52 Ancestors #3: Emma Chandler Simpson

For at least part of her life, Emma Chandler lived by the land.

She could easily have been born into farm life in southern Illinois — I have no idea. But I do know she lived as a wife and mother on a farm at Grays Point, Mo., near the banks of the Mississippi River.

I imagine she worried, as most people would have who lived in the vicinity, about rising floodwaters in the spring. She was aware of the change of seasons, how much rain was needed to make the crops grow and how much would soak them too heavily. She likely canned her own food and put up enough to feed the family during the winter.

She and her husband, Joseph Joel Simpson, farmed in both Illinois and Missouri. He raised crops, notably popcorn, that was sold to the movie theater in Illmo. Some old family records show his logs for the farm, where he marked expenses and receipts.

I have no idea how much Emma was involved in the farm operations, but I imagine she knew a little about hard work. She married at age 23, and raised six children  — three boys and three girls.

She was born Oct. 3, 1872, at Grand Tower, Illinois, a small community situated on the banks of the Mississippi River. Census records show she lived there until at least 1900, moving to Missouri by 1910 to be counted there in the census.

My records search has found only census documents, which help fill out a bit of her story.

Emma Chandler Simpson

Emma Chandler Simpson, year unknown

She and Joseph Joel Simpson were married in 1894; their first child, Aaron Lloyd (my great-grandfather) was born a year later.  (His obituary states that the couple married in January 1895 and they moved to Missouri in 1910.)

Her last child, Robert, was born in 1908, making him just 12 years old when his mother died.

Emma died Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1920, at her home. Her obituary stated that she was age 48 years, 2 months and 25 days. Her obituary notice published the following day in the Jimplicute newspaper. In part it reads:

“The deceased was a most excellent woman, kind hearted charitable and loved by all who knew her, and her death caused sadness to many hearts.

The Jimplicute extends sincere sympathy.”

I’ve been unable to find an actual death certificate for Emma Chandler Simpson with the Missouri Archive. I might renew that search again because I’m curious about the cause of death since she was so young.

I’d like to share the story of her life one day with my daughter, Emma, who is named after this relative. And it would be nice to have a bit of back story to go with the photograph that’s been passed down for generations.


52 Ancestors Challenge #2: Flu pandemic of 1918

I’ve been preoccupied with getting my daughter a flu shot this week after seeing media reports of young people dying from the H1N1 strain.

This reminded me of a family story about a female relative who died young, leaving behind a young child and husband. For a long time, all I knew about Mary Elizabeth Chandler Schlifckin was that she was buried in Lightner Cemetery in Scott County, Mo., near her sister, Emma Chandler Simpson.

When we went to the cemeteries to visit graves, my grandfather would often share the stories of the deceased’s life. Of course, when telling the story of Mary Chandler Schlifckin, my grandfather mostly emphasized that she married a man of Russian and Jewish descent. He left out the part about how she likely died during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Mary Chandler SchlifckinIt took me a long time to figure out that her death at age 27  is most likely linked to the pandemic. And a lot of that help came from those shaky leaves and hints on Ancestry.com. It turns out that those hints helped me find a cousin who knew much more about Mary Chandler’s story than I’d ever been told.

According to this cousin, who was the grandson of Mary’s other sister, Minnie Mae Barber, Mary died in 1918 during the influenza epidemic. She had an infant daughter, possibly born near the time of her death. The child’s father was Russian (my grandfather did have that detail right) and wanted to take the baby back to Russia.

Apparently, Mary’s family “hid” the infant from him. The baby girl, known as Mary, was later adopted by an aunt, whom I believe is May Manning Chandler, and raised in California.

One part of Mary Elizabeth Chandler’s life that I haven’t figured out is whether she also had a son, Boris Schlifckin, Jr. The last census records that I can find for her indicate she was still unmarried and living with her parents at age 19. She died a short eight years later.

This story reminds me of the powerful ties families have — I’m sure that one of the reasons I even know about Mary Chandler is because her sister, Emma, wanted to keep her memory alive. Emma was the oldest child and first daughter in the family and Mary was the last, so I can only guess there was a strong connection between them. Emma Chandler Simpson, my great-grandfather’s mother, had her first son about four years after Mary was born.

I don’t know how much truth there is to the part of this story about the family hiding the baby but I recognize how sensitive the Chandler family might have been to losing connection to this child. Mary’s death came during the height of the influenza pandemic and at the close of the Great War as it was often called then. Grief abounded.

My great-grandfather —  Emma’s son and Mary Chandler’s nephew — fought in France during World War I and was gassed. His family received an initial telegram telling them he had died. I can empathize with their fear and loss at Mary’s death and the thought of losing their only connection to her — an infant daughter — so shortly after what they had believed to be another casualty.

I know little about the baby’s life or what happened to