My 30th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.
The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.
I am still quite behind on the challenge due to a summer school course.
My 30th ancestor is my husband Jeff’s great-grandmother Laura Mae Fields (1896-1933). She married great-grandfather Andrew Jackson Pace (d. 1961), and was the mother of Jeff’s grandfather Roy Delmar Pace (1913-2000) as well as nine younger Pace siblings.
I have discussed Laura Mae in this latest series of blog posts, first in the analysis I did of the family’s 1930 U.S. census record, next I pointed out how Laura Mae was missing from the family’s 1940 U.s. census record, and then in the post about the death of her 15 year old daughter Clara Irene Pace in 1933 from meningitis. In the post about Irene, we learned that Laura Mae died shortly before Irene from the same disease.
Striking Gold with an Obituary
A couple days after discovering Irene’s death notice in their local rural Texas newspaper, I was thrilled to find an obituary for Laura Mae in the same paper!
This obituary confirms what Irene’s death notice mentioned about the death of Laura Mae.1 It is the first record I have ever come across that gives a death date for her, and it is the first record I have found that provides a birth date, birth location, and any details whatsoever about my husband’s great-grandmother. Mother and daughter were admitted to the hospital the same day, with daughter Irene improving some (we learned she ended up dying a short time later). Laura Mae was buried the afternoon of her death, in the same cemetery where Irene would later be interred–at Whitharral Cemetery, in Whitharral, Hockley County, Texas.2According to the obituary published in the Lamb County (Texas) Leader on 23 February 1933, Laura May [Mae] Pace died the Tuesday prior, which would have been 21 February 1933. She died, like her daughter Irene, of cerebral-spinal meningitis in the nearest hospital, the Lubbock Sanitarium, located in Lubbock, Lubbock County, Texas.
What new clues can we glean from this record?
- The family lived in the Valley Gin community.
- Someone (Laura Mae? Andrew Jackson? Doctors?) attributed the meningitis to recent flu attacks experienced by Laura Mae.
- We now have a birth date and place for Laura Mae (8 October 1896 in Van Zandt County, Texas), and know that she has two siblings. Although the date reported or calculated for Laura Mae is incorrect. Based on her birth and death dates, she was 36 years old, not yet 37 years old.
- Husband Andrew Jackson (the likely informant) provides their marriage date and place, 24 November 1912 in Mesquite, Dallas County, Texas.
- In 1913, Laura Mae joined, was baptized by, or was saved by the Baptist church in Donohue [Donohoe], Bell County, Texas. Donohoe is a now abandoned community that used to be located “on Donahoe Creek sixteen miles southeast of Belton in the southeastern corner of Bell County”, with a Baptist church that closed in the 1950s4
- All ten children are attributed to Laura Mae as their mother. If you recall, I have not found birth records for all of the Pace children.
One Find Leads to Another
Armed finally (after years of looking) for an exact date of death, I immediately looked at death certificates for 21 February 1933 in the county of Lubbock. Bingo. There it was….in no way identifying Laura Mae Fields by name. Her death and identity were recorded simply as Mrs. A.J. [Andrew Jackson] Pace.5 Which is why I could never find a death record when searching for variations of the name Laura Mae, or cross-referencing the search under the spouse name of Andrew Jackson, since her husband is indexed and identified just by initials. I should have looked for records under the broadest possible search…just by the surname of Pace.The death certificate corroborates what was reported in the obituary, but then husband Andrew Jackson was the likely the informant for both records–the death record clearly identifies him as its informant. The death date, cause of death, burial date and location, undertaker name and location, and Laura Mae’s birth date are all in agreement with the obituary.3, 7
What new information do we learn from this record?
- Daughter Irene was admitted to the hospital a few days before her mother. Irene was admitted 15 February 1933; Laura Mae on 18 February 1933. The obituary is incorrect in reporting they were admitted on the same day.
- Laura Mae’s father had the surname Fields, according to husband Andrew Jackson, but A.J. apparently did not know the given name of Laura Mae’s father, the name of her mother, or the birthplace of either of her parents.
Genealogy SnapshotName: Laura Mae Fields (1896-1933)
Parents: William Sanford Fields [unconfirmed] and Dollie Nancy Stover [unconfirmed]
Spouse: Andrew Jackson "A.J." Pace
Relationship to CJRoots: Great-Grandmother
Laura Mae Fields and her second oldest daughter Clara Irene Pace were buried in Whitharral Cemetery, Hockley County, Texas, near their family farm.8, 9 It is a tiny little rural cemetery, that one would miss if one blinked driving down the country road.
No other members of the Pace/Fields family are buried here, indicating the surviving family members moved out of the area before A.J. or the other children died.
Where to Go from Here?
It feels so satisfying to finally get somewhere with the research about my husband’s great-grandmother Laura Mae Fields, however there is still much work to do.
A Lingering Unanswered Question
In the post I wrote about daughter Irene’s death, I asked the question, how did Irene and her mother contract meningitis? That question cannot be sufficiently answered from the newfound documents for Laura Mae and Irene, but Laura Mae’s obituary does mention the meningitis resulting from a series of recent flu attacks.
My husband’s cousins share a family story about how Laura Mae and Irene caught this horrible disease. “The family story was that Laura May and Irene went to help another family with the same illness. That family survived, but they both didn’t.”10
These newfound records for Laura Mae Fields provide information items that now set me on a more firm path towards researching her birth, childhood, and family life prior to marriage. These tasks will hopefully answer these research questions about Laura Mae, as well as how she and daughter Irene contracted such a horrible disease.
- Try to find a marriage record for Laura Mae Fields and Andrew Jackson Pace.
- Try to find a birth record for Laura Mae Fields.
- Investigate if the local Baptist church records were transferred anywhere after its closure in the 1950s. There may be records referencing the Pace/Fields family.
- Look through the Lamb County (Texas) Leader from 1932-33 for references to any other reported instances of meningitis or flu outbreaks in the area.
- “Personals,” Lamb County (Texas) Leader, 2 March 1933, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, Texas Tech University Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library (http://hdl.handle.net/10605/58863 : accessed 8 September 2015). ↩
- “Mrs. A.J. Pace Buried Tuesday at Whitharral,” Lamb County (Texas) Leader, 23 February 1933, p. 1, col. 3; digital images, Texas Tech University Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library (http://hdl.handle.net/10605/58309 : accessed 11 September 2015). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- “Donahoe, TX,” Texas State Historical Association, 1 June 2010 (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hvd31 : accessed September 11, 2015); citing Mark Odintz, Handbook of Texas Online. ↩
- Texas State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Standard Certificate of Death no. 750 (1933), Mrs. A.J. Pace (Laura Mae Field); from “Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976,” database with images, Ancestry (http://search.ancestry.com : accessed 11September 2015), ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- “Mrs. A.J. Pace Buried Tuesday at Whitharral.” ↩
- Texas State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Standard Certificate of Death no. 750 (1933), Mrs. A.J. Pace (Laura Mae Field). ↩
- Whitharral Cemetery, Whitharral, Hockley County, Texas, entry for Lara Mae Pace memorial no. 20554068, Find A Grave (http://findagrave.com : accessed 7 February 2014); added by David Sifford member no. 46564332. ↩
- L. Pace (name withheld for privacy), comment to Colleen Greene post about Irene pace death, personal Facebook profile, 10 September 2015 (https://www.facebook.com : accessed 10 September 2015). ↩