Born: September 07, 1888 Kansas City, KS Mother: Edna Boothroyd Father: Josiah William White Married: Elizabeth E. Ross December 25, 1912 Wichita, KS Children: Eugene Ellsworth White Dawson, January 23, 1917, Kansas City, KS Elthea Marie White, September 8, 1919, Kansas City, MO Died: June 1974
My mom did a lot of research on this man for my grandma. Grandma tried to apply for social security when she was 65 and was told she did not exist. Her mom was still alive (fortunately) and told her to try again with this other name “Elthea White”.
So initially we had a man named Walter White on her birth certificate and listed as the deceased father. I think Joseph White came from her older brother’s birth certificate. Later her mother marries a man named Dawson and moves to a new town, changing her name to Althea Dawson (the only name my grandmother remembered using). At some point her brother was adopted and became “Eugene Dawson” officially… possibly in order to join the military, but grandma never had to prove who she was… so it never came up.
Mom found a lot of documents after grandma’s mom died. Postcards from Walter for example with handwriting samples and was able to compare it to some military records and eventually it led to James Walter White who was not dead after all, at least not in 1920.
After mom died, one of my aunts got my dad to promise her all the records. I tried to scan them all before they disappeared, but then my hard drive crashed, so even if I had copies, they are gone now. My dad says he did not give the records to my aunt, but to me (that’s not how I remember it and I only have documents for my mom’s side of the family), and now no one knows where anything is. Things get crazy right after someone dies. There is a lot of grief and confusion. I’d suggest that you don’t wait until after the fact and hope that whatever you told people (like my mom told me she wanted me to have her records) will be remembered (if in fact you told more than just that one person…). Leave a will at least, or better yet, send copies before you even think you might die.
I feel bad that all mom’s proofs are gone now and probably anyone wanting to know about this mystery in the family will have to repeat all the work.
One part we never really figured out was why my grandma’s mother felt so strongly about keeping it a secret. She only told grandma “It would break your heart if you knew.”
Some speculation about another wife, possibly at the same time, but after 65 years would my grandma really care more if her “real” father died or walked out on the family? We may never know.