Digging through genealogy history

Friday, February 7, 2020

In past columns I have written about my father-in-lawís quest to uncover the details of his birth parents. Never was his curiosity driven by a desire to deny the loving family that he grew up in, the parents who were the only ones he knew, the brothers and sisters whom he loved, but rather a completion of the circle of his life. My searches for him unfortunately uncovered nothing and even with DNA testing, that quest has not been fulfilled. Perhaps it is because his journey to his permanent home spanned three states but as it is, we may never know the answers.

The phone call I received yesterday from a man searching for his grandfatherís biological parents had a different outcome. His quest was to complete a three-generation search starting with his grandfather, then his mother, and finally him.

What I learned a few years ago was that young unmarried women came to McCook to have their babies at St. Catherinís Hospital. Iím not sure where they lived during the final months of their pregnancy, perhaps at the nunís residence hall across from the hospital. One man searching for his birth mother knew that she came to McCook from Kansas, worked at the hospital during her pregnancy and then gave him up through the Catholic Charities for adoption. That search has unfortunately not been solved yet. I say unfortunately because his search was based more on medical information concerning conditions that existed with his children.

However, with my conversation yesterday, I had much better results. The caller had gotten information from the Catholic Charities that filled in some of the blanks. His grandfather was born in 1922 here at the hospital and was immediately given up for adoption. Records gleaned concerning his birth revealed that his great-grandmother was 18 when she gave birth, that she was employed at a movie theater when she got pregnant, and that the father of the child owned the theater, was 36 years old, married and had twin children. DNA results had revealed the name of his great-grandmother, but the father was a mystery.

He had looked through newspapers, etc., and felt that there were only two theaters in McCook in 1922: The Bison, located in the Temple Building, and the Past Time, on West B Street. He had determined who managed the Bison theater but felt that was a dead end. I knew who owned the Past Time and am friends with a direct descendant. When I called her, she confirmed what I had thought which was the Past Time had long closed before 1922, but she stirred my memory by mentioning a third movie house which existed in the 1920ís.

Without revealing names, because the great-grandmother remained in McCook for a time, I am going to walk through how I came to find who we believe is the father of the child. I first went to the SWNGS website to search the Sanborn Map from 1920. There was the theater, located at 116 Norris Ave., but no information as to who owned it. I then went back to the search box and typed in THEATER to see what popped up. Sure enough, there was a man listed in the WWI draft registrations with an occupation of theater manager. His birthdate, place of birth, and marital status were shared on his registration. Going back to the search box, I typed in his last name but didnít really find much information past his registration.

Leaving the SWNGS website, I went to Ancestry.com to do a search of census information. Having a birth date, location, and full name, I entered those in that search box and got an immediate 1920 census hit. He was living in Colorado when the census was taken with his wife and twin daughters, residing in his in-lawsí home and gave Movie Theater as his occupation. Too many matches were turning up to ignore this line of questions, the most promising was the fact that this gentleman had twin children.

At this point, I turned the surname found over to my caller and told him to search his DNA results for that name; he got back to me that he had several matches. I told him happy hunting and I hope a half a century of searching had come to fruition!

SWNGS library is located at 110 West C, Suite M-3. We are open from 1-4 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thanks to the generosity of the Big Give participants, we have been able to upgrade our computer and buy larger monitors, both of which are welcomed improvements.

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