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.
Those of you who have been with me since the beginning will remember The Mystery Wife, a.k.a the lovely Dorrie of the WWII Navy Nurse Corps. Go back and have a look. I’ll wait.
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.
On Mon, Aug 24, 2020 at 6:49 PM The People of Pancho wrote:
> > > > > > > Pancho posted: “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” > > > >
Doris Bielitz Scoble was my mother. That is me sitting on the arm of the chair in the 1950 Christmas card posted on your blog. Get in touch I am in Oakland, CA and my older brother Ed lives in SF.
I stumbled on the older post not long ago and wondered what happened to Dorrie. I just finished reading everything again and am saddened to read that Dorrie passed in 1968 far too young at 44. Bob and Dorrie were exceptionally close cousins to have shared so many pictures. It’s so odd though that that relationship was not known by your Grandma. I know it was a lot of work and despite having no direct link to any of this I enjoyed it immensely the bad news about Dorrie not withstanding.
I think my grandma totally knew Dorrie, because why else would she save the Christmas cards and birth announcements? She and my grandpa spent a few years in New Jersey after they married, so I suspect they even knew each other personally before my grandparents moved back to the Canal Zone. Dorrie clearly had affection for my grandpa, and grandma was crazy about him too, so they would have had that in common.
I’m Edward James Scoble Jr. Dorie’s oldest son. Would love to make contact.
Go Pancho! What a great detective you are!!
Thanks! I was so happy to get it figured out after all these years.
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This is so amazing, Panch. It’s very sad to learn Dorrie died so young. I do hope you hear from her family. That would be so cool.
I know. Learning that made me so sad.
Welcome back 😀
Thanks for hanging in there with me.
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Welcome home! It’s great to see you and your fantastic posts!
Thanks, GP! I missed you guys!
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First of all, it is SO great to see you back in the blogosphere. Your blog was one of my favorites (and you one of my favorite bloggers), so I was really sad when you disappeared (though I get why).
Second, how did I miss this post back in November 2013?? I had just started blogging myself, but I guess we didn’t find each other til after this one was posted.
And third, congratulations! What a huge breakthrough!! I have to say, however, even after knowing that Dorrie was only his cousin, those photos seem to suggest something special between the two. And if they were so close, wouldn’t your mother have known her? And where were their spouses in those photos if they both were already married?
Sorry to stir the pot, but you know me. Always more questions!
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Aww, thanks, Amy! You are much too kind, and the feeling is very mutual. I think there was something special (but not necessarily untoward) between the two of them, because they had to have grown up together, and they probably enlisted in their various services (Marine Corps Reserves for my grandfather and Navy Nurse Corps for Dorrie) around the same time. More digging into service records to do there for sure. It’s not a surprise that my mother never knew Dorrie for two reasons: My mother spent her entire childhood in the Canal Zone, so she never met any members of my great-grandmother’s family in New Jersey, and she would have been only in her late teens when Dorrie died. For sure my grandmother knew her, because she took care to save Christmas cards and glue baby announcements into her scrapbook. Keep those excellent questions coming. They always help me to think about possibilities I might be missing.
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Thanks for the answers—that all makes sense to me. So do you think there spouses were stationed elsewhere when all those photos of them with wedding rings were taken?
Yes — I think my Grandpa Bob had just married my Grandma Kathi in the Canal Zone (November 1945), 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 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 — he was wonderful.
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Pancho, welcome back! I never forgot Dorrie, and hoped you’d get the mystery solved. And YOU DID! Congrats! She was a pretty woman and clearly her smile brightened a room. Her young passing is sad… Hope you find her children. Great work!
Thanks, Fran. Yes, I would love for them to have these beautiful photos of their mom.
First of all welcome back (and congratulations on the promotion).
Secondly: woo hoo!!! I am so glad that you solved the mystery.
The weird thing is that now, knowing that Dorrie was your grandfather’s cousin, I look at the photos and see a family resemblance, especially in the shot of them sitting at a restaurant table with Dorrie on the left, in a darker dress. They have identical smiles.
Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing 🙂
How funny! I said exactly the same thing to my daughter. Now it all seems so obvious. Thanks for hanging in there with me, Su.
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It really is nice to see you back!!!
And you’ve given me a week kick to get stuck into my own research again. I’ve been MIA as well, and can’t even blame work success.
No excuses needed. We squeeze it in when we can, right?
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Doris Bielitz Scoble was my mother. That is me sitting on the arm of the chair in the 1950 Christmas card posted on your blog. I am in Oakland, CA Please get in touch. I have never used this site before so have sent the same message a couple ways and hope one of them will reach you. – Matt Scoble