52 Ancestors #18: Francis Tyrey and Francis Marion Tyrey, his son

For nearly every person we encounter at the grocery store or while out on errands, my toddler daughter is always asking “What’s her name? or What’s his name?”
It got me to thinking about names, which got me to thinking about my genealogy research.
I have two ancestors on my father’s maternal line who, at first glance, appear to be named after famous people in American history: brothers Francis Marion Tyrey and Henry Harrison Tyrey.
I’m only directly related to Henry Harrison Tyrey, (whose father also was named Francis). These names jumped from the pages of “The Family Tree Problem Solver” by Marsha Hoffman Rising as I was reading this weekend.
In a chapter about researching collateral kin, Hoffman Rising says,

“Your research with names, however, must take into account popular naming patterns outside the family. … A child born in 1800 may have been named for the heroic “Swamp Fox” of the Revolutionary War, Francis Marion, but the Francis who was born in 1870 was more likely named after someone in the family who had been named for the “Swamp Fox.”

… Evaluating naming patterns can be a helpful tool in research, but it can also take you far astray. We may never know what motivated our ancestors to choose some of the names they did. … Do examine naming patterns but be ready to discard a theory if no data from other sources can be found to support it.”

So, it occurred to me that Francis Marion Tyrey, born Jan. 16, 1870, is likely named after his father, Francis Tyrey, who could have been named for the “Swamp Fox” Francis Marion. The younger Francis Tyrey died in 1873.

Henry Harrison Tyrey, born in 1872 isn’t likely named for William Henry Harrison, the first U.S. president to die in office in 1841 — he was born about 30 years too late. There goes my naming theory.

Francis & Sophia TyreyA search of historical records on Ancestry tells me that the elder Francis Tyrey also had a middle initial M, possibly for Marion, as noted in the photo at left. He served in the Civil War in Missouri as a Union soldier so I can write off for his military file and pension records to see if the M actually is for Marion. Perhaps, he is the one who was named for the “Swamp Fox” after all.

Francis Tyrey was born Aug. 2, 1841, in Wisconsin, the son of Jacob Frederick Tyrey and Celicia Kirkpatrick. He had four sisters and three brothers. He was the oldest of the boys in the family, and the second oldest child.

By age 19, he had moved to Missouri and was living in Richwoods, according to 1860 census records. He married Adele Sophia Alexandrine Mariat in 1864. He fought in the U.S. Civil War in 1865, as a Union soldier. By 1870, he and Sophia and their young family were living in Jefferson County, Mo., next door to his parents. Both Francis and his father, Jacob, were listed as miners.

Francis fathered 10 children with Sophia, although not all of them lived past childhood.

Francis Tyrey died at age 82 in 1924, in Franklin County, Mo. He is buried in Jefferson County.


  • death certificate, grave headstone
  • U.S. federal census database, Ancestry.com, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920
  • 1890 U.S. Veterans Schedules database
  • U.S. Civil War Pension Index
  • U.S. Civil War Draft Registration



52 Ancestors #17: Bessie Pearl Clymer

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Bessie Pearl Clymer was unlucky in love.

In some ways, hers is a sad story of a woman who married at least twice, possibly three times in her 48 years, but couldn’t make a relationship last a lifetime. I’m sure she carried the stigma of divorce in an era when that wasn’t talked about openly.

She was born May 12, 1885, the oldest daughter of James C. and Maggie Jane Vanderpool Clymer.

Her death certificate lists her birthplace as Scott County, Mo., which means she was likely born at the family’s home in Commerce.
The 1900 census indicates she was living at home in Commerce with her three brothers and two sisters.

She and Felix Duckworth had two children together: Amy Ruth in 1902 and Cecil in 1906. I’ve yet to find a document that says they were married. Bessie would have been 17 at the time her first child was born.

I believe she left her children to be raised by their grandparents, though I’m not entirely sure that Cecil didn’t live with her at some point.

Regardless, she did marry several times during her life, but they were all short-lived.
Missouri marriage records show that Miss Bessie Clymer and George W. Adams were married Dec. 15, 1912, in Scott County, Mo.

Clearly that relationship didn’t last because a little more than a year later the same database of records shows that she and John F. Gillett were married Feb. 20, 1913, in Wayne County, Mo.

Census records for 1920 show a Bessie Gillett, age 34, living in East St. Louis, Ill.

Her death certificate lists her husband as John Gillette, (with the extra e), however her son, Cecil, was the informant. Information on the 1930 census indicates that she was divorced but still living in East St. Louis at that time.

She did move back to Commerce sometime before her death in 1933, because she was seen by a doctor in town from July 22 to Sept. 22, the date of her death.

The cause of death is listed as pernicioius anemia with lues listed as a “contributory cause of importance.” All this is the politest way of saying that she had a deadly case of anemia and the underlying cause or contributing factor was likely syphilis. Some research indicates that the anemia, which is a vitamin B12 deficiency, can be related to alcoholism. I would only be speculating that Bessie was a drinker, but knowing that she had children early in life, left them to be raised by grandparents, and was living in East St. Louis, Ill., — a bustling community in the 1920s and 1930s — it might seem to fit that she had a bit of a wild streak in her.

Bessie Pearl Clymer is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Commerce, Mo.


Missouri marriage records database

death certificate, Missouri bureau of vital statistics

U.S. Census records, 1900, 1920, 1930

52 Ancestors: Mystery of my grandfather’s first wife solved

Since I was a teenager, I have known that my grandfather was married twice and lived with a woman without marrying her for what amounted to his longest relationship. Apparently, my grandfather was married briefly before he and my grandmother married in 1953.

I’ve known the name of his first wife for some time: Frances.

It probably wasn’t until he died that I discovered the wedding photographs among his belongings. It took a little longer for me to discover the small, yellowed newspaper clipping announcing the divorce of Frances from Harold L. Simpson tucked behind the photographs.

Harold and Frances Simpson

Harold and Frances Simpson

That’s all I knew about this woman whom my grandfather once loved.

My mother didn’t know much else: Maybe the reason for the divorce was that France had had a child with another man and my grandfather suggested that now that they were married, the raise it. Maybe there were other reasons.

So, there’s been this photograph of a mysterious woman named Frances among all the other family heirlooms I inherited. I  know that Harold L. Simpson and Frances were married only a short time and divorced by 1950.

Quite by accident, I discovered Frances’ surname earlier in the week. While searching for other papers (that I couldn’t find) about my great-grandfather, I found a file folder marked “birth and marriage certificates” on the label in my grandfather’s handwriting. It turns out the marriage certificate was there all along.

Lutye Frances Williams and Harold Leroy Simpson were married by Erich E. Leibner on April 11, 1947, in St. Louis.

I believe, after doing a brief search online, that Lutye Frances Williams later remarried, possibly twice, lived in California and Florida. She died in 2001 in Jacksonville, Fla.

I know she’s not technically an ancestor of mine, but finding this information does open a window into my grandfather’s world. I’m hoping to find the divorce decree in court records so I can possibly learn more.

52 Ancestors #15: Aaron Lloyd Simpson

Aaron Lloyd Simpson 1896Aaron Lloyd Simpson was born on a farm in Grand Tower, Ill., the oldest son of Joseph Joel Simpson and Emma Chandler Simpson.

He lived on the family’s farm until the early 1900s, when the family moved across the river to Illmo in Scott County, Missouri. The family lived for years near Grays Point, Mo.

He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, in Illmo, Mo., at age 21. This would have been about three months after the U.S. entered the war.

He was enlisted on April 26, 1918, at Benton, Mo., and served in France and Europe during the “Great War,” as it was known then. It appears that he served as a corporal-quartermaster corps in the Army in June 1919, according to copies of his military records.

I do know that he was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in the war, likely suffering the after-effects of mustard gas somewhere in France. Copies of his enlistment record indicate that he was gassed on Aug. 8, 1918, but no location is listed. (Because I don’t know what unit or company he served with, I can’t be sure of the location or his mission and role.)

AL Simpson,France 1919

Aaron Lloyd Simpson, taken in France 1919.

The story goes that a lovely young French woman nursed him back to health and that he wanted to marry her but didn’t. I can’t be certain about how much of that story is factual, but I do know that he saved a photograph of a French woman because I found it recently among some old family photos and his Purple Heart tucked into a box. Perhaps she was his nurse.

Also in the box was a postcard he wrote on March 19, 1919, to Ruth Duckworth, who would later be his wife.

“Hello Ruth,

Best wishes from Sunny France. Why have I not heard from you in last six months?

Yours ever,


He was honorably discharged on July 17, 1919, at Camp Zachary Taylor, a military training camp in Louisville, Ky.

After the war, Lloyd returned home and attended Kansas State Agricultural College. (I’m hoping to find out soon if he graduated and get a copy of his transcript.) He saved a copy of his book rental receipt showing what amounts to pennies as the cost for an English workbook and text for the semester.

He and Ruth Duckworth were married Jan. 21, 1922, in Manhattan, Kansas. He was 26 at the time; she would have been 20 in the year of their marriage. I have a faint copy of their marriage certificate but I don’t believe it lists any witnesses. Since the wedding was in Kansas, I can only assume it was because he was finishing up a degree before they moved back to Missouri.

Lloyd, as he was known by most people, spent most of his life farming like his father before him. Even after he and Ruth moved into town, he still leased land down by the Mississippi River bottoms. Some of his farm ledgers survived, showing the price for the popcorn he sold to the movie theater in town and the loss of a mare or cow.

Ruth Simpson at ALS grave 1978

Amy Ruth Simpson at her husband’s grave marker, 1978.

He continued to farm until his last days. My memories of him include playing on the front porch at his house in Illmo, and waking him from naps on the daybed in the living room so he could join the family for Sunday lunch. I couldn’t have been more than 3 years old since he died in 1976.

He later moved to the Veterans Hospital in Poplar Bluff and died there Nov. 25, 1976. He is buried next to Ruth, who died a more than a decade later, in Lightner Cemetery in Scott City, Mo.


  • U.S. Census records, 1900-1940
  • U.S. World War I draft registration cards, Honorable Discharge papers, U.S. Army record, form No. 152-A.G.O., Edition, Aug. 16-17.
  • Marriage certificate, issued by State of Kansas.
  • Grave marker,  funeral cards
  • Personal papers, Aaron Lloyd Simpson

52 Ancestors #14: Griffith Joseph James

Griffith Joseph James was born on March 4 in either 1864 or 1865, in Washington County, Missouri, the son of Lewis Linneus James and Mary Teresa Reynolds James.

He married Winifred Pashia on April 11, 1894, at Fredericktown in Madison County, Missouri. They lived in Washington County for most of their marriage. The couple had six children.

The 1900 census lists his occupation as a merchant, but I know nothing about what he might have sold. I have a hunch that he was a fur trader, but I can’t be certain. (There’s a book recounting one ancestors days with fur traders and Native Americans, but I can’t remember if it’s him — my dad has the book.)

Griff James lived in Washington County for most of his life. He died May 3, 1923. Because I can’t be certain of his age, there also are some discrepancies about his age at the time of his death. He was about 58, depending.

Like most of my paternal ancestors, the story of Griffith James isn’t one I know much about. I do have the basic facts because those are the documents I can find online and in quick searches. The details are lacking because I’ve not dug deeper and connected with him as the head of a family group — more work ahead, I suppose.


I’m finding that the more I write these weekly blog posts, the more I want to spend time getting organized  — outlining my research goals for each family group and determining what I want to accomplish next. My biggest priority right now is learning more about how to properly cite my sources. (I’m working my way through Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book “Evidence.)

Another challenge is to write a case study for James Clymer as one of Missouri’s First Families. I’ve received documents from the National Archives about his Civil War service and simply need to spend time organizing what I have and tracing my connection to him, which shouldn’t be difficult since I know quite a lot about his children and grandchildren, who include my great-grandmother.

I’ve also got a stack of genealogy resource books that I need to read and begin to apply to my research.

52 Ancestors #13: Betty Sue Coats Simpson

I got a bit off course in the last week of March so this post is more than a week late. But I’m going to keep at it and write something short about my grandmother to finish out the Women’s History Month series about females in my family tree.

Betty Sue CoatsBetty Sue Coats was born October 22, 1933, in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. I believe she was the oldest child of Fay and Mabel Loveland Snider, but I’m not certain of her birth order exactly. Her siblings were Elmer and Dinah. I do know that Dinah was the youngest of the three.

She was married to Harold Leroy Simpson on April 18, 1953, in Pocahontas, Arkansas. I believe the pair met in St. Louis, but again, I’m not sure.

She and my grandfather eventually separated and divorced. She moved from St. Louis to Irving, Texas.

She died of complications from diabetes on March 4, 1987, at age 53.