04 March 2013

Mystery Monday - Understanding Beardsell ~ McLean ~ Brown

Background:  Growing up my Grandmother would share ‘glimpses’ of her family – usually when she  thought I was sleeping.  Gram worked very hard at keeping everyone at ‘arm’s length’ when it came to her family and revealing their ‘secrets.’  That will have to be another post.

Today’s focus is Gram’s sister Jane Ann (Jennie) Beardsell . . .
Date of Birth: 9 August 1889
Place of Birth: Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England
Emigrated to Philadelphia Pennsylvania: 1898
Date of Death:  10 February 1940
Burial: Magnolia Cemetery, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
Married: Twice (topic of today’s post)

As I said, Gram worked hard at compartmentalizing what information she shared about her family, so as not to reveal too much.  So, I would hear bits and pieces about my Dad’s Aunt Jennie growing up – each story revealed rare and fleeting glimpses of who Jennie was and information about her.  Yet, nothing that provided a full picture.

Here is what I thought I knew based on the limited information Gram shared, what other scant information that my Dad recalled, and what tidbits I was able to glean from what Gram had written on the back of the one photo that I had. . .

·         Jennie had a son William (Billy) Brown, Jr.
·         Billy lived in New Jersey with his wife Dee and their 4 children
·         I have a picture showing Ralph McLean, age 27; and Billy Brown, age 8 and his cousin (my
       Aunt) Edith Adele, age 13 – what I didn’t know is who Ralph was and how he, IF he, fit into the

When I began my research into the Beardsell family line, I contacted my second cousin, Billy Brown, to ask what he could tell me about his Mother, Jane Ann (Jennie) and my Grandmother’s (his Aunt’s) family; I learned that he had, some years prior, done some family history research and had a Family Tree printed and was willing to send me a copy.  Rather than better answering my questions about Jennie, the family tree that I received just deepened the mystery, but at the time, I really didn’t realize that.

The tree indicated that Jennie had been married twice, to ‘—‘ McLean and to William (Bill) Brown, Sr.  So, now – I thought – I knew how Ralph McLean fit into the family; he was Jennie and '--' McLean’s son.  And, Billy Brown, Jr. was Jennie’s and Bill’s son.  But try as I might, I couldn’t find anything initially on either marriage.  This past year - I had been researching Jane Ann (Jennie), off and on for the past 2 years or so - I located information on her date of death and then I was briefly stalled again; couldn’t locate any further information on her death – death certificate, cemetery, or burial information – and to date had not been able to come up with any solid documentation about her marriages.  The first break though was determining the approximate date of death for Jennie; I had been talking to my Dad about the ‘wall’ that I had come up against during my research and he was able to narrow down a time frame as to when he thought Aunt Jennie had passed away.  Armed with that, I finally was able to first determine her date of death and then request a copy of her death certificate from the state of New Jersey.

The death certificate  revealed That Bill Brown, husband, was the informant, it listed her brother, George Arthur Beardsell as Next of Kin and provided the next clue - Jennie was buried in the Magnolia Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  A call to the cemetery recently revealed that she was buried with Stanley McLean and other McLean family members.  Now, I was puzzled; while I recognized the Mclean surname (I knew I had the right Jennie), I didn’t know who Stanley or the other McLeans were or why she was buried with them.  Not knowing where to go next, I typed in Stanley Mclean into Google and viola, there was my answer.  I had found Jennie!  Stanley McLean and Jane Ann (Jennie) had been married and Ralph was their son.  What I don’t yet know is why she was buried with them.

Simultaneous mysteries that I have not yet answered are . . .

·         When did Jennie and Stanley divorce?

Based on U.S. Federal Census records I can narrow the time frame down.  The 1910 census  reveals that at the time of the Census Jennie and Stanley had been married 2 years and that their son Ralph was 1 year of age.

By the 1920 census, Stanley, while still listed as married, is a ‘Boarder’ at another residence.  Jennie and Ralph are not with him.

A search of the 1920 census records reveals that Ralph, now 10 years old, is living with his Grandparents (Stanley’s Parents) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
My assumption then is that Jennie and Stanley were separated and divorced by 1920.

·         Why didn’t Ralph stay with his mother?
·         Where is Jennie?

By 1930, Jennie is now married to William (Bill) Brown and has a son, Billy, aged 1.

·         When did Jennie and Bill marry?

Based on Billy’s age, they may have only been married a little over a year / possibly 2 years  - 1928/9(?).  There is however, a 10 year gap between federal census enumerations, so it is possible that they were married longer?  I have searched for Jennie McLean (alone) in the 1920 census, no luck; I have searched for Jane Ann McLean (alone) in the 1920 census, no luck; I have searched for both Jane Ann and William Brown in the 1920 census, no luck; and my final attempt was to search for Jennie and William Brown in the 1920 census.  That too failed.  I also looked at her sister, Edith in the 1920 census, thinking / hoping I might find Jennie with her family, no such luck.  And she isn’t found with her brother, George either.

·         What happened to Ralph?
·         What happened to Stanley?

I have located a 1930 census for both Stanley McLean, listed as a ‘Boarder’ now living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and for Ralph McLean who is now 24, married living in Pennsauken, Camden, New Jersey with his wife, newborn son and 4 step-children ranging in age from 2 – 5 years of age and his mother-in-law.

·         The 1930 census indicates that Ralph was 24 and his wife was 25 at the time of enumeration
        and d it indicates that they were 23 and 24 respectively at the time of their marriage.  This
        would suggest that they had only been married a year, at the time of census enumeration. 
·         Step-Children ranging in age from 2 – 5 years? 

Not knowing much about Ralph or his father Stanley, after 1920, I am not sure that I am looking at the right individuals. 

While I am not a descendant of either Stanley McLean, or his son Ralph McLean, I have to admit I am curious as to what happened to them.  Why did Jennie not keep Ralph with her?  Seemingly she left her first family behind and started a new.  I want to know more.  I want to understand. 

There is usually a ‘grain’ of truth in family stories but, I’ve learned that you need to be open to where your research leads you and what the source documents prove out. 
Still some mysteries to solve.
** Conscience of space limitations 1910, 1920, 1930, Death Certificate and Picture commented on here have not been attached ** Perhaps a separate post of these in the near future.

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