Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Thomas Family and their Names

   Meet my great great grandmother and great great grandfather Thomas, and their children.  For years I had this photo and only my imagination to fill in the missing pieces.  The only thing I knew for sure was that the little boy standing in the back row was my great grandfather, Walter J. Thomas.
   I didn't know where they were from or what their names were or anything else about them.  We always guessed that "Thomas" was a Welsh name but we didn't really know anything certain about our heritage on the Thomas side of the family.
   I wondered about the tall young woman with the impossibly tiny waist in the back row; probably my great grandfather's sister.  What was her name?  How could she stand that corset?  When did corsets go out of fashion?  Around the 1920's. Maybe the younger sister was able to skip those altogether.  I hoped so.
   I posted this photo on various websites and looking for clues, hoping others with the last name "Thomas" might have a lead.  I posted what I thought was information about where they might have been from, but as I learned, I was wrong about that too.  For some reason the 1920 census stated that my great grandfather Walter was born in Oklahoma in 1889.  I later learned that he was not.  But this error led me on many wild goose chases.  It was the wedding license of Walter and my great grandmother Blanche that unlocked the secrets to the identities of the people in this photo.
   Tuesday's post was already devoted to the seated lady, my great great grandmother Turesa Jones Thomas.  Turesa gets the award for "most varied spelling of any ancestor."  I have seen her name spelled on various documents: Teresa, Theresa, Turessa, Thrasa, Treasy, and her middle name Lucinda.  I'm opting to go with the one that is "set in stone" on her gravestone, "Turesa."  Surely that is the spelling that she preferred since that is the one that presumably her daughters chose when they ordered the stone.
   The daughter with the tiny waist is Verna; she married Bert Cottrell and lived Peoria.  She was only 53 when she died. I would like to find out more about why she died because it seems so unusual that she died at such a young age.
   The younger sister is Veda.  She married Otto Woodruff and was listed as the next of kin in the cemetery book at the Fairbury library for some of the older relatives' graves. She was also the sister that my great grandfather Walter turned to during the Depression when he was out of work and needed a place to stay.  She had three children and lived in Chillicothe, Illinois.  Maybe her children know more about the remainder of her brother's life.  I would like to connect with them if possible.
   The stately looking gentleman who is the father of this family is my great great grandfather, John William Thomas.  I really thought I would find, at best, information about his wife on that first outing to Fairbury, Illinois.  I couldn't believe my luck when I looked in the cemetery register and found a listing with his name on it too!  His last residence was not in Fairbury according to the census records, but Fairbury was his wife's home town.  So when he died, it was his final resting place.  I learned more than I ever thought possible when I discovered that his obituary was resting safely in the town's newspaper archive...

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