A year or so ago my father and I were discussing family history when the topic of his half-brother came up. He told me that this child was his mother’s son from a previous relationship, his brothers had both met this person, and the only information he had was based on conversations with his older brother Harve and an uncle, one of his mothers brothers.
My father was told that the child’s name was Macklin Brown and that he was raised by his paternal grandparents; and that several times prior to their mothers death, Macklin was brought to their home in Natural Bridge for visits.
So the only information to go on was the child’s name and that they lived close enough to Natural Bridge, New York, to visit, in the 20’s and 30’s .
This seems like a pattern in our family, the mysteries of Uncle Earl Lake and the Calder Family; little to no information and scant resources available to pursue. Just once it would be nice to have good solid leads for some of these people. But I guess that is what makes genealogy so interesting, the detective work!
I started this line of research by tracking the movements of my grandmother as best as possible, given how long ago this was and the fact there is no one left from her immediate family but my father and precious few records.
A bit about my grandmother: Leona G. Finley was born in July 1899 in Macomb, St. Lawrence Co., New York, she lived in Fine NY a great deal of her younger life. She died in Natural Bridge, Jefferson Co., New York in 1938 of cancer. She married my grandfather Ernest Leon Lake on Dec 14, 1923; so this date becomes my search terminus.
A newspaper clip in Dec 1919, from the “Ogdensburg Republican Journal” identifies that she is living in Carthage, Jefferson Co., New York. The clip, a gossip column of the day, says she was visiting a cousin, Mrs Lloyd Ward, in Oswegatchie, St Lawrence Co., New York. The census taken on January 9, 1920, Wilna, Jefferson Co., New York line 71 identifies that Leona G. Finley is a resident in the household of George and Lottie Tharrett, where she is working as a “servant”. With no other leads to follow at the time, I took the most obvious next step, looking for Macklin Brown born between 1915 and 1923 in the Social Security Death Index. Too easy and no such luck!
Using a map locating Natural Bridge New York as my center point, I made a circle with a 50 mile radius, and began to search newspapers, census reports, cemetery records, anything I could find in that circle relative to the name Brown. There are a lot of Browns in that circle, but no “Macklin Brown” materialized.
The newspaper, cemeteries, death records and census material for 1920 & 30 produced no new leads, so the only thing left was to wait for the 1940 census to be released and see if Macklin possibly (being an adult) would appear anywhere. Now saying there were no leads is slightly misleading, I am sure that digging more and possibly visiting untold number of Village, Town, and County Clerks, etc, might have produced something, but with no information to go on, that kind of search may never produce a result. As it turned out there was a bit of a clue but it was one of those hind-sight things that only show themselves after you find another piece of the puzzle; we’ll talk about that later.
In April the census was released, but other issues cropped up that delayed my research; last week I finally got to resume the search.
One of the first searches I did in the new database was Macklin Brown with a date of birth range between 1915 and 1925 and the very first hit was “Charles Macklin Brown 18 YOA living in Edwards, St. Lawrence Co., New York. I pulled the microfilmed digitized image and there he was, only if you looked closely at the image you could see where the census taker wrote his name, Brown, Macklin and then inserted a carrot adding Charles between last and first name.
The census identifies him living with his mother, Nellie Brown 56 YOA; she is listed as a widow. Checking the census of 1930, he is living with his father Bower Brown, mother Nellie Brown, and is identified as Charles M. Brown.
Now one would think that being identified with parents in the census that would be it! Wrong guy, right - well not so fast!
With the information found in the 1940 census, it allows a more in-depth look into the Brown Family. There were a lot of newspaper articles involving them in the Edwards NY area, the most important one for the purposes of this blogpost is Bower Brown's Obituary. The attached image is the complete Obituary as published in the Dec 16, 1930 Canton Commercial Advertiser: Third Paragraph is as follows; “He is survived by his window Nellie Wetherbie Brown; and adopted son Macklin; a sister Mrs. Mabel Clark of Canton.
There is a lot more information involving the Brown’s that I will save for a later post, I will close this out for now with some interesting factoids.
First: The 50 mile radius, I used to determine search boundaries was based on what might be reasonable travel to visit Natural Bridge NY in the 1920’s & 30’s. Edwards is 32 miles away.
Second: The little hind-sight clue, Feb 28, 1923 Gouverneur Free Press published under the “Edwards” town news: “Miss Leona Finley of Ogdensburg is a guest of friends in town”
Granted this could be coincidental; however, none of her family is living in Edwards, NY at this time, and "friends" could certainly mean anyone. It is just a bit suggestive that Leona Finley having a child being raised by others, who’s name is Macklin Brown happens to be visiting in the town where a child with the same name, about a year old, is being raised by his "adoptive" parents, and their name is Brown. Hmmm, kind of interesting coincidence, don't you think?
Oh yes! Ogdensburg, NY, where she was living at the time, was 45 miles away from Edwards, and that doesn’t seem very far by today’s standards, but on 35MPH roads in a bus or maybe a car, in 1923 that was some trip.
This all needs more follow up and is by no means conclusive; however it’s highly suggestive at this point and I will continue to follow the leads until there are no more avenues of research.