September 2006

What in the World Happened to Nancy Cramer?

This was the refrain I muttered under my breath during successive searches of the internet.

Nancy was one of Mary Ann Douglass Cramer’s 14 children. (That’s right. Her obituary said that she had 14 children and when she died in 1885, nine were still living.) Nancy had to be out there somewhere!

Last year with the help of a gentleman who answered my query on the Rootsweb message board, I found a marriage record for Nancy Cramer and Everett Bacon. They married on Christmas day in 1866. They are listed in the 1870 census in Clark County, Wisconsin, with a one year old son. In 1880 they were still in Clark County, now with a family of two sons and two daughters. And then nothing. No marriages for the children, no death records for Nancy or Everett in Wisconsin. No cemetery records. Obviously they had moved.

I checked the online databases for the 1900, 1910, 1920 census and found no Everett or Nancy Cramer. Then just because there were no more rocks to turn over (or kick in frustration) I checked the soundex on microfilm for WI, MN, IA, SD, IL, MO, and NE. Nothing. I thought maybe they moved back to Canada.

Then I found a website for Clark County, Wisc. and on that site a biographical history page that gave me Everett’s father’s bio. Orson Bacon was born in VT, moved to NY, married his wife in Elmira, NY, moved to Michigan and then to Wisconsin. Everett was born in Michigan; the family moved to Wisconsin between 1855-1858. I was looking through the pages of this site when I came upon newspaper abstracts and there was an obituary for Everett Bacon! He died in Portland, Oregon. Aha! So that’s where they went.

But I could not find them there. Not in the census nor in any of the vital records.

The obituary said that Everett was a carpenter and joiner and that the morning that he died he had gone to his workshop as usual, had suddenly fallen unconscious and the doctor was called. The doctor quickly diagnosed a stroke and Everett never regained consciousness. He had reportedly suffered a stroke before and had moved to the west coast “for his health”.

There was no death record on the Oregon Death index for Everett even though the paper was very clear that he died in Portland. I was beginning to doubt the accuracy of the obituary when I finally found a record in Portland of a guardianship granted for Ralph and Marion Bacon, the two youngest children. But I could turn up no other records.

In August I visited the brand new Seattle Public Library’s Genealogical section. I did not necessarily expect to find the Bacons in Washington, but figured I would put their name in the search engine as well as others I was looking for. To my surprise, I found Everett’s sons living in Tacoma, WA, around 1890. Charles was listed in 1889 as an expressmen and in 1891 as a painter and Ralph was listed as an expressman.

When I returned home I searched Ancestry’s Washington databases and found Nancy listed in 1890 Tacoma, too; she was running a boarding house, listed as N.A. Cramer. Ancestry.com only has Washington deaths indexed for 1940-1996 and more than likely Nancy died before 1940, so finding her death certificate will have to wait until my next trip to Washington state. Of course, if she remarried and changed her name that will be another long search.

But I am heartened to have made progress. I have compiled the descendant lines of five of the nine Douglass siblings. Progress on Mary Ann’s line has been slow but every so often there is a breakthrough. Finding Nancy in Washington was a good one. Finding Everett’s obituary on the Clark County site was an even better one.

(Nancy’s lineage: Nancy Bacon-4, Mary Ann Cramer-3, John-2, Alexander Douglass-1)

***

Interesting Tidbits

When our ancestor Alexander Dowglas and Christian Grant were married in Ardclach Parish in 1752, Christian was only 15 years old. I recently learned that until 1920 the law in Scotland allowed brides to marry as young as 12. As a result, couples from England who could not marry under English law, crossed the border into Scotland at Gretna Green to be married by the local blacksmith, referred to as “marriage by anvil.”

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The DAR has no record of our John Douglass in their Patriot files, but the volunteer explained that does not mean he did not fight in the Revolutionary War. It just means that no one has claimed him as an ancestor in order to join the DAR.

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Wilfred Douglass’ “Canadian Genealogy” of the Douglass family says that Helen Douglass married Malcolm Oswald and lived in Montreal and they had one son named Douglass.

In 1881 when Malcolm was 2, J.K. and W.R. Oswald, brothers born in Scotland, ran a big ad in the Montreal Directory. They were stock brokers and insurance salesmen. They were only in their 30s so they must have come to Canada with considerable means. By 1910 Malcolm was listed as one of their partners. In 1930 the firm became Oswald and Drinkwater. Malcolm was senior partner by this time and another of the five partners was Sydney Grafton. That was a surprise. Sydney was the only son of Jean Grafton, Helen Oswald’s widowed sister. So a little nepotism helped a lad along. In 1943, Malcolm was still listed, but Sydney left the firm in 1939. His mother died that year and he may have transferred to Toronto where she lived.

All of the above information was teased out of the Montreal Directories that are on line. I had about given up finding Douglass Oswald when, in the 1943 directory, I found: W.E.D. Oswald, acct., living at the same address as Malcolm. There’s a good chance he was named for his grandfather, William Oswald, and called Douglass.

(Lineage: Douglass-6, Helen Oswald-5, Dr. Robert-4, Robert-3, John-2, Alexander Douglass-1)

—  Do you have a question you would like answered about the family? Send me a note. I’ll print the answer in the next Digest. ethelmae@aol.com

 

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