Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Finding Della (The Power of Social Media)

During Dad's research of the Jennings family, he worked occasionally with another family researcher who discovered that Dad's second cousin once removed, Samuel Lee Jennings (1863-1913), killed his wife and then himself. Samuel and his wife, Emma, had two children, Della, 14, and Clifford, 4. Della was the informant on her mother's death certificate, but that was the last trace of her I could find until a few months ago.

I blogged about the tragedy during the summer of 2013, and as I always do, tweeted a link to the post. One of the editors of the British magazine, Your Family Tree, asked if I would write an article for their magazine. The article appeared in the December 2013 edition and was entitled, "Skeleton in the Cupboard: Murdered by Her Husband."

My article about Samuel and Emma's murder-
suicide in Your Family Tree magazine

In late August of this year, someone posted on my Tangled Roots and Trees Facebook page. She said she lived in the U.K. and was re-reading the magazine prior to throwing it out. It struck her that Samuel and Emma's daughter had disappeared after the death of her parents. So she went looking for Della and found a marriage record!

We exchanged email addresses and she sent me the link to the record. Once I had that bit of information, the brick wall that was Della Virginia Jennings (1899-1959) came tumbling down!

Virginia Select Marriages, 1785-1940 on Ancestry.com

I knew from my one of my Jennings research collaborators that Della was born on 26 January 1899 in Columbus, Ohio. Her family moved to Toledo before her brother was born in 1909. Her father killed her mother and then himself in June 1913. Della and Clifford's Uncle Charles Jennings traveled to Toledo to see to shipping his brother's body back to Virginia and about the care of the children. Clifford was placed in the Baptist Orphanage in Salem, Virginia. I do not know what happened to Della until 1918.

She married Clement Elliott Bray, Jr., on 21 May 1918 in Lynchburg, Virginia. Clement was a professional musician, composer, and orchestra leader, specializing in popular dance music. During their marriage, they lived in Easton, Maryland; Martinsburg, West Virginia; and Fairmont, West Virgina.

As published in the Harrisburg Telegraph
on 15 September 1934

While they were living in Easton, they had a daughter, Maxine Elliott Bray, born on 23 January 1920. However, things went bad for Bray marriage sometime between 1927 and 1931. It likely went bad in Fairmont where Clement perhaps met a young married woman named Ruhamer Inez (Bosserman) Kuner as Ruhamer was born and married in Fairmont. Clement and Ruhamer were living together in Tampa, Florida. by 1931.

Through the power of social media -- blogging, tweeting, and posting on Facebook -- I was able to solve the mystery of what happened to Della immediately after the tragic death of her parents. What happened to Della after she and Clement Elliott Bray, Jr., were no longer together? Had I lost her again? Staying on Della's trail, however, required the use of different tools.

To be continued, so stay tuned!

Murder-Suicide in Toledo
Tangled Roots and Trees on Facebook
@TweetTRnT on Twitter
Your Family Tree magazine


  1. Schalene,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/10/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-october-10.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Is this social media thing a blessing or what? I loved this story and am so glad that you got to write it for a MUCH wider audience...another boost and kudo to the power of the www :)
    Kassie aka "Mom"

    1. Kassie, you're right social media has been a wonderful thing for my research. I include the blog in my use of the term "social media." I've met several cousins since I've been writing the blog. They find me when Googling our common ancestors. I wasn't sure how many stories I had to tell, but I'm still finding them because I've started looking at my research through the lens of a story teller; it makes all the difference.