In researching my paternal roots, I've come across an interesting, and somewhat elusive, character, my 2x great-grandfather Rufus Littlejohn. Born about 1866 in South Carolina, he lived a colorful life in Steubenville, Ohio - with the newspaper articles to prove it - before passing away in 1933. Or, at least that's when his wife's obituary says he passed away.
Flora Virginia Littlejohn's obituary, published in the 1 June 1964 Weirton Daily Times. This is one of the few times Rufus is referred to as John R. Litllejohn (colorful life, remember?).
You see, there's a death certificate from Beaver County, Pennsylvania for a Rufus Littlejohn in 1934, born about 1868 in South Carolina.
Now, that seems pretty obviously to be my Rufus. Same approximate birth year, same birth location, and Beaver County, where this one died, is only about 31 miles from Steubenville - both are in the Ohio River Valley. This death certificate doesn't list his parents, whose names I know from other documents, but the rest lines up. And the difference in the year of death is probably a matter of someone's faulty memory. But, I have to do my due diligence, right? So the first thing I do is a quick search of Rufus Littlejohns born in South Carolina about 1866. And yes, there's another one!
|Screenshot of results for Ancestry.com search of 1930 Census Records for Rufus Littlejohn, born about 1867 in South Carolina.|
At this point, at least two things need to happen: 1) I need to create a document tracking both men - Rufuses? Rufusi? - across time so I can distinguish between them, and 2) I need to find out as much as I can about this Rufus in Pennsylvania, who I believe to be mine. I haven't done the former yet, but every now and then, I push forward with the latter.
Using city directories, census schedules, and birth, marriage and death records, I've been able to reconstruct the following, starting from a 1930 census showing Rufus Littlejohn living in Beaver Falls, PA with his daughter Alma Jackson (new to me!), her husband Michael (not that Michael) and their children:
- This Beaver Falls Rufus had at least 3 children with a Jane "Jennie" Alexander between 1892 and 1897: Geneva (known as Eva), Alma and an unknown male. The male is born in Cleveland, where Rufus and Jennie are living in 1895/1896. It is unclear if Rufus and Jennie are married at any point.
- In 1898, Jennie marries Joseph Washington, in Beaver County, PA.
- [Meanwhile, in 1899, Rufus marries my 2x great-grandmother, Flora Virginia Wood(s), in Jefferson County, OH. Her obituary gets the year wrong.]
- Jennie and Joseph have at least 4 children together, giving Alma and Eva (and their unknown and perhaps deceased brother) half-siblings: Ethel, Madlin, George and Clark.
- Over the next few years, Jennie's daughter Alma is involved with Harold (Harry) Ricksey/Rixie and then marries the aforementioned Michael Jackson. These relationships produce several children (Harry Ricksey/Rixie Jr, who tragically does not live to the age of 1, Leroy Ricksey/Rixie, a baby Jackson who is sadly stillborn, and then Carl, Dorothy, Raymond and Geneva Jackson.
- Jennie's husband and Alma's step-father, Joseph Washington, passes away in 1930.
- Jennie, Alma's mother, passes away in 1937.
- Alma's husband passes away in 1951.
All of this left me with the question: What happened to Alma herself? And would that tell me anything else about her father Rufus?
So today, with some time to spare before my Saturday plans, I did some Google genealogy. I literally searched for "Alma Littlejohn Beaver" but without the quotes (using quotes in a Google search will look for the entire phrase, but not the words separately). The third result? An obituary for Karl Jackson, the son of Michael and Alma Elizabeth Littlejohn Jackson. And in that obituary are listed the most recent names of four siblings who preceded him in death: Dorothy Jackson Zachery, Geneva Veasey, and Kenneth and Leroy Rixie! Without this obituary I would not have known Dorothy or Geneva's married names, and wouldn't have known that Kenneth existed at all!
So what did I do next? Still on the hunt for Alma, I Googled: Geneva Veasey "Beaver Falls". Success! Out of five results produced in response to that query, the first was her brother Karl's obituary (again), the second and third appear to be her obituary, but they are behind the paywalls of Newspapers.com and NewspaperArchive.com. (You bet I'm going to work to get it, though!) The fourth is a newspaper article mentioning her - it seems to be about a crime report, and I will be getting that, too.
And the fifth result? It's a link to a PDF document hosted on FultonHistoy.com, also know as Old Fulton NY Postcards, by Tom Tryniski. (Have you ever searched this website before? You should! It's a gem of free resources, including many old newspapers available for free, and it's where I found the articles mentioning my step-great-grandfather's acting skills.)
What was the PDF? Page 16 of the Utica (New York) Daily Press for 27 November 1968. And on that page, an obituary for Mrs. Shelley Herron, also known as Alma E. Herron.
|Daily Press, Utica, N.Y. 27 November 1968, P16.|
Not only did I learn her date and location of death, but also that she remarries in 1959 and to whom. Plus, there are seven daughters and five sons who survive her: Geneva Veasey, Louise Johnson, Lillie M. Cooper, Gloria Herron, Shelley Carter, Essie M. Jackson, Leroy Rixie, Kenneth Rixie, Karl Jackson, Herbert Herron and Adam Smith! While Alma's parents are not listed in this obituary, the avenues for research that are opened up between this and her son Karl's are exciting and sure to provide more interesting information!
This feels pretty good for a Saturday morning Google search.