The U. S. census is one of my favorite genealogy tools, but many times, it just isn’t enough. So much can happen during the decade between each census! This picture puzzle is a perfect example.
We have a 1920’s era picture in a cardboard easel frame from Kaylor Studio in Mishawaka, Indiana. The photo is identified as Elva, first wife of Millard Haas. Elva has a classic 1920’s bob haircut with marcel or finger waves. Her fur stole hides most of her clothing, but we can see the simple neckline of a chemise or shift style dress popular in the 1920s.
Clement Kaylor was first listed as a photographer in Mishawaka in 1906, and continued to be seen as a photographer in city directories until his death in 1930.
For more details on clothing fashions and hairstyles in the 1920’s see:
Millard Haas is listed in the 1920 census as a single man, and by the 1930 census, he is married to Grace, not Elva. Time to look for records between the censuses. Starting with the Mishawaka City Directories (some city directories are accessible on line, but many more are available on microfilm at your local library), we see Millard Haas in 1926 with his wife Elva.
By 1928, Millard is listed with wife Grace.
St Joseph County Michigan marriage records include the June 4, 1920 marriage of Millard Haas to Elva Conrad Dove, age 22, father Andrew, mother maiden name Grimes. It is Millard’s first marriage but Elva states she has been married once before.
Looking further, we find the marriage record in St Joseph County, Michigan of Elva Marie Conrad Martin, age 21, father Andrew, mother maiden name Grimes, to Clinton Britton Dove on October 24, 1918. This is Clinton’s first marriage but Elva again states she has been married once before.
The next marriage we find is in Elkhart County, Indiana of Elvah Conrad Martin, parents Andrew Conrad and Sarah Grimes, to Loren Henry just months earlier on March 16, 1918
Following the surname trail, we now find the marriage of Elva Marie Conrad, age 17, father Andrew, mother’s maiden name Grimes, to Clarence Martin, in Noble County, Indiana on Jan 10, 1914. Their son Jackson LeRoy Martin was born Dec 20, 1914. In June 1917, the World War I Draft Registration card of Clarence Martin states he has a wife and one child, but they are not mentioned by name.
Now that we have both parents full names, we can find the birth record of Elva Marie Conrad in Elkhart County on September 27, 1897.
So, Millard’s first wife seems to be the first wife of at least 3 other men as well. Let’s recap. In the 1910 census, Elva is just a child. By 1920, she was single, having been married and divorced 3 times. She re-married for the fourth time after the 1920 census was enumerated. None of the marriages below would have been detected if we had used only census records in our search.
Jan 1914 Elva Married Clarence Martin, Noble County, IN (Clarence remarried Maude Haley)
Mar 1918 Elva married Loren Henry, Elkhart County, IN (Loren remarried Henrietta Smith)
Oct 1918 Elva married Clinton Dove, St Joseph County, MI (Clinton remarried Henrietta Smith)
June 1920 Elva married Millard Haas, St Joseph County, MI (Millard remarried Grace Forsythe)
A new resource, The Saint Joseph County Divorce Records Index (1832 – June 1961), was just made available on the South Bend Area Genealogical Society website. In the index we find two records pertaining to the divorce of Elva vs Millard Haas filed February 7, 1927, with judgment of divorce July 8, 1927 and dismissal Dec 17, 1927. For serious researchers of this family, the volume and file number are listed to allow easy access to the records in the Archives of St Joseph County. No other records for Elva were found in the Divorce Records Index as the divorces may have occurred outside St. Joseph County.
Elva is not done yet! The death certificate of Elva Warren gives us one more marriage. Elva Warren, widow, was born September 27, 1899, to parents Andrew Conrad and Sarah Grimes. The informant was her son Jack Martin. This is obviously our Elva, but who was this husband?
This last marriage was more difficult to locate. I finally searched Find A Grave for the burial record of Elvah Warren in the cemetery listed in the death certificate. Her tombstone (Find a Grave Memorial #95682133) refers to her as “wife”, but does not mention her husband’s name.
I then searched for all Warrens buried in that cemetery. Charles C. Warren’s 1959 obituary posted on his Find A Grave Memorial documents his marriage Oct 31, 1937 to Elva Marie Martin and mentions his step son Jack Martin. After all those marriages, Elva had returned to her first husband’s surname. Was Clarence Martin her true love, or was it a matter of convenience because her son carried his name? We’ll probably never know!
Submitted by Alice Clark, SBAGS President, firstname.lastname@example.org