This is the third blog in the series,
A Search for the Living Descendants of Curley Kirven
My research during the last two days has yielded both big finds and dashed hopes.
Recap: I believe my great-grandfather Erasmus had a biracial son, Tom, with Annie Tony (probably a slave) in 1855. Tom’s death certificate names his parents.
It seems that Tom had several children, among them a son Curley, the informant on Tom’s death certificate. Curley Kirven and Charlotte Kirven had four children, with these birth years as estimated by the 1920 and 1940 censuses:
Ida May, b. 1914
Lillian, b. 1916
Josh, b. 1917
Tom, b. 1919 (named after Curley’s father)
These four children would be my biracial second cousins.
In my last blog post, I guessed Ida May’s and Lillian’s married surnames. I was so wrong! I’ve found the correct names now, but I won’t reveal them here.
Two days ago, I started researching Josh and Tom. First, I looked for their death certificates on ancestry.
Eureka! I found them both! Beginner’s luck. Tom’s SSDI says he died in South Carolina in the 1980s. Josh’s says he died there in the 1990s . . . but wait! I see a CT death index for a Josh Kirven who died on that same day, in Waterbury, CT. What?
So I searched for the two brothers’ obituaries in the RCPL database (Richland County Public Library, South Carolina). Months ago, some unrelated searches of this same database had given me correct but skimpy obituaries. So my hopes were low. I expected to find obituaries that would tell me little more about Josh and Tom.
Oh, my. Eureka and beginner’s luck again! The full-text obituaries for Josh and Tom mentioned spouses, children, grandchildren, the married surnames of their sisters, resident cities, a church name, and even some work history. Many, many thanks for the expert help of the Local History Manager of the RCPL, Debbie Bloom, recommended by Robin Foster of @savingstories and @LCAfricana.
Here was matter for more research. Bright hope in a dim landscape, like fall flowers and foliage (we’re talking symbols here):
Apparently, Josh and Tom had moved North soon after 1940 to work in the Waterbury Rolling Mills, in Waterbury, Connecticut. Josh had worked there 50 years, and died in Waterbury in the 1990s. That meant I had been living right down the turnpike from these two biracial cousins for three decades! For in 1964 I also had moved North, to live first in New Haven and then in Fairfield. This fact alone was a head-smacking discovery.
So now, what about the children of my four biracial second cousins?
(1) Ida May is in the 1940 census with her married surname and husband, but no children. I looked for them in the white pages today, in the resident city named in the obituaries. But neither is listed there now, almost 100 years after Ida May’s birth. A Peoplesmart search of the surname alone gave me 30 results—yet none of the first names are remotely familiar. [Note: Use message boards to search for the children or grandchildren of this couple.]
(2) Lillian’s married surname is a common one. Her resident cities are “the Bronx” and “New York.” Although I searched the 1940 census with her birth year and married name, I found nothing useable. For example, listed in Manhattan was a Lillian, with a husband and two very young daughters. These daughters, grown and married, would then be two surnames removed—needles in a haystack.
(3) Neither obituary mentioned Josh’s children, if any. His wife in Waterbury survived him, but she is not in the white pages there today. [Note: Look for her DC and obituary.]
So far, my hopes were being dashed or semi-dashed, one by one. My remaining options seemed slim.
(4) But Tom, the youngest child of Curley Kirven, had three children mentioned in his obituary. Grandchildren, too! Surely some living people lay down this path. (No given names or surnames are mentioned beyond this point.) I searched again.
- One son died at age 34. [Note: Search further for his DC and obituary.]
- A second son seems to be in prison in Virginia. For $40.00 to Peoplesmart, I could see the precise charges. [Note: This further search is an option.]
At this point I began to feel a bit manic. Like the laughing baby in this video, who seems to enjoy tearing up documents—hmmm, as if he were a genealogist going bonkers after too many dead-end searches:
Then finally, one last Eureka happened to me. I said “Eureka” softly, so as not to tempt the fates. Tom’s third child is a daughter, whose married surname had been mentioned in his obituary. Good old Peoplesmart revealed her phone number and address, and her secure email, for $30.00.
This is good, I told myself. This is still a great “find.”
My relatives and I will now try to contact this woman. Just as we tried to contact “A,” several posts ago.
Maybe this was not an “exhaustive” search, but it was surely an exhausting one . . . . . . Zzzzzzzz.