In my last post, I mention sending out for a copy of Miss Eliza’s obituary in the Bend, Oregon, newspaper. You can read the obituary posted in my first post to catch up on this story. I’m complicated like that.
I was hoping the first document I shared with you would be a whopper — you know, townspeople weeping in the streets, church cake walks held in Eliza’s honor, Henry’s scandalous tell-all account of their cross-continent love. But based on what I received from the University of Oregon Library , I think ‘subdued’ was more Eliza and Hank’s style:
Looking on the bright side, this notice does a few things for me. First, it corroborates the death index I found. A death index is a report of only names and dates that was compiled by a (probably) bored public servant, in other words, it’s the second handling of the information. It’s the third person down the line in a game of Telephone. Death indices aren’t usually as reliable as the actual death certificate, because the certificate was probably filled out soon after the event happened by someone who was very close to the deceased.
Second, it corroborates Eliza’s middle name and Henry’s middle initial. Why is that important? Well, that’s for another post. But, believe me, knowing a relative’s true middle name –not just what some tired census worker wrote sloppily — is an asset.
Third, I notice most of the usual information listed in an obituary is missing from Eliza’s: no list of living family members, no birthdate, nor a birthplace. Honing in on my Sherlock Holmes skills, I can explain this understated memorial to the fact that Eliza moved to the Bend community at a later age, she and Hank were not leaders in the community, and they ran a humongous alfalfa ranch so they didn’t live close to town. Also, none of her family moved with her, so listing a bunch of Iowans in the Oregon newspaper wouldn’t really interest the fine people of Bend. Chances are a more detailed obituary ran in the Council Bluffs, Iowa, newspaper to comfort Eliza’s family and friends. Hmmm, worth looking into . . .
My $7.50 spent on hiring someone to find this record was worth it. Not all of the records I request will feature gun-toting bear huntresses, sadly. In hindsight, though, I would have skipped the Oregon obituary and only ordered it from the newspaper where most of her family lives. Lesson learned.
Taking a look at Hank’s census records, I found 2 new rabbits to chase! The 1930 Census asks people what age they were when they were first married. Based on Hank’s answers on that census, I gather that Eliza was (at least) his second wife. Tied into that discovery is the fact that Hank is listed on two different censuses as Mary Benn’s brother-in-law. I thought it was strange that Hank was mentioned more in Mary’s obituary than her father was. Now that I know they were all family, things make more sense.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why do you care, they’re not even your relatives?
And that’s a fair point. But remember my point in researching Eliza was: How did my relative, Eliza Kelley, meet and marry Hank Ruffe? I’m currently working off the hunch that they met through Iowan family. Looking a little into the Iowans in Henrys’ and Marys’ lives might just give me the answer. That’s called ‘researching around the subject.’ The subject in this case being Eliza. Another reason to look into it is the fact that Mary was obviously an important figure in Hank’s life, and, therefore, in Eliza’s as well.
And also, I’m distractible. Have I mentioned that?
Here are some related items I found along the way while researching. Perhaps they’ll come in handy in the future:
A sparely written journal detailing a woman’s journey to Oregon in 1910. Look for her dropping the apocalypse just after mentioning that she bought some milk. Do you know what your relatives did to prepare for Halley’s Comet?
Pictures from around Bend, Oregon, during the time of Hank, Eliza, and Mary.
Have family in Oregon? I found this little gem. Olden newspapers are a hoot!