SOLVED (kind of): The Case of the Mystery Kids

So, remember when I wrote about those mysterious five siblings my grandfather had?

(No? Read this first.)

A week and a half ago – thanks to the Mormons – I’ve finally figured it out.

Originally, I’d said that perhaps they’d died as babies or young kids, of illness or unfortunate accidents.

According to the records, here’s the truth (or, the version I’m accepting):

One child, born 1910 – just over a year after my great-aunt Ellen – died before the end of that year, aged eight months. The official reason of death written on the certificate is “teething”. But the infant girl may very well have had some sort of viral infection or fever and, as it happened, was teething at the time.

Two sisters managed to make it out of childhood unscathed. But their lives wouldn’t be long ones, either.

One sister (born 1917) died while she was still a teenager (my best guess is that she was 17), of “cold and fever”. Her 23-year-old sister signed her death certificate.

And in a cruel twist of fate, said older sister (born 1912) died the following year of the aforementioned “cold and fever”, five days after her 24th birthday. My great-aunt Milda was the one who signed her certificate.

One of the youngest siblings (born 1919) was sickly and barely lived 20 days. (Poor little soul.)

One of the brothers (born 1907) had the best outcome, by far. He died 40 years ago this month, on the family property. Congestive heart failure was the cause. According to the death certificate, he was in his late 60s. I think the age listed is two years off, if his birth certificate is correct. Again, Milda was the one to sign the document.

But just like one of those sliding block puzzles, just when I think I’ve filled the gap, another one presents itself. Or, in this case, two.

My grandfather’s second-oldest brother was nicknamed “Baboo”. But – as in a lot of families – he was never addressed or referred to by his real name. So when I found the pile of birth certificates, I’d attributed his identity to a child born in May, 1911.

After a recent conversation with my mother to confirm my hunch, it turns out that “Baboo” is likely the great-uncle who died in 1974. And I’ve yet to find a death certificate for the son born in 1911.

So now, I’m back to two names that are unaccounted for – the mystery brother, and the sister called “Hilda May” (whom I’m somehow still convinced might be Milda).

Of course, this is a normal part of the process. But I was suddenly on a roll, and I’d gotten cocky. Never get cocky with history – especially when it’s got the fog of time working in its favour.

And as long as you remember that, every so often it’ll continue to throw you bones, as it sees fit.


Three Deaths, Two Marriages, and One Unexpected Name

While my research on Ellen has stalled once again, I’ve discovered information for other ancestors in my family tree in the meantime.

You see, unbeknownst to me, the Mormon genealogy site I’d been using to search for records had updated its Jamaican civil registration collection in August.

So when I was searching the online database a couple weeks ago, it spat out some results I wasn’t expecting.

First, I found the death certificate for a 50-year-old, married railway worker who had died of “haemorrhage and shock” after a collision between a railway engine and a truck.

I still couldn’t be completely sure, because of the man’s marital status. But his profession and the circumstances of his death were too uncanny to dismiss.

This man could most likely be my paternal grandfather.

The second death certificate I discovered was that of my mother’s paternal grandmother. I remember my mom telling me what year she thought she’d died, and the cause of death. The certificate gave a death date that was a year off, but her name, her residence, and the illness looked about right.

I could not believe my luck at what I was finding.

I’d also found two marriage certificates: one for my maternal grandfather, and the other for my paternal grandmother.

I showed my mother the online records (on her desktop computer) when I went to visit her last Wednesday, to get a second opinion. Other than the cause of death, she didn’t know much about my dad’s father. But she looked at the certificate and said she couldn’t see why it couldn’t be him. Same with my grandmother’s marriage certificate.

The only record she was really skeptical about was her grandmother’s — only because she was convinced she was older when she’d died, and the age recorded was much younger.

One thing I’d noticed: the person who’d signed her death certificate, was listed as “the sister of the deceased”. But her last name …

Was she actually my great-grandmother’s sister-in-law, and it was just easier to write “sister”?

Or, was she really my great-grandmother’s sister, who’d married one of my great-grandfather’s brothers?

It even bewildered my mom a little bit. She’d never heard her grandmother talk about siblings. Or, if she did have any, my mom had never met them.

At that point, she left the room to do something, and for whatever reason, I decided to plug in one more name – that of my maternal grandfather’s father – just to see what would happen.

In less than five minutes, I was staring at his death certificate. I went to find my mom to show her what I’d found.

There was one thing about the certificate that had us positively stumped.

The family member who’d signed the death certificate was Milda, Ellen’s baby sister … the lone sibling currently still alive.

Except that the name she wrote on the certificate, ISN’T the one on the birth certificate I’d previously assumed to be hers.

Up until now, I presumed that her name was Hilda May – based on the birth certificate I’d found – and the name she’s been going by is a nickname, or some sort of amalgam of her first and middle names.

NOPE. Apparently her name’s Milda Maud. Both my aunt and her older sister have confirmed this.

Was the name assigned to my great-aunt at birth a mistake? Did she decide to change her name when she was older?

Or was there another sibling that I hadn’t accounted for?