One of my favorite features of my genealogy software, Family Tree Maker 2 for Mac, is its ability to create calendars of people in my tree birthdates and marriage anniversaries. I like it because I can use it as a reality check to verify some of the data I have, moreover it reminds me to wish various folks who are still living well wishes.
It reported that Elvah and Charles W. Brown, my grandaunt and granduncle would be celebrating their 78th wedding anniversary. I knew that Charles had passed many years ago but I didn’t know what happened to Elvah. I looked a bit more at my tree and found that I had forgotten that Charles had remarried another woman in Alaska sometime later. I knew that Charles had had five children but didn’t know which ones were from which mother. I knew that in order for my software to present the correct information, I needed to determine the relationship status of Charles and Elvah. Did she die or did they divorce?
I first looked at my tree on Ancestry and looked to see if anyone else had family trees on Charles. There were several trees there that included Charles and Elvah but none with any details or sources better than mine. No easy shortcuts.
Minnesota Marriages are really easy to get information on because of MOMS (Minnesota Official Marriage System). (If you are doing marriage research in Minnesota, this site is a must!) Not only can you get the basic information, but you can order a copy on-line if you want to. One really useful feature of the system is that you can enter the last name of the groom and the first name of the bride and search for both bride and groom. A search for Brown and Elvah yielded:
CROW WING R-17 5/8/1943 BLISS, RAYMOND N. BROWN, ELVAH
CROW WING N-535 2/23/1935 BROWN, CHARLES NORQUIST, ELVAH
There they were, Charles and Elvah married in 1935.
I already found Charles in Cass County in the 1920 and 1930 using Ancestry.Com censuses so their being married in Crow Wing County was understandable. Probably were married in the big city of Brainerd. I quickly found Elva in the 1930 census living with her father and mother in Brainerd. I also found her in the 1920 census living with father and mother. Perfect.
When searching for them in the 1940 census, I came across a first for the censuses. She was listed as “Brown, Charles – wife – male – 27 – married…- housewife” living with her mother and father, “same house” as in 1935, and the same address as in 1930. With her is son, Glen Brown. No male Charles in the household. So it appeared that he may be her only child with Charles.
From Charles’ obituary in 1990, I knew the names of his children. Family Search’s Minnesota Birth Index 1935-2002 provided all their middle names and their mother’s names. Glen was born to Elva and the others to Dora. The oldest of Dora’s children was born in 1946. So it appeared that the Elvah Brown marriage to Raymond Bliss was probably the correct Elvah so I went with that, tentatively.
So, if Elvah was with her family in 1940, where was Charles? I found him in the 1940 census living as a lodger with Woodrow and Beulah Wilson in Township 134, Range 29, which was the Western portion of an unorganized township north of Baxter, about six miles from Brainerd. He was listed as single. Neither the head of household (Woodrow) nor Charles had worked in the previous 52 weeks. An understandable reason why Charles and Evlah had separated and why she was living with her parents in 1940. I think that in 1940, Charles had moved on and at least considered himself single while Elvah was still struggling with her identity as a married woman. I estimate they were divorced sometime in 1940. Charles is buried at the Gull River Cemetery.
A little more searching on the Brainerd Daily Dispatch found that Charles and Elva had another son in 1936. Knowing that I was able to find his birth record. Their child Henry Lester Brown was born on 24 Nov 1936 and died on 17 Jan 1937, at about seven weeks old. There are a number of articles regarding Charles in 1938 and 1939 regarding his not supporting his family, being order by the court to pay, etc.
I don’t know of an online source of Minnesota Divorce Records before 1970. If anyone know of one, let me know in the comments below. In the meantime, I guess I’ll look and see if anything shows up in the Brainerd paper.