Thursday, October 9, 2014

Finding Della...Again (The Power of Offline Records)

Earlier this week I blogged about finding my third cousin, once removed, Della Virginia (Jennings) Bray Borgard, after her father killed her mother and then himself in 1913. A reader of Your Family Tree magazine in the United Kingdom found a record of Della's marriage to Clement Elliott Bray, Jr. She contacted me through my public genealogy Facebook page.

Della's marriage record on The indexer has
certainly made a hash of Clement's first name

I sent my Jennings research collaborator, Ann, an email with the marriage information. We both started researching Della immediately. I quickly discovered a Della Bray, who died in Hancock County, Ohio, in 1931. From the index I could not definitely determine if it was our Della. That same year Clement and his second wife, Ruhamer Bray, were living in Tampa, Flordia, and, in 1940 Clement and Ruhamer Bray were living in Washington, DC. Clement worked as a composer. A 16-year-old daughter named Jo Clare was living with them. So the death date made sense as Clement could have remarried soon after Della's death. I was able to find Ruhamer's birth registration and a marriage registration for her first marriage on the West Virginia Division of Culture and History's website.

But Ann found a different Della, one who didn't die in 1931. Her record trail indicated Della had married Eugene Alexander Borgard, Jr., in the 1930s and they lived together with a daughter, Maxine Elliott Bray, in Pittsburgh. The blended family took several vacations to Bermuda together in the mid 1930s. Maxine married James Patrick Lennon and moved to Miami. They divorced in 1967 and Maxine moved to Colorado and died there in 1998. Della moved to Miami, likely following her daughter, and died in 1959.

Passenger list from with Della, her daughter, and
second husband Eugene Borgard

Ann's information seemed more likely to be correct than the Della I had found. Maxine having the same middle name as Clement was one small clue. I also discovered several newspaper articles, using and, which confirmed Clement Bray was a musician, composer and orchestra leader. He wrote and copyrighted several songs, including one entitled, "Ruhamer," which seemed to confirm the name of his second wife. That little bit of trivia didn't really help determine which Della Bray was the correct one, however.

So I ordered Della Bray's 1931 death certificate from the Ohio Historical society. It arrived a few weeks ago. When I first read the death certificate, I was crestfallen. The father and mother for this Della Bray were unknown. So I read more of the certificate. This Della Bray was almost 66 years old, which was too old to be our Della. She also was African-American, and her husband's name was Willis Bray, which ruled her out, confirming Ann had found the correct Della.

Death certificate for the Della Bray who died in Ohio
in 1931, confirming she was not our Della.

Twitter enabled me to connect with the editors of a British magazine and write the article that a reader found interesting enough to stop and look for Della. She contacted me on Facebook with information she found about Della's marriage. That's the power of using social media to aid your family history quest. However, there is still a place for offline records and old-fashioned research. Without it, we would have lost the trail of Della again and not known for sure which Della Bray was the correct one.

There are still a few marriage and divorce records to be ordered and I have not yet found the entire cast of characters in the 1930 census, but I made a lot of progress, thanks to a lovely Your Family Tree reader in the U.K.

Murder-Suicide in Toledo
Finding Della (The Power of Social Media) 
Tangled Roots and Trees on Facebook
@TweetTRnT on Twitter
Your Family Tree magazine

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