If you’ve been following along with my genealogy posts ( here’s one, and another), you know that I’m not having the best of luck running down my Campbell name. So this week I took a break from looking for that elusive “immigrant ancestor” and tried my hand at a different brick wall.
My dad had a first wife. All I ever heard about her was the name “Trudie”. No last name, not even if Trudie was a nickname or not, but I have always gone on the notion that her name was Gertrude. But since I am the baby of my family, my older siblings had a little more knowledge than I. I did some searching via Ancestry, Fold3, Archives, and Newspapers. All of those sites have different aspects that making internet search a bit easier.
I do remember finding a newspaper clipping of my father when he worked for Fairchild Airmotive during WWII era. The article was just a profile of him and his job, but it closed with a tantalizing clue. As best I can recall it said: “he and his wife live in Graham.” I asked my mom if she had ever lived in a town called Graham and she said no. I’m not positive, but I believe Graham is near Burlington, NC. I did find two clippings from The Daily Times which was Burlington’s newspaper of the era, that mention a Don and Gertrude Campbell. Both of these clippings are from the 1943/1944 years, which is exactly the correct time frame for dad to be there.
I also found a Donald and Gertrude Campbell in the 1940 census living in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Now dad is a native of Pennsylvania, and my oldest sister was born in Altoona, so this was a promising find. On the 1940 census, one of the questions asked was where the person lived in 1935. Both Don and Gertrude answered “same place”. So I looked up city directories for Altoona in 1935. For those that have never heard of a “city
directory” basically it’s the forerunner of a telephone book. I could not find Don listed in the 1935 directory, but I do find him, with his mother, in the 1930 census in Antis
Township, Pennsylvania, which is in the same county as Altoona. I do find Don in the 1936 census in Tipton (maybe a suburb of Altoona?). I’m positive this is the correct Don as it has him listed as working in his mother’s restaurant.
Then I found a WWII draft card for Don. I know dad was “4-F” (medically unfit for service), so I was interested in this record. Ancestry only gave his name and a few other tidbits of information. Just enough that I could say it was his record, but nothing more. The Fold3 site has lots and lots of military records. There I could see the entire card. And it was golden. It gives the same address as the 1940 census! So that was the correct couple. Sadly, they used the standard naming conventions of the times. For the emergency contact person, all it has is Mrs Don S. Campbell. Arrgghhh!!! Why didn’t they use their own names? I see so many old records like this. It is so frustrating.
Check out all the addresses crossed out. I’m not sure how to interpret that.
Family history says that Trudie died early in the marriage, for unknown to us reasons, and that dad married our mom very quickly after her passing. By pure luck, I came across an obituary from the Altoona Mirror, dated 10 July 1945 for a Gertrude Campbell, with a spouse Donald Campbell. But it’s for Gertrude’s death in Washington D.C. Wait, what?? In DC? But then I remembered that mom and dad did meet in DC. And the death date is only seven months prior to mom and dad getting married. Which fits the family stories perfectly.
From the 10 July 1945 Altoona Mirror
One stumbling block I still have is I cannot find any marriage records for Don and Gertrude, nor a death certificate for Gertrude. Since her death was in 1945, she should be listed in the Social Security Death Index as the event occurred about ten years after Social Security was started. But she may not have had a social security number. I have no idea as to how long it took for social numbers to become “standard”.
So, yes, genealogy still sucks. But I have, finally, partially knocked down one brick wall. I wonder which will be next!
So, what are your genealogy brick walls??