53 Years Ago Today

On May 29, 1960, fifty-three years ago today, Harry Carl Hamilton (1891-1960), my maternal great grandfather, died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Co., Oklahoma. Following his death, he was buried in Highland Cemetery in Okemah, Okfuskee Co., Oklahoma.

Headstone of Harry C. Hamilton
Headstone of Harry C. Hamilton

Harry was born Carl H. Heldman in 1891 the son of Rufus Bert Heldman (1870-1944) and Jennie M. Lightcap (1872-1905) in Robinson, Crawford Co., Ohio. Harry changed his name at the outbreak of World War I, a war in which he served. Harry was married twice, first to Lillie May Johnson (1894-1988), with whom he had two children; and second to Golda “Goldie” Mae Worthington (1912-2006), with whom he had seven children, one of which is my maternal grandfather, Harry “Lee” Hamilton (LIVING).

140 Years Ago Today

On May 29, 1873, one hundred and forty years ago today, Lucretia “Lucy” (Catlin) Heldman (ca. 1829-1873), my 3rd great grandmother, died in Mansfield, Richland Co., Ohio. Following her death at the age of about forty-three, she was buried in Mansfield Cemetery in the Heldman family plot.

Headstone of Lucretia (Catlin) Heldman
Headstone of Lucretia (Catlin) Heldman

Lucretia was the second wife of Johann “John” Adam Heldman (1870-1883), with whom she had seven children, one of which was Rufus Bert Heldman (1870-1944), the grandfather of my maternal grandfather, Harry “Lee” Hamilton (LIVING). Lucretia’s ancestry remains a mystery. Most accounts and some records put her birth location as Connecticut, but it also appears as New York and Massachusetts on others. Connecticut, however, does have a large number of Catlins, some of which did relocate to Ohio. She may be connected in some way to Isaac Catlin, who was born in 1780 in Connecticut and lived in New York before moving to Medina Co., Ohio, where he died in 1856. Medina County is in close proximity to Richland County, being separated by one county, that of Ashland County which has a large number of Heldmans living in it.

130 Years Ago Today

On May 11, 1883, one hundred and thirty years ago today, Johann “John” Adam Heldman (1809-1883), my 3rd great grandfather, died in Mansfield, Richland Co., Ohio. On May 13, 1883, John was buried in Mansfield Cemetery in Madison, Richland Co., Ohio, next to his first wife, Mary Jane (Carson) Heldman (ca. 1820-1850), and his second wife, Lucretia (Catlin) Heldman (ca. 1829-1873), who both preceded him in death.

Headstone of John A. Heldman (Note: John’s headstone incorrectly states he died on May 18.)
Headstone of John A. Heldman (Note: John’s headstone incorrectly states he died on May 18.)

The following is a transcription of John’s obituary, which was published in The Mansfield Herald, 17 May 1883, Vol. 33, No. 26:

“The death of Mr. J.A. Heldman at the age of 74 occurred at his late residence on West Market Street on Friday last. Mr. Heldman was a native of Germany and came to Mansfield about the year 1836, and has resided here ever since, most of the time being engaged in the furniture business. He was married four times, his last wife surviving him. His estate is estimated to be worth about $35,000. The funeral of the deceased took place on Sunday at 2 P.M.”

Heldman Family Plot in Mansfield Cemetery in Madison, Richland Co., Ohio
Heldman Family Plot in Mansfield Cemetery in Madison, Richland Co., Ohio

Fearless Females Challenge: March 20 – Elusive or Brick Wall Ancestor

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month. (Note: Because I started this challenge late, I will be continuing it beyond March 31.)

Prompt for March 20 — Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information.

Anyone who undertakes to research their family history will inevitably run into brick walls. My research is no exceptions. I have several brick walls with immigrant ancestors, including female immigrant ancestors such as Martha Rose (Sheridan) Kiernan (ca. 1797-?), my 4th great grandmother, and Roza Mari (Peto) Sebok (1871-1937), my 2nd great grandmother. With these female ancestors the brick wall comes from difficulties tracing their line in other countries, which seems it will only change with an increase in access to records in these countries. In addition to these brick walls, I have two female ancestors that are brick walls in my ancestry. These brick walls, however, come from difficulties in tracing their line in the United States.

The first of these female ancestors is Cemantha (Broadway) Lapham (ca. 1813-1846), my 4th great grandmother. I know few facts with certainty about Cemantha. According to available accounts, Cemantha was born in about 1813 in New York and died in about 1846 in Springfield, Wayne Co., Michigan. These facts, however, have not been confirmed by records. The only confirmed record I have uncovered so far is Cemantha’s marriage to Benjamin Lapham (1807-1860) on May 17, 1834 in Cuyhoga Co., Ohio. Two records for this marriage shows Cemantha’s maiden name as either “Broadway” or “Bradway.” Research into these variations, and variations in spelling of her first name, have not revealed any clear matches. Presently, my only lead is a Broadway family that also ended up in Wayne Co., Michigan at the same time, which originated in Somerset, England. However, I have not been able to link Cemantha to them.

Benjamin Lapham and Cemantha Broadway Marriage Record
Benjamin Lapham and Cemantha Broadway Marriage Record

The second female ancestor I have that has become a brick wall is Lucretia “Lucy” (Catlin) Heldman (ca. 1829-1873), my 3rd great grandmother. As with Cemantha, I knew few facts about Lucretia, particularly prior to her marriage to Johann “John” Adam Heldman (ca. 1809-1883) on July 11, 1851 in Richland Co., Ohio. According to available records, Lucretia was born in about 1829 in either New York (according to the 1860 U.S. Census record), or Connecticut (according to the 1870 U.S. Census record), or  Massachusetts (according to the “Ohio Deaths and Burials, 1854-1997” Index). It is unclear why these three records differ regarding her birth location. The lack of clarity on this fact has made tracking her parents difficult. If she was born in New York, there is a Lucretia Catlin/Cotalin living in Chesterville, Morrow Co., Ohio in 1850 in the household of Dr. Moses De Camp. The De Camp family were living in Mansfield, Richland Co., Ohio in 1860 and 1870. It is, however, unclear if this my Lucretia or the Lucretia Catlin who married James F. Millard in 1862 and died in 1907 in Cuyahoga Co., Ohio. If she was born in Connecticut, there is a large number of Catlins in that state (particularly in Litchfield County), all of which seem to descend from Thomas Catlin (c1612-1690) who was from Kent, England, came to Hartford, Connecticut prior to 1646 and died there in 1690.

J.A. Heldman and Lucretia Catlin Marriage Record
J.A. Heldman and Lucretia Catlin Marriage Record

With both of these brick wall ancestors, I have a lot of research still to do; and hopefully I will uncover a lead that will turn out to be a breakthrough.

Fearless Females Challenge: March 16 – Let’s Do Lunch!

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month.

Prompt for March 16 — If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

For me, this challenge is a difficult one because I think that I would not mind having lunch with each of my female ancestors, if I could. I can only imagine the information and stories that they could share. However, I suppose I could answer this prompt in one of two ways.

First of all, I think I would like to have lunch with my female ancestors that passed away in my lifetime. This would particularly include my paternal grandmother, Margaret Ann (Lapham) Kernan (1936-), and my great grandmothers, Maxine Elizabeth (Davis-Kernan) Smith (1912-1992), Pauline Katherine (Rains-Rowlands) Kernan (1913-1997), Alice Lucretia (Wellin-Lapham) Graber (1916-1985), Goldia “Goldie” Mae (Worthington) Hamilton (1912-2006), Irene Vera (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006). This luncheon would also include my only 2nd great grandmother that passed away in my lifetime, Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983).

An alternative luncheon would involve my immigrant female ancestors from my Kernan, Lapham, Hamilton, and Sebok lines, or the earliest known female I have in those lines if the immigrant ancestor is unknown. This would include Martha Rose (Sheridan) Kiernan (1797-?), Mary (Mann) Lapham (1640-1712), Jennie M. (Lightcap) Heldman (1872-1905), and Roza Mari (Peto) Sebok (1871-1937). It might also include other female immigrant/earliest ancestors, such as Anna Eliza (Backer-Stearns) Tice (1854-1919), Rebecca (Gibson) Stearns (1635-1698), Sarah (Spinney) Davis (1746-?), Mary Ann (Wys) Beeney (ca. 1784-1857), Ann (Forsyth) Leishman (1828-1896), Anna Elizabeth (Stålberg) Lowenburg (1869-1918), Anna Elizabeth (UNKNOWN) Lightcap (?-?), Alice (Taylor) Worthington (1662-1729), Elizabeth (Grant) Gifford (1615-1683), Eszter (Szabó) Balla (1857-1925), and Julia (Molnar) Balla (1885-1962).

In either set up, I don’t think we would go anywhere in particular. I think it would be at my parent’s home. I would want each of them to prepare their signature dish (the women in my family all love to cook); and we would have a party-type luncheon similar to the Christmas parties my grandmother had when I was a kid. Lots of food and lots of talking. I think that would be the ideal luncheon for me with any of my female ancestors.

Fearless Females Challenge: March 14 – In the News

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month.

Prompt for March 14 — Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Why? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?

Researching my ancestors has not reveled too many news-makers, apart from obituaries or notices of funerals.However, while researching my Hamilton (originally Heldman) branch, I discovered a female that certainly qualifies as a news-maker, Rhoda Margaret (Horner) Heldman (1908-1928), my great grand aunt, who was also known (in newspapers) as the “Phantom Flapper Killer.”

My maternal great grandfather, Harry Carol Hamilton (1891-1960), was born Carl H. Heldman in Robinson, Crawford Co., Ohio the son of Rufus Bert Heldman (1870-1944), a plumber, and Jennie M. Lightcap (1872-1905). Harry had three siblings, one of which was a younger brother named Wilbur Owen Heldman (1900-?). In 1927, Wilbur married Rhoda Margaret Horner (1908-1928), who perfered to go by her middle name, Margaret, and was originally from Pennsylvania. Wilbur and Margaret had one child together, Emmitt Richard Heldman, who was born in 1928. Wilbur was employed at this time as a furnace salesman in the Canton and Lorain area. They lived in Lorain.

On December 6, 1928, a young woman wearing a blue chinchilla coat got off a 6:00 pm bus near an Inn in Canton, Ohio, being observed by passengers, the bus driver, and the Innkeeper. While waiting for another bus, she walked a little ways away to the home of Vernard Fearn, a 35-year-old coal merchant and mine operator.

Mr. Fearn was at home with his wife, Mary, and their daughter Kathryn. Mary was preparing dinner, when a knock was heard at the door. She answered, and the young woman specifically asked for Mr. Fearn. Mary told her husband someone was at the door for him. As soon as he came to the door, the young woman pulled out a 32 caliber gun and shot Mr. Fearn six times, with three of the bullets entering his chest, another entering his side as he spun around, another entering his back as he fell to the porch, and a sixth grazing his neck. The young woman is reported to have fired two more rounds into the screen door frame. After the shooting, the young woman was reported to have walked back to the bus stop, boarded a bus, road to downtown Canton, and disappeared in a crowd of Christmas shoppers.

According to his death certificate, Vernard E. Fearn (1893-1928) was murdered on December 6, 1928 in an apparent homicide in which “he was shot through the heart with a 32 caliber gun” while standing “on the porch of his house.” The media coverage of this murder dubbed the murderer “the phantom flapper” killer, because witnesses described her as a young woman dressed in a blue chinchilla coat.

Death Certificate of Vernard Fearn
Death Certificate of Vernard Fearn

On the night of December 13, 1928, about a week after Mr. Fearn’s murder, Wilbur Heldman brought his wife, Margaret, to the office of Sheriff Ed Gibson. She had been shot with a bullet in the heart and was dying. She was rushed to Mercy Hospital, where shed died at 7:30 pm. According to reports, Wilbur stated that before this, Margaret came to him and confessed that she had killed Mr. Fearn, and that she shot herself while they were driving to Canton from their home in Lorain to turn her over to the police. He told the police that Margaret said that Mr. Fearn “had made [her] life like a ‘hell on earth.’” (No details exist as to what Wilur meant by that.) In addition to Wilbur’s statements, Mr. Fearn’s widow, Mary, apparently identified Margaret as the killer. This lead Sherriff Gibson and the Stark County Prosecutor, Henry Harter, to concluded that Margaret was indeed the “Phantom Flapper” killer that they had been looking for in the murder of Mr. Fearn.

Death Certificate of Margaret Heldman
Death Certificate of Margaret Heldman

However, not everyone was satisfied. Margaret’s family, who took her body back to Pennsylvania for burying, appear to have thought that some or all of Wilbur’s statements did not make sense, and requested that a second autopsy be performed. Following this, the coroner, T. C. McQuate, charged that Wilbur was “morally responsible for his wife’s death.” On December 31, 1928, he was bound over without bond to the Stark County Grand Jury after a preliminary hearing decided that he was to be charged as the “moral murderer of his pretty 21-year-old wife Margaret.” Wilbur was eventually cleared of all charges, and released, after which he eventually left Ohio and possibly changed his name.

In addition to Margaret’s family, many others did not believe that she was the “Phantom Flapper” killer. Many of the eye-witnesses, including the bus driver, the innkeeper, and numerous bus passengers stated that Margaret was most certainly not the woman in the blue chinchilla coat. Some even suggested they thought the young woman could have actually been a man dressed in a woman’s coat and hat. Although officially closed, the murder of Mr. Fearn, the identity of the “Phantom Flapper” killer, and what role Margaret Heldman played in this (if any) remains a mystery today. Many wonder if Wilbur was actually the murderer of both Mr. Fearn and his wife over an alleged affair between Mr. Fearn and Margaret. Others speculate if there wasn’t a business connection, as Wilbur was a furnace salesman and Mr. Fearn was a coal dealer. Because of these unclear motives, mysterious and uncorroborated confessions, and eye-witness testimonies pointing to someone else, the story of the “Phantom Flapper” is a legendary mystery in Ohio criminology, appearing in numerous publications, including two specific works by John Stark Bellamy II: The Corpse in the Cellar and Women behaving badly: true tales of Cleveland’s most ferocious female killers: an anthology. In both these works, the title reads, “The Phantom Flapper Killer: The Mystery of Margaret Heldman (1928).”

The following are clippings from the The Toledo News-Bee on Dec 14, 1928, complete with details and photographs:

Margaret Heldman News Article Part 1 Margaret Heldman News Article Part 2

Margaret Heldman News Article Part 3 Margaret Heldman News Article Part 4

Fearless Females Challenge: March 11 – Tragic or Unexpected Death

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month.

Prompt for March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

In my ancestry, I have a few female ancestors that died young, though I have far more that lived beyond the age of 65. For example, Anna Elizabeth (Stålberg) Lowenburg (1869-1918), my 3rd great grandmother, died at age 49; Emoline Pauline (Reynolds) Lapham (1844-1886), my 3rd great grandmother, died at age 42; Kerstin (Nilsdotter) Stålberg (1841-1870), my 4th great grandmother, died at age 29; Eva Flora (McLaughlin-Beeney) Elben (1863-1899), my 3rd great grandmother, died at age 36; and Jennie M. (Lightcap) Heldman (1872-1905), my 2nd great grandmother, died at age 32. However, each of these died from disease, rather than tragic or unexpected circumstances.

In addition to those that died young from disease, I have three cases where a female ancestor died from tragic or unexpected circumstances. The first of these is the death of Elizabeth “Betsy” Ann (Adams) Thornton (1818-1852), my 5th great grandmother. Betsy, her husband, Simeon Toney Thornton (1818-1917), their children, and other members of their family left Missouri for the Oregon Territory along the Oregon Trail. While still traveling on the trail, but after they had arrived in the Oregon Territory (near present day Heppner, Morrow Co., Oregon), Betsy went into labor and died during a difficult delivery on September 9, 1852 at the age of 34.

Betsy (Adams) Thornton
Betsy (Adams) Thornton

Another case is that of the death of Mary Comfort (Knowles) Dunton (ca. 1801-1845), my 4th great grandmother. Mary’s death, which took place on July 20, 1845 in Hancock Co., Illinois, is something of a mystery for me. She died at the age of 44 on the same day as her husband, James Cyrus Dunton (ca. 1800-1845). Presently, I have not been able to uncover the cause of their deaths. However, I have found that this county of Illinois was home at this time to many Mormon settlers (particularly around Nauvoo), who faced continuous persecution. I have read that around the time of Mary’s death, Hancock County was experiencing significant numbers of deaths resulting from disease and/or starvation that resulted from the persecution of Mormons in that county connected to the Mormon Wars. Joseph Smith (1805-1844), founder of the Later Day Saints, had been killed in Carthage, Hancock Co., Illinois by a mob a few months short of a year before Mary and James’s death. plunging the Mormon community into a difficult time. Although I have not been able to find any information that indicates that Mary’s death (or that of her husbands) was in anyway connected to these events, or that they were even Mormons, I do know that their son James Harvey Dunton, was a Mormon, and left the area with the Mormons.

Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois in the 1840s

The third case is that of the death of Mattie (Blankenship-Worthington) Ward (1903-1944). Mattie was the second wife of my 2nd great grandfather, Ernest Jacob Worthington (1885-1939), and the step-mother of my great grandmother Goldia “Goldie” Mae Worthington (1912-2006). Mattie died on April 10, 1944 in Harrison, Boone Co., Arkansas after a tornado hit their home. Mattie was thrown from her bed and crushed to death in the wreckage of the home.

Headstone of Mattie (Blankenship-Worthington) Ward
Headstone of Mattie (Blankenship-Worthington) Ward

68 Years Ago Today

On November 1, 1944, sixty-eight years ago today, Rufus Bert Heldman (1870-1944), my 2nd great grandfather, died at Hammond Rest Home in Mansfield, Richland Co., Ohio. According to his death certificate, Rufus died from arteriosclerosis. He was buried on November 4, 1944 at Shreve Cemetery in Shreve, Wayne Co., Ohio.

Death Certificate of Rufus Bert Heldman

107 Years Ago Today

On July 25, 1905, one hundred and seven years ago today, Jennie M. (Lightcap) Heldman (1872-1905), my 2nd great grandmother, died in Shreve, Wayne Co., Ohio, USA.

Jennie was born in 1872 in Prairie, Holmes Co., Ohio, the daughter of Samuel S. Lightcap (1844-1893) and Sarah Jane Saunders (1842-1887). In 1890, she married Rufus Bert Heldman (1870-1944) in Richland Co., Ohio. Together, Jennie and Rufus had four children. Jennie died in 1905 and was buried in Shreve Cemetery.

Jennie (Lightcap) Heldman was the mother of Harry Carl Hamilton (1891-1960), my great grandfather, who was born Carl H. Heldman, and was the father of my maternal grandfather, Lee Hamilton (LIVING).