More than ten years ago while researching the death of my great-great uncle’s wife, I stumbled upon a character who has fascinated me ever since. I’ve researched Julia and her family in newspapers, census records, city directories and coroner’s inquests, and each story I find makes me want to dig deeper and learn more…
I originally wrote the post below as part of an article I aspired to publish in a Calfornia genealogical society periodical in the hopes that one of Julia's descendants might stumble upon it and want to connect with me. However the publisher felt the proposed article (at 5000+ words) was too long and I struggled with editing out any of the many good parts, so it was never published.
Two days ago, however, I had the most delightful email from Linda, Julia's great-great granddaughter who found the family tree I posted about Julia on Ancestry.com. We've had a couple of long phone conversations and she even sent me a picture of Julia. Linda is happy to have this information about Julia and her family out there,warts and all. In the coming weeks, as my Sunday Stories blog posts, I will run all the sections of those 5000+ words I wrote. Enjoy!
I first met Julia in 1901. Even then, I wasn’t sure what her name was. It might have been Achard, it might have been Shiland. It took me years to figure out which was the right one – and why there might have been any question in the first place.
I encountered Julia from the newspaper articles about Sarah Ahern’s death.
“The Bulletin says ‘With her lips sealed as to who gave her the medicine which caused her death, Mrs. Sarah Ahern of Tiburon died suddenly Friday. The circumstances surrounding the case are such that arrest may follow the investigation made by the coroner.’” Before her death, Sarah “…would say nothing other than that a friend had given her medicine. After her death, however, Mr. Ahern found a small box and some cards bearing the name of Mrs. J.A. Achard of 415a Third Street, San Francisco. Coroner Eden was notified and held an inquest. The facts as above stated were brought out, and Dr. W.J. Wickman, the coroner's physician made an autopsy, finding that the woman was a victim of malpractice and that death was due to septicema. James Ahern, the husband, remembered seeing Mrs. Shiland visiting his wife. Mrs. Shiland was called as a witness, and was put through a rigid examination. She admitted calling on Mrs. Ahern, but denied giving her any medicine or attending her. This is the second time she has been called before the coroner's jury. Three years ago she was a witness in a San Francisco case. The jury was given the case and returned a verdict that Mrs. Ahern came to her death from blood poisoning, due to causes unknown.”
Another article indicated that the box contained pills, and that the doctors who treated Sarah after Mrs. Achard left “stated their belief that she was suffering from the effect of medicine given her by a malpractitioner.”
What were these pills? I suspected that Sarah might have committed suicide. Her fifteen-month-old daughter, Agnes Jane, had drowned February 15, 1900, after wandering into a tidal lagoon behind the family home. Could Sarah have secured some pills which would put an end to her personal grief and perhaps her guilt? Perhaps if I could find Mrs. J.A. Achard I might learn something about what those pills might have been.
More next week…
 For more about Sarah Ahern, see my blog posts from January 2016, “Suffer the Little Agnes Ahern,” “One Loss Leads to More,” and “Discover Leads to Understanding” at http://www.mkrgenealogy.com/searching-for-stories-blog/archives/01-2016
 The Marin Journal, 16 May 1901
 San Francisco Chronicle 12 May 1901, page 11 “Died of Septicaemia”
 San Francisco Call, 16 February 1900, page 4, “Mother Finds the Body of Her Child”
4, “Mother Finds the Body of Her Child”
I’ve been working on a timeline of a potential relative, Anthony Graham. He’s not a direct ancestor, and he may or may not be a relative, but I’m hopeful that tracing him will help me learn more about my great-great grandmother, Jane Graham Ahern. (Long story about why I think he might be related. I’ll save that for another blog post.)
I’ve been trying for years to come up with a specific birthplace for Anthony. I have some census records that have a mix of “Ireland” and “Scotland” as a birthplace. I can find him on the 1850, 1860 and 1880 US Federal census and all of them show he hails from Ireland, but on the 1880, 1900 and 1910 censuses, most of his children report that their father was born in Scotland. And one daughter, Jennie, can’t seem to make up her mind – in 1880 her father is born in Scotland and her mother is born in Ireland, while in 1900 Da’s from Ireland and Ma’s the Scot. Anthony’s death notice in the San Francisco paper indicates he was a native of Scotland, but obviously he didn’t write that, and due to the 1906 earthquake and fire, no death certificate exists to provide additional information.
And then I found it! Another obituary, from the Los Angeles Herald. “Death of a Pioneer… Mr. Graham was a native of Glasgow, Scotland.”  A city! There were more details. He “… landed in New York when quite young. He afterward became engaged in the construction of the railroad across the Isthmus of Panama, and finally came to California in 1850.”
Now it was time for me to enter these items on his timeline. And that’s when the whole thing fell apart.
Anthony’s timeline shows four children born in New York - Francis in 1846, Ann Eliza on 23 November 1847, Jennie on 18 February 1850 and Anthony Daniel in 1853. The sentence construction in the obituary infers he was engaged in the construction of the Panama Railroad prior to his arrival in California in 1850. If that is true, it is unlikely that he could have fathered Jennie in 1850 and Anthony Daniel three years later if they were born in New York.
When I looked at the timeline of the Panama Railroad, even more inconsistencies arose. Construction of the railroad did not effectively begin until May 1850 and the railroad was not completed until 27 January 1855. It would have been difficult for Anthony to become engaged in the construction of this railroad if he were in California by 1850.
Integrating the Los Angeles Herald obituary details into the existing timeline I had for Anthony points out some problems with the information provided. Since the dates seem “off” I have to question the other details in the obituary. I don’t know who provided the details to the Herald, but it was likely his son Frank who is mentioned in the article. Based on his census records, Frank seems clear that his father was born in Scotland, but if Frank is wrong on the dates of Anthony’s movements, could he be wrong on the birth place as well?
Try using a timeline in your own research. It might help you to see some inconsistencies in your data for your own ancestors as well. How have timelines helped you? Please leave a comment below.
 1850 U.S. census, Orange County, New York, population schedule, Newburgh, p. 106 (stamped), dwelling 1402, family 1584, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 573, page 106A, image 218.
 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco County, California, population schedule, San Francisco, p. 218 (penned), dwelling 1851, family 1876, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 67, page 383, image 383.
 1880 U.S. census, Tulare County, California, population schedule, Visalia, p. 21 (penned), dwelling 226, family 230, Anthony Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 85, page 48A, ED 098, image 482.
 1880 U.S. census, Los Angeles County, California, population schedule, Los Angeles, p. 10 (penned), dwelling 92, family 95, Frank Graham; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 67, page 224B, ED 025, image 151
 1880 U.S. census, Merced County, California, population schedule, Merced, p. 11 (penned), dwelling 110, family 113, Edward Tobin; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 68, page 345C, ED 043, image 711.
 1900 U.S. census, San Francisco County, California, population schedule, San Francisco, p. 5 (penned), dwelling 72, family 79, John O’Gara; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 105, page 5A, ED 0204.
 “Died (Graham),” (San Francisco.) Daily Alta California, 4 August 1888, p. 7, col. 6.
 “Death of a Pioneer,” Los Angeles (California) Herald, 4 August 1888, p. 2, col. 3.
 1850 U.S. census, Orange Co., New York, pop. sch., p. 106, dwell. 1482, fam. 1584, Anthony Graham; 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco Co., California, pop. sch., p. 218, dwell. 1851, fam. 1876, Anthony Graham
 Baptismal record for Ann Eliza Graham, St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Newburgh, Orange, New York
 Baptismal record for Jane Graham, St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Newburgh, Orange, New York
 1850 U.S. census, Orange Co., New York, pop. sch., p. 106, dwell. 1482, fam. 1584, Anthony Graham; 1860 U.S. census, San Francisco Co., California, pop. sch., p. 218, dwell. 1851, fam. 1876, Anthony Graham
 “Panama Canal Railway,” Wikipedia.org (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal_Railway : accessed 28 September 2016).
When you’re searching in online newspapers do you seek out alternate sites with the same newspaper? Maybe you should.
Different newspaper sites, for example Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) and the California Digital Newspaper Collection (CDNC) (http://cdnc.ucr.edu/) have some of the same newspapers, including the San Francisco Call. But they don’t necessarily use the same Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software so one paper may read a string of printed newspaper text as one set of characters and another site may read it differently. If you’ve searched for a word or a phrase, one search engine may find it, but another one may not. You’ve got better odds of finding what you’re searching for if you check out both sites.
But there’s an even more important reason than just the straight-up OCR software used. Some newspaper sites allow readers to correct the text. If you search for the phrase “Wife Wants a Divorce” in the San Francisco Call on 10 December 1904 using the California Digital Newspaper Collection you’ll find an article with the headline “Wife Wants A Divorce from Charles O. Huber.” But if you search for “Wife Wants a Divorce” on the same date in the same paper using Chronicling America, you’re out of luck.
Why? Because someone (me) edited the text on CNDC but not on Chronicling America. I’ve captured a series of images to explain what I’m talking about.
This first image is my search and the results of that search on CDNC. I got a hit!
The next image is my search for the correct spelling on Chronicling America and the following image shows the results. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
But the next two images show my search and results for an alternate spelling. "Aviite avants a divorce." Ah, that pesky OCR! To my ear, it reads a little like Zsa Zsa Gabor ending yet another marriage… “A vife a vants a divorce.” And when Zsa Zsa asks, Chronicling America listens! I got a hit for the article.
The final two images show the text now as it now appears on CDNC after my correction, along with the image of the article. And following that is the text as Chronicling America read it.
Admittedly, I set this example up. But can you be certain that the words you’re searching for in a newspaper appear the same way on two sites? What if someone corrected the text to show how your ancestor’s name was spelled in the article but you didn’t check that site? Instead, you searched in the one with the sketchy OCR mistakes. Are you willing to take that chance? I’m not.
On Saturday 24 September 2016, I'll be presenting "A Nose for the News" at the Kelowna and District Society Harvest Your Family Tree Conference. (http://kdgsconference2016.blogspot.ca/) I hope to see you there!
I might need to add a subtitle to my Searching for Stories blog. I’m thinking “Journeys Down the Rabbit Hole.”
Searching city directories for examples of what information can be found in them in preparation for an upcoming presentation, I discovered that Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936 contained something I hadn’t seen in other directories – a two-and-a-half page “Chronology of Local Events, January 1, 1935 to April 1, 1936.”
I was fascinated with the detail. “May 2, 1935 – Three killed by lightning – storm causes $80,000 damage to city.” “May 15 – Fire causes $25,000 damage at St. Joseph’s Orphan’s Home; 208 children led to safety.” “June 18 – Federal Government announces plans to build vault at Camp Knox for safe-keeping of substantial part of its gold supply.” “Aug. 29 – Stone lifted from Mammoth Cave mummy; ancient man in poor condition.” Story after story to investigate.
And then I saw this – “Oct 11 – Mrs. Ella Rogers held legally dead.” I had to know. In a coma? Removed from life support? Who was she? What happened to her? My subscription to GenealogyBank.com called to me. My 90-minute trip down the rabbit hole led to nearly 25 articles in newspapers from Lexington, Kentucky to Portland, Oregon, about the mystery disappearance of a pretty young widow.
After a trip to Chicago, she returned to her swanky Louisville apartment. She didn’t even unpack her suitcases, but had friend, Hal Harned, to dinner on October 7, 1928. Just as he was leaving, a taxi waiting for him in the street, the lights in her apartment went out. Harned offered to help, but she insisted she could take care of it herself. Ella was never seen again.
Harned tried to reach her the next day and made repeated telephone calls on the days following. Not hearing back, he contacted her father-in-law.  When the police investigated they found no trace of the woman. The dishes from her dinner with Harned were still on the table. Her suitcases still unpacked. Only her purse and the key to her apartment were missing.
The janitor of her building was investigated but eventually released due to lack of evidence. Police dragged a nearby pond but found nothing. Dead ends abounded – suspicious ash found in the building furnace was determined to be not from bones, but from coal. The “blood spots” on a wrench turned out to be rust. Theories of suicide, kidnapping and even death at the hands of hired thugs were floated, but nothing panned out.
Eventually, after seven years with no trace, no contact, no activity in her bank account, Ella McDowell Rogers was declared legally dead.  To this day the case remains unsolved.
I’m not sure why I like to chase rabbits like Ella Rogers down the hole. But It sure beats anything I can find on TV. How about you – any of you get sucked into an afternoon of research on a complete stranger? Feel free to share what you find in the comments section.
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936, (Louisville, Kentucky: Caron Directory Company, 1936), 11. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 4 September 2016
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936, (Louisville, Kentucky: Caron Directory Company, 1936), 12. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 4 September 2016
 “Mystery Cloaks Missing Widow,” New Orleans States, 17 November 1928, p. 2, col. 6.
 “Believe Young Widow Victim of Foul Play,” Omaha [Nebraska] World Herald, 28 December 1928, p. 2, col. 4
 “Suicide Hinted Now in Case of Missing Widow,” Lexington [Kentucky] Leader, 24 November 1928, p. 1, col. 8.
 “The Mystery of the Vanishing Lady,” The [Portland] Oregonian, 28 October, 1945, page 109
 “Court Rules Woman Dead,” Lexington [Kentucky] Leader, 11 October 1935, p. 27, col. 7
Newspaper researchers beware – never never never assume anything about newspapers on microfilm!
Several years ago I requested the obituary for my great-great grandmother, Mary Devlin Fields, from the Amador County (California) Public Library. They wrote back indicating that they couldn’t find an obituary in the paper, but there were some missing issues and it might be that the issue with her obituary was lost and never microfilmed. Rats! But not without precedent.
Monday I was researching in Jackson, the county seat, and I thought I’d take a look at the microfilm myself. Maybe I could find it. I plopped the microfilm reel labeled “Amador Ledger, Nov 25, 1882 – Mar 30, 1894 (gap 10/27/1883 – 12/1889) into the machine. Mary Fields died 1 April 1890[i], and that wasn’t within the stated microfilm gap, so I scrolled forward to the year 1890. The newspaper, generally four pages, was published once a week on Saturdays. Soon I found myself in the March issues. March 8, March 22 (no March 15!), March 29, May 10. The entire month of April missing!
OK, there was another obituary I wanted – Mary’s granddaughter, Mary A Hardy, died 7 June 1890 at age 10 months, 16 days[ii]. Scroll forward. May 17. May 31… July 26. Really??!! Did my people purposefully die on just those dates where the newspapers would disappear??!!! Grrrr…..
I pressed the rewind button on the microfilm reader. Nothing happened. Forward button worked. Backward button didn't. Great! And since it’s an electric winding mechanism, there wasn't even a crank to turn to rewind the microfilm. I got to hand turn the microfilm reel. Turn turn turn turn turn. Turn turn turn turn turn. Hoping against hope that the label on the box was wrong, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could at least find a birth announcement for little Mary A Hardy, sometime in July of 1889, After a few more turns I began to read the dates on the newspapers. May 17, 1890. May 10, 1890. May 3, 1890… Wait! What? I’ve been rewinding this microfilm and I’m still in 1890? More hand rewinding. April 26. April 19. April 12, 1890. And there I found it…
“Died. In Amador City, April 1, 1890. Mrs. Fields, a native of Ireland, aged 69 years. Deceased had been a resident of Amador City since 1858. About 20 years ago she met with a serious accident by fracturing her hip bone, which could never be set properly, consequently she has been suffering ever since. But she bore the affliction with fortitude. The remains were interred in the Catholic cemetery at Sutter Creek on Thursday of last week. Deceased was a loving wife, a kind and affectionate mother, and a generous, warm-hearted friend. Her death is sincerely mourned by her aged husband, her daughter, and a host of friends.”[iii]
Backward and forward again, I found neither birth nor death notice for Mary A. Hardy. Those issues seem really truly missing. But thank goodness for that broken button on the microfilm reader, for making me rewind slowly!
[i] Sutter Creek Catholic Cemetery (Sutter Creek, Amador, California), Mary Fields momumental inscription, ready my M. Roddy, 28 August 2016. Monument is standing marker with four sides, three of which are inscribed.Mary Fields is on the side facing the burial plot.
[ii] Sutter Creek Catholic Cemetery (Sutter Creek, Amador, California), Mary Devlin Fields momumental inscription, ready my M. Roddy, 28 August 2016. Mary A. Hardy’s inscription is on the left hand side of the same marker as Mary Fields.
[iii] “Died,” Amador Ledger, (Jackson, Amador, California), 12 April 1890, p. 2, col. 4
California), 12 April 1890, p. 2, col. 4
My father was a great one for clipping things out of newspapers. Every time I’d go to visit him there’d be a stack, thoughtfully curated. Something for me about genealogy he’d seen in the San Francisco Chronicle, something for my husband about science education from the Wall Street Journal. And speaking of the WSJ, every Friday he’d cut out the crossword puzzles and save them for me. I’d come home with a sheaf of them, and tuck them in a drawer or in my big book of New York Times Crossword puzzles. I’ve done most of them, but occasionally I’ll find an unsolved one and it’s like a little gift from Dad, eight years since his passing.
One of the most precious newspaper clippings, however, didn’t come from Dad, it came from Mom. When I was about ten, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. The surgeon who performed the hysterectomy thought he got it all, but what did doctors really know about cancer in 1970? Apparently not enough, and a few years later, the cancer came back with a vengeance, riddling her body. For two years, she fought the good fight, trying to beat her foe with round after round of chemotherapy, the most unfriendly of allies.
At some point Mom knew what was coming. And she knew she would not be there for her husband and children to hold our hands and wipe our tears, to give a hug and tell us we’d be okay, we’d get through it. Mom had experienced this kind of loss before, having buried both her parents and her first husband. I’m sure she remembered how hard those first few days and weeks are, the time you most need the support of your mother or spouse, as you struggle to make sense of the hole in your life. So Mom clipped a poem out of the newspaper and tucked it in her purse for Dad to find, something she thought might give voice to the words she would not be able to say.
Shortly after her death on April 3, 1977, my dad found the clipping, and made a lovely tribute to Mom of it, a framed piece with her picture and the poem. I think all of my siblings still have our copies framed in our homes. I treasure mine.
Recently I ran across a box of Dad’s things, and in it was that original clipping Mom tore out of the paper, jaggedy edges and all. I’ve often wondered - just when did Mom see that poem and know it would be needed? Days before her death? Weeks? Months? As I sit her in 2016, 39 years after she died, and just a few days before what would be her 94th birthday, the detective in me came out. I spent some time with the clipping, with the few words of the editorial on the back side of the scrap of yellowing paper, and with a digital newspaper database, searching for the issue. I found my answer.
Three months. She knew, even if we didn’t. December 30, 1976, Mom tore out the clipping, knowing that the moment so eloquently described by Emily Dickinson would come to pass in her own home before too long. And she left us something to help us get through it.
The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is the solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth –
The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
[i] “The Bustle in a House” by Emily Dickinson
Searching for people in the newspaper by name is a good place to start. But be sure to search for your ancestor’s address as well. By and large newspaper reporters and typesetters probably scored above average on their Seventh grade spelling test, but even those standout students would be more likely to struggle with a name like Krotoszyner than they would with the address, 995 Sutter Street.
Here are three articles, each telling about a member of the Krotoszyner family who lived in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Note that each of these articles use a slightly different spelling of the surname, but all have the correct residential address of the family at 995 Sutter Street. I was aware of the spellings of "Krotoszyner" and "Krotozyner" in the first two articles, but I'm pretty sure the spelling in the third article, "Krotozner," is not a variant I would have thought of. I'm glad I expanded my newspaper searching to more than just names!
It’s a great idea to search by name, but make sure you also search by your ancestor’s address as well. You never know what might pop up.
I’m a knitter and I love one scene written by Annie Proulx. It cracks me up every time. "I can tell you about the time buddy was ripping along down the Trans-Canada knitting about as fast as the truck was going when this Mountie spies him. Starts to chase after him, doing a hundred and forty km per. Finally gets alongside, signs the transport feller to stop, but he's so deep in his knitting he never notices... Mountie flashes his light, finally has to shout out the window, 'Pull over! Pull over! So the great transport knitter looks at the Mountie, shakes his head a bit and says, "Why no sir, 'tis a cardigan.' " The book is of course, The Shipping News.
Reading the shipping news in the newspaper might not be quite as giggle-inducing, but could provide some wonderful details to include when writing your family story. Do you have ancestors who sailed from Europe to the New World or perhaps from Boston or New York, bound for California? If you’ve got a date and a ship’s name for such an adventure you may find some specifics about the voyage.
I knew from my great-grandmothers application to Native Daughters of the Golden West, a California lineage society, that she arrived in San Francisco in May 1867 aboard the vessels Ocean Queen and Sacramento. With the month and year and ship names, I scoured the newspaper looking for either of those ships arriving in San Francisco, and on page 3 of the Daily Alta California of May 25, 1867 in the Shipping Intelligence column, “Arrived, May 24, Stmr Sacramento, Cavarly, 14 days 2 hrs from Panama.”  But wait, there’s more! (Oh, yes… always read the entire paper!) On page 1 I found “From Panama: Arrival of the Steamer ‘Sacramento,’” a 1000+ word article providing details of the Sacramento’s latest round-trip San Francisco-Panama voyage. She “left Panama May 10th at 3:56 p.m. with 590 passengers” and assorted freight, mail and baggage. She stopped at Acapulco, Manzanillo, and Cape St. Lucas on her northward journey, and “experienced fine pleasant weather the entire voyage. Passengers and crew all well.” Among those 590 passengers were “Miss M. Hearn and bro,” my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes Ahern and her brother, Henry.
Further details from the account told me that the Sacramento was carrying freight from the Ocean Queen from New York, and in a “Passengers Sailed” column in the New York Times on page 8 of the May 2nd issue, I found two exciting names – “Miss Mary Hearn and brother.” OK 1 ½ exciting names – poor Henry! memorialized in two newspapers as “brother.”
I was lucky that my great-grandmother traveled first class on these ships so her name was listed in the newspaper, but even if she’d been in the nameless hundreds in steerage,, the shipping news columns could tell me much about her journey. Read The Shipping News (book) and the shipping news in the paper. Search for “Passengers Sailed,” “Arrivals,” “Marine Intelligence,” and more. It’ll help to fill out more stories of your ancestors’ lives.
 The Shipping News: A Novel, Annie Proulx, Simon and Schuster, 2008
 Daily Alta California, Volume 19, Number 6280, 25 May 1867, page 3, accessed 19 April 2016 from the California Digital Newspaper
 Daily Alta California, Volume 19, Number 6280, 25 May 1867, page 1, accessed 19 April 2016 from the California Digital Newspaper
 “Passengers Sailed” New York Times 02 May 1867, page 9, accessed 19 April 2016
When you find an obituary, and see those magic words, “[some-other-city] papers please copy” do you look to see if some-other-city did copy? Maybe you should…
Here is a brief obituary I found in a San Francisco paper for John Whitworth. It provided some good details, including his nativity, his wife’s name, and an exact age. It also contained those magic words “Seattle papers please copy.”
When I followed up in the Seattle paper, I found a gold mine! While the San Francisco obituary was one sentence with some additional details on the funeral, the Seattle paper’s account sported more details of family and a delightful moonlit boat ride filled with phosphorescent sparks.
Make it a point to look for those other obituaries when you see those tempting words. These kind of obituaries may be published days, weeks or even months after the original notice, but they are certainly worth looking for.
Recently I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Pacific Northwest Railroad Archives in Burien (http://pnrarchive.org/) as part of the Historic Seattle “Digging Deeper” series of tours in various archives around Seattle. (http://historicseattle.org/blog). I have a number of railroading ancestors and collateral relatives and the tour made me want to write about one tragic tale of some of my Bradley trainmen. Today is the 87th anniversary of the events below.
My great grandfather, Patrick Bradley worked for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, as did many of his relatives, including two nephews, George Francis and Paul Frederick Bradley, brothers who were employed by the NWP, George as an engineer and Paul as a conductor. On February 28, 1929, George Bradley was at the throttle of Engine 141, pulling a northbound passenger train. He received orders at Hopland directing him to pull onto the siding at Largo to let a southbound freight train pass. He likely even read those orders - when they were later found in his pocket, there was a smudge from a grease-stained leather glove on the corner as if he had unfolded the paper to read it. But for some reason he ignored them. George ran the train right by the siding, and 400 yards north of the switch, collided headlong into Engine 184 pulling a train of cars full of timber.
George had his head and shoulders out the window while he was rounding a curve in the road, and had no time to escape from the locomotive. He was killed instantly. His fireman, Don Mohn, jumped before the crash and escaped nearly uninjured. Roy Landree, the fireman on the freight was killed instantly as well, as the timber from the cars immediately behind the locomotive shot forward like bullets from a machine gun. The engineer of the freight, George Cunard, was injured and died a few days later in a San Francisco hospital. Suffering minor cuts and bruises, Paul Bradley, conductor of the freight, helped remove the mangled remains of his brother, George, from the wreckage. Much of the window frame had to be cut to extricate the body. (A picture of the wreck can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/jf6y77u)
The Ukiah newspapers indicate that George was from Willits and the Sausalito newspapers indicate he lived in Tiburon, some 130 miles apart. I remember my father who was about six years old at the time of George’s passing, recounting his vivid memories of the funeral. It seems that George had a family at each end of his rail route. There was the first wife, Maye, at the north end and a second wife, Juanita, at the south end of the line. Dad recollected that Juanita was in the front pew of the church while George was laid out in front of the altar. Maye made her way to the front of the church, saw her husband in the coffin, shrieked, and collapsed to the floor. Dad said that eventually they went on with the funeral, but I don’t remember if both widows remained for the services. Another cousin, a daughter of George with Juanita who was almost 7 years old when her father died, remembered the sound of Maye’s clicking heels as she made her way way to the front of the church, and she recalled that Maye sat down in the front pew next to Juanita and proclaimed “I’m the real widow here.”
I haven’t looked for a divorce record between George and Maye. There are a number of counties where they might have been divorced, and about a ten-year span between the birth of Maye’s second child and Juanita’s first. But it may be that there wasn’t ever a legal divorce. George, Maye and Juanita are long-gone and most of their stories buried with them.
 Ukiah Republican Press, March 6, 1929, page 5
 Dispatch Democrat, March 2, 1929, page 1
 Ukiah Republican Press, March 6, 1929, page 1
 Ukiah Republican Press, March 6, 1929, page 5
 Dispatch Democrat, March 2, 1929, page 1
 Sausalito News, March 1, 1929, page 1
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.