At Play In The Archive
People, I’m baaaaack. I’ve missed you guys.
The good news is that I got a really big promotion in 2018. The bad news is that it was the kind of promotion that ruined whatever semblance of work-life balance I might have had (which, let’s be honest, wasn’t much to begin with). As a result, I haven’t written anything on this blog since April of 2018, though I have continued to futz around with my archive, and I have continued to make progress on a couple of mysteries. One of them is the mystery that started me on this whole genealogy blogging adventure back in 2013, so it seems like the perfect way to jump back in.
Are you back? OK, good. Let’s begin.
Dorrie was the very first person I wrote about on this blog, and People, I could not have been more wrong about that whole story. In fact, my original theory is a textbook example of good clues leading to absolutely the wrong conclusions, and it’s only taken seven years to get to the bottom of it all. Once I did, I whooped for joy, and I can’t wait to share how it all came about.
(Warning: The moral of this story is DON’T EVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY, which is probably not the advice that you and your groaning closets, bookshelves, and filing cabinets were hoping for.)
A great many of the things in my archive came from the home of my grandmother Katherine Adams Lessiack after she died in 2012. While the eleventy billion boxes of unlabeled pictures and random documents I shipped home should have been enough to keep me busy forever, the Genealogy Gods had other plans. A year or so later a few more boxes showed up for me (rescued from oblivion by dear family friend Sue Fehrenbach — thank you, Sue. Could not have done this without you), and one of the things inside was this Christmas card. No envelope, no surname, no adults in the photo, just three cute kids and one tantalizing clue.
DORRIE!?! Is that you?!?
“OK,” I thought. “So maybe Dorrie and my Grandpa Bob Lessiack remained friends, even if the romance didn’t last.” At least it put to rest one of my theories that Dorrie might have been killed in the war (I could never find any evidence of that theory anyway). Whew. Good news, but still not enough to solve the mystery.
Another few years elapses. Pancho works very, very hard, but not on genealogy.
Fast forward to yesterday, when, chained to my scanner, I discovered another tantalizing clue. My grandma Katherine Adams Lessiack made a scrapbook in the 1940s. It covered her high school capers and romances in the Panama Canal Zone, the early years of her marriage to my Grandpa Bob Lessiack, and even the birth of my mother, but it was made of terribly acidic paper that was starting to eat the treasures inside. So, I took it apart to scan and preserve everything. On one page was glued this sweet little baby card.
I opened it up to find the following.
Now, where have I see that handwriting before? Oh, wait, I know…dig dig dig…dig dig dig…I know it’s here somewhere…Riiiight. That Christmas card. And now I have a surname! And one of the people mentioned on the Christmas card is “Ed” … OMG, cue the William Tell Overture because, People, I am off the races.
First I did an Ancestry.com search, which yielded this photo.
Yup! That is definitely our Dorrie to the left of the bride. And now I have some more names to go on. Onward to Newspapers.com, where I find an account of the wedding pictured above.
And, People, here is where it starts to get weird. Dorrie is mentioned in two places. First, “Mrs. Edward J. Scoble Jr. of Oceanport, was matron of honor. She wore a gown of tangerine taffeta and a matching hat trimmed with spring flowers.” (Long-time readers of this blog know that I’m an absolute sucker for the fashion details, BUT PLEASE, GET TO THE POINT!
Later in the article: “Guests at the reception included…Mrs. Edward Scoble, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bielitz, Frances Bielitz…”
Wha?!?! Why is Dorrie mentioned along with the Bielitz family? I know from both my own research and a family member confirming it that Lillian Spielmann (sister to my great-grandmother Margaret Spielmann Lessiack) married Frank Bielitz to become Mrs. Frank Bielitz, so I scurry back to Ancestry.com to discover that Lillian had a daughter named…
Doris. Dorrie. Doris Bielitz Scoble. Holeeeeeee crap.
My Grandpa Bob and Dorrie weren’t fiances. There was no romance. They were COUSINS! That’s what all those photos of pointing at wedding rings were all about. They were celebrating together their respective nuptials, probably just after my Grandpa Bob and Grandma Kathi got married in the Canal Zone in November of 1945. Dorrie and Bob had probably grown up together since they were both from the same area in New Jersey. Now it all starts to make sense!
Time to test this theory. I found an obituary for Edward J. Scoble, who apparently died in San Francisco. Here is his obituary.
However, despite the San Francisco location, I also found this record of a gravesite in New Jersey, and the dates for Doris match the dates for Lillian Spielmann Bielitz’ daughter found on Ancestry.com.
And, here is Dorrie’s obituary:
Whew. This is emotionally a little rougher than I was expecting. She was only 44 when she died. And finally, here is Frank Bielitz’ obituary, which confirms that Dorrie pre-deceased him:
So there you have it. Dorrie was my Grandpa Bob’s first cousin, younger than him by a couple of years, and clearly they were very close. So close that they kept in touch throughout WWII and beyond, and celebrated marriages and engagements and the births of children. Dorrie was my first cousin, twice removed.
Look at all those photos again with this new information in mind. Totally plausible. And yes, at this point I am throwing out blatant cousin bait because maybe Dorrie’s children still live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. If you find this, please reach out, because I would love to know you.
So, let’s try this again:
“I begin with a mystery: Who is this woman?”
I think the one above is Ethel T. Garlick (who we now know was best friends with Dorrie) and, I assume, Mr. William W. Messick. Hair slicked back in the wedding photo, but I think it’s the same guy. I think Dorrie may have just gotten engaged, but Edward Scoble was stationed elsewhere. My husband pointed out that men don’t wear engagement rings, so that’s why I think Grandpa Bob was already married when the rings photo (above) was taken. If your fiance was elsewhere, who better (and safer) to take on a double date than your favorite cousin? Of course he was her favorite — my Grandpa Bob was wonderful.
Robert, of course, is my grandfather, Robert Lessiack, Dorrie’s first cousin. The message was written on the back of this photo:
One mystery, dusted and done. I am so dang proud of myself. It will not be years before my next post, of that I am sure. This is too much fun to give up. Thanks for reading, People.