Sunday, October 25, 2015

52 Ancestors #43: The Wife Confusion

Ancestor Name: Walter Richard Jennings (1873-1919) and Laura Bessie (Ogden) Jennings (c1877-between 1907-1910)

After Dad had a massive cerebral hemorrhage in 2012, I brought home a large binder he had printed of research conducted by Logan Jennings to which Dad contributed.

Dad's photograph albums and offline genealogy files; personal collection

Dad spent seven months in a nursing and rehabilitation center learning to walk again and perform some tasks of daily living. When his therapists thought he had made as much progress as possible, Mom decided to move into an assisted living facility so she and Dad could continue to be together. My middle brother and his wife bore the brunt of cleaning out Mom and Dad's house and they saved all Dad's genealogy related files and papers.

I had an account on Ancestry, which I used to research my husband's family off and on -- mostly off as his father's parents were from what is now Lithuania and his mother's parents from Austria and Hungary. Using Family Tree Maker, I merged Dad's and my trees and then uploaded the new tree to and that was my starting point in 2013.

I first began with Logan Jennings' report and entered the information for which he had sources into my new tree. My plan was to go back through the tree, verify sources for the information using records now available electronically; create source citations for offline sources; and delete what wasn't sourced or annotate it as unverified. But I suffer from Genealogy Attention Deficit Disorder, and never finished those tasks.

From time to time someone contacts me about a shared Jennings ancestor, which causes me to go back through my Jennings line and research one family group or another. Recently it was a wonderful person who after chatting with me on the phone, sent me a chapter about the Jennings from the Miller-Duff and Related Families by Marian Miller-Duff.

Printout about Walter R Jennings from Logan Jennings' research; personal

As I worked through the pages of that chapter, I came to a brief entry for Walter R. Jennings, born 14 January 1873. He was the youngest son of Matthew Wilson Jennings and his first wife, Virginia "Jennie" Arinah Jeffries.

Initially, I entered the information about Walter from Logan's research (see above) -- a wife named Dolly Ogden and a son, Hollis. Somewhere in my research, Walter acquired another wife, Laura Bessie Ogen, daughter of Silas Ogden and Dollie Davis, and five children from both wives. A few weeks ago, I researched Walter and his family for at least a third time. It turns out Dolly doesn't appear to exist at all or Walter married her after all his children were born and no record of her seems to exist. Logan had gleaned the name Dolly Ogden from Jennings Family History Paper, by Cecil Pearl Jennings[1].

The death certificates for each of their five children listed Walter and Laura Bessie (Ogden) Jennings as parents.
  • Hollis Lee Jennings, born 23 November 1899; died 10 August 1984; married Elizabeth Denison Hawks
  • Dolly Dimple Jennings, born 17 February 1901; died 17 January 1952; married Raleigh Edward Templeton
  • Walter Richard Jennings, Jr., born 17 June 1903; died 7 April 1946; married Marjorie Josephine Houchens
  • Laura Bessie Jennings, born 4 August 1905; died 22 July 1999; married William Virgil Hall
  • Theda May Jennings, born 17 February 1907; died 12 January 1999; married Howard Montague Saunders
Screen shot of Walter Richard Jennings Family; courtesy of

This is why I do not believe our research is ever finished. Logan did an excellent job before much in the way of records were online. The 1900 census is the last record that can be found for Walter's wife, Laura. It also listed a son Hollis. In 1910 Walter appeared on the census as a widower with five children. Cecil Pearl's research added a wife named Dolly into the mix and others assumed she was the mother of the younger four children. However, conclusions we might have reached previously can be found to erroneous as new records sets, in this case the Virginia Death Records, 1912-2014, become available. These records proved Laura Bessie Ogden was the mother of all five children, or at least they thought she was and told the person who was listed as the informant on the death certificate such was the case. It is my best conclusion until there is evidence to the contrary.

This certainly isn't a big oops such as chopping out a large line from your tree as I've had to do my Riggin line, but it is in keeping with using all the October prompts to write about the research I've been doing on the descendants of John William Jennings, Jr. -- my own personal theme, if you will!

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Oops.

[1] Cecil Pearl (Turner) Jennings (1912-1996) was wife of James Grey Jennings, Sr., a first cousin of Walter Richard Jennings. She may have completed her research before the 1910 census was released.


  1. I'm sure when I go back to using Ancestry and get knee deep in the VA death records I'll find lots of errors in my database! Loved this oops post.

    1. They are wonderful! The marriage records are also great. Some of my Ohio ancestors liked to go to Winchester to get married and I found spouses I never knew about.

    2. Nice reminder to check across state lines. I've seen the same with Mason County, WV, people going to Ohio to marry.

  2. So many of us suffer from GADD! This post makes so many good points about so many important elements of the search----collaborating with others, going back over previous research, expanding the boundaries of our search. I want to be able to finish up some of my lines all nice and tidy and move on, but like you, find research is really never done and that new things continually become available which make me question early conclusions.

    1. Thank you!

      I, too, have wanted to wrap up a line and tie a bow around it. But lately I've come to the conclusion that there isn't an end point in our research. Instead, it is a process that will go on long after I'm dead and gone. I have decided I am merely a temporary custodian of the information and I write about what I know when I know it. That's the best we can do. Hopefully, it will help a future researcher one day.

  3. Warm kudos to you for not just accepting what already had been written and moving on. It takes courage (and work!) to admit accepting mistakes and then to seek corrective information. A critical eye is so important -- it can be a difficult milestone to recognize that prior genealogies, including published ones, can be riddled with the authors' mistakes and fantasies.

    Good hunting and blogging!

    1. I welcome corrections as I want my tree as accurate as possible. I've found blogging a great way of finding mistakes. People are not shy about pointing them out!