 19 years old and worked as a coal miner along side his father and two older brothers, Alexander and James. I have been unable to find Joseph in the 1930 census.

By 1935 Joseph had moved to Springfield, Illinois, though he continued to work as a miner. According to Ruth Anna (Richardson) Hutchison's obituary, they in married 1938 in Missouri, and then lived at 519 South Edwin in Springfield after their marriage. In 1948 the couple lived at 2441 South 5th Street in Springfield. At the time of his death, he and his wife lived a 6 Bel Air Drive. He had left the mines and was working as a state government employee, beginning as a clerk and later becoming an accountant for the State of Illinois, Department of Revenue. The couple had no children.

Illinois State Capitol; photograph courtesy of the Brookens Library

Joseph died in December 1966 in Macon, Georgia, and was buried at Rochester Cemetery in Rochester, Illinois.

Alternate Theory

It is entirely possible that Joseph was married and divorced once before he married Ruth Anna Richardson. If so, his first wife was Edna L. Ridgeway (1905-1976) and they likely married between 1925 and 1930. In 1925 Edna lived in Hannibal, Missouri, and worked at a shoe factory. By 1930 a Joseph and Edna Hutchison were living in Chicago. He worked as an assembler for Western Electric and she she worked as an assembler at a toy factory. They boarded at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Markl on 2153 Adams Street. This Joseph Hutchison was born in Scotland, his parents were born in Scotland, and he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1904, which would be correct for our Joseph Hutchison.

In 1932 Joseph and Edna lived in Taylorville, Illinois, and Joseph worked as a miner, which was an occupation more in keeping with his past history.  It should also be noted that James Hutchison, Joseph's brother, also lived in Taylorville. However, by 1935 Edna was back in Hannibal, Missouri, and worked for International Shoe Co. No husband was listed at the same address. In 1940 Edna lived with her parents and listed her marital status as divorced. So the time frame for the divorce was likely between 1932 and 1935, which would also make it possible for this Joseph Hutchison to be our Joseph.

What makes this theory interesting is that Edna had a son named Harold "Hank" Hutchison. In 1930 he lived with his maternal grandparents, Samuel and Sarah (Whitaker) Ridgeway, in Hannibal. He was listed as six years old on the 1930 census. It is possible the he was an illegitimate son of Edna's born before she married Joseph Hutchison or it could be his child. We just don't know because no birth record has been located. According to the Social Security Death Index record for Harold, he was born on 3 September 1923.

Edna (Ridgeway) Hutchison died in 14 December 1976 in San Francisco, California. Her son, and possibly Joseph's, married Virginia Martin on 25 March 1950 in San Francisco. They had one child named Jana. Harold died on 16 August 1991 in Sweet Grass, California.

In order to conclusively determine if Joseph Hutchison, son of Alexander and Janet (Semple) Hutchison, was the same Joseph Hutchison that was briefly married to Edna Ridgeway, a marriage record needs to be located. The date of the marriage would also indicate whether Harold Hutchison might be Joseph's child. What weighs against this theory is no child was mentioned in Joseph Hutchison or his wife Ruth Anna (Richardson) Hutchison's obituaries.

So what do you think? One wife or two?


  1. The fact that the child wasn't mentioned in an obit doesn't necessarily indicate that he wasn't Joseph's child. Joseph could have walked away and lost contact and/or not shared with Edna either that he had been previously married or had a child. My husband's 2x great granddad's obit says he left no surviving children, but he had three living daughters. I would continue to look for those records. Maybe there is a divorce record around?

    1. Thanks for a second eye on the situation. I am puzzled that I cannot find a marriage record for either marriage on Missouri's digital archives site. Perhaps, like my 2X great grandmother, they were transcribed so poorly I'm not finding them via search.