Friday, October 29, 2010

Searching for Melbourn Crapser

As promised on Thursday, here is the story of how I discovered the Marriage License for Melbourn Crapser and Libbie Walker:

When I started researching Great-Great Grandpa Melbourn Crapser, I knew the following:
  • He was born in New York in 1858.
  • His father's name was Timothy.
  • He married Teolina Kjolseth, my Great-Great Grandma. Teolina was born in 1878.
  • Melbourn and Teolina had seven sons between 1900 and 1915 in South Dakota. The seven sons were Lawrence, Cecil, Harold, Oral (my Great-Grandpa), Lyle, Ray, and Marvin.
So I started my search for Melbourn in New York.  In the 1880 U.S. Census records I found a record of Melbourn, Minerva and Percy Crapser in Catskill, Green County, New York.

I discovered the Greene County History and Genealogy site and learned of many interesting leads to the Crapser line.   I found a biography for Melbourn, baptismal record, and cemetery records.

From the Mini Bios for the Men of the Town of Catskill:
Melbourn W. Crapser was born at Kiskatom, Catskill, April 29th 1858, and married Minerva Lewis. They have two children: Percy L., born August 18th 1878, died December 11th 1881; and Charles M., born July 12th 1880.
 From the Kiskatom Reformed Church Baptisms 1843-1930:
Infant baptisms by Rev. Geo. J. Van Neste

Jan 27, 1885 Charles M., b. Jun 13, 1881, Nathan L., b. Jul 18, 1883, Melvin W. Crapser, Minerva Lewis, at Nathan Lewis'
And from the Round Top Cemetery records:
Percy L. Crapser b. Oct. 18, 1878 d. Dec. 11, 1861*
Charles M. Crasper b. Jan. 13, 1880 d. Mar.23, 1905
Nathan L. Crasper b. July 18, 1883 d. Mar. 27, 1905
*Transcription error.  Based on Melbourn's biography in the Mini Bios listed above, Percy's death date should be 1881.
So we've acquired four more relatives (and a possible 5th - "blank" headstone pleads for answers) and identified Catskill, Greene County, NY as an early home. Then I realized Melbourn was still missing for 15 years. He was in New York in 1885 and didn't reappear until 1900 in South Dakota. Where was Melbourn for these 15 years?

I started digging through census records for New York and South Dakota, trying to locate him in either Greene County, NY or Brookings County, SD. A vast majority of the census records for 1890 were lost in a fire and South Dakota and New York were amongst those lost.  I did find him in the 1900 census for South Dakota with Grandma Teolina.

Hold on here though ...  The 1900 census also lists four children, Minnie, Delbert, Laura and Lewis. These four children were born in 1888, 1894, 1896, and 1898 respectively. But Melbourn and Teolina only had seven sons and only one son that was born in 1900.  Who are these children? 

A closer look at the census record indicated that Melbourn and Teolina had been married 0 years and Teolina had 0 children!  (View the census image)   Who is the mother of these four children? And where is she?

Then because the census record indicated the children were born in Illinois, I searched the online Illinois archives.I started by searching for birth certificates for Minnie, Delbert, Laura and Lewis.  I was unable to find Illinois birth records at the time, though it wouldn't hurt to try again.

While searching for other Crapser birth certificates in the South Dakota records, I did find a delayed birth record for an Adelbert Timothy Crapser.  This record wasn't filed until July 1942, but lists his birth date as June 17, 1894 and the parents as M W Crapser and Elizabeth Crapser.  I'm assuming this is our Delbert.

Then I began thinking ... For what reasons would a mom "leave" her children?  On another side of my family a mom left home to care for an ailing relative. Death was another possibility.  The youngest child, Lewis, is less than two years old in 1900 (born in June 1898) and Melbourn remarried a little over a year after Lewis' birth (August 1899).  Did the mother die during childbirth?

So South Dakota death records were searched.  I found Melbourn's death record for August 6th 1938, but nothing for an Elizabeth, Libbie, Lizzie, "E", or "L". 

Returning to the Illinois Archives, I finally found a marriage record for Melbourn Crapser and Libbie Walker in Chicago, Illinois!  I was able to identify which marriage record to request and sent a letter off to the Illinois Regional Archives.  A couple weeks later, I received three copies of the marriage license in varying copy settings from lightened to darked (AWESOME! I wouldn't have thought to do that, but all three show slightly different detail!)

And, of course, the marriage license led to the new discoveries of Boone County and Cook Country in Illinois, which led to more research in Illinois.  I also found burial records for Great-Great-Great Grandpa Timothy and a Robert Crapser, who is listed as the son of MW&E.
Round Prairie (aka Coynes) Cemetery, LeRoy Twp, Boone Co, Il.
Last FirstName BirthDate DeathDate Notes-Row
Crapser Robert H 17 Jan 1894 s/o MW&E; 2y 1m 24d 1/43a

Crasper Timothy 27 May 1825 23 Jun 1895 1/43b
*The link to the site I found this on no longer works, but it was a Boone County Cemetery page on Rootsweb/USGenweb.
But, the story doesn't end here.  Melbourn and Teolina divorced on July 8th 1919 and Melbourn disappears again!  He's missing from the 1920 census, which was taken in January. His children from Libbie have been adopted or married and Teolina remarried in March 1920 (and then had 2 more children - daughters this time!).  He is also missing from the 1930 census, the last available census record that can be viewed by the general public. As previously mentioned, Melbourn died on August 6,1938 in Brookings County. 

So one final mystery remains, where was Melbourn W Crapser between July 1919 and August 1938?

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