Sunday, July 16, 2006

"There Are No Easy Cases in Genealogy"

We've been tracking Velma Mitchell to get a more complete picture of her life. We know she was born in Rockport, Texas, in about 1911. We know her brothers' names were Pat and J.B. We think we know that she married a man named Steve Marlin Hunt in 1939. We also think we know that she had a daughter named Stevie Kaye Hunt. Finally, we think at some point she moved to Dallas where she died in 2004.

To give us more confidence in what we think we know, and the flesh out the picture of Velma Mitchell's life, we've decided to track her brothers. So we'll start with the oldest, Pat. Let's see if we can determine when and who Pat married. We check the aforementioned Aransas County marriage records to no avail. So perhaps he got married in a neighboring county; our assumption being that he remained in the general area. We can look for marriage records in Nueces, San Patricio, and Refugio Counties. One way to do this expeditiously is to go to the Texas GenWeb site and run the search engine there or to go to the specific county sites. Having done that, we turn up no marriage records for Pat Mitchell.

Another approach is to look at the aforementioned Texas birth index. If Pat Mitchell had children we could get a general idea of when he was married and his spouse's name from this source. That effort turns up a Pat Harley Mitchell as the father of a child born in 1970 in Nueces County. That's certainly not impossible but highly improbable. So where to next?

Once again let's work backwards: let's look at the SSDI. There are four Pat Mitchells who last resided in Texas, according to the Social Security Administration. But none come even close to the approximate 1913 date of birth of our Pat Mitchell. We'll have to go to some other source. That other source would be the index of obituaries maintained by the Corpus Christi Public Libraries. And here we find an obituary which ran on February 25, 1954, for a Pat Mitchell, Jr. Now this is interesting: we hadn't been aware of the "junior." The 1920 census gave Pat and Velma's father's name as "Worth." Furthermore, if this is our Pat Mitchell, he died very young. So while we're here on the Corpus Christi Public Libraries site, let's search for an obituary for the other Mitchell son, J.B. There is an obituary for J. B. Mitchell which ran in the paper on September 8, 1960. [Note: to get this search engine to accept initials as a first name, make sure that there is a space between the first period and the second initial.]

Unlike the form SS-5, we can order these obituaries and have them in a matter of a few days at no cost. So let's do that.

[Two days later:] we have received by e-mail, in JPEG format, scans of the obituaries which ran for Pat Mitchell, Jr., and J.B. Mitchell in the Corpus Christi newspaper. [Thanks to Veronica Martinez at the Corpus Christi Public Libraries local history department!]

Now for the little surprises: both obituaries indicate that the men were survived by their father, Pat Mitchell, Sr., of San Antonio. Pat's obituary says he is also survived by an aunt, Pearl Pullam, of Taft, Texas. These two bits of information serve to confirm that we've got the right individuals. First of all they have the same father. Second, we know independently that Pearl Pullam was one of the daughters of Guy and Maria Bryant. But the big surprise is that both obituaries say that the brothers were survived by a sister, Velma Dervin of Seattle, Washington!

Surprising as this is, it's not impossible that Velma may have married Steve Hunt in 1939, had a child with him in 1944, and then by 1954, be married to someone else. Thinking quickly about this, the SSDI comes to mind as a handy tool. Maybe Steve Hunt died between 1944 and 1954. The SSDI lists Steve Hunts, but none of them come close to matching anything we know about Steve Marlin Hunt. But the SSDI does list four "Dervins," including a Velma B. Dervin, born July 3, 1910, and whose Social Security card was issued in Texas. The others are Artie Dervin, born 1913; Elvis Dervin born 1925, and whose Social Security card was issued in Texas; and Paul Dervin born 1952.

Let's go back to the Texas Census records and see if we can find evidence of the Dervins. From the 1930 census, we learn that Artie O. Dervin was born in about 1913 in Wharton County, Texas. He was one of six sons of George H. Dervin and Louise V. Dervin. One of his brothers was Elvis G. Dervin, born in about 1927.

Once again things get interesting at this point. The Texas birth index tells us that Artie Dervin fathered a son in 1932 with a woman named Velma Mae Brady. Could this be Velma Mitchell having been married to yet two someones before Steve Marlin Hunt?

Tomorrow: Lessons Learned

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