#52Ancestors: My Great Grandmother Agnes Viola Elizabeth Maud Mara Died 43 Years Ago Today

My 48th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

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.

My 48th ancestor is my great grandmother Agnes Viola Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971), who went by the name Viola. I have mentioned Viola in posts about her father, mother, brother, and mystery half-brother, but I have never actually profiled my great grandmother. Since today marks the 43rd anniversary of her death, I thought it appropriate to introduce Great Grandmother Viola.

Viola Mara
My mom has had this photo on display in her home.

I am named after my great grandmother; my parents gave me Viola’s middle name Elizabeth as my own middle name. Thankfully, Mom did not name me after any of her grandmother’s other names — Viola, Agnes, or Maud. Viola Elizabeth is the only name by which Mom knew her grandmother. She was surprised when I uncovered that long list of legal names when I found Viola’s birth certificate a number of years ago.

Birth & Childhood

Viola was born 21 February 1893 in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were Thomas Mara (b. 1858) and Anna Sophia Allen (b. 1871). She and her younger brother William James Mara (1894-1952) immigrated with their mother to the United States (Michigan) sometime around 1898. I have not yet found a border crossing record or a naturalization record for Viola, her mother, or her brother. I do not think her father Thomas came with the family.

From what I can tell about her mother’s shady past, Viola and William must have had a difficult upbringing and unstable home. I have not found the family on the 1900 or 1910 U.S. Census; it is like their mother Anna Sophia was living off the radar. Viola does not surface until the 1920 U.S. Census, when she was 27, married, and a mother.

Viola Mara's birth certificate
Viola’s birth certificate, courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Marriage & Children

Viola married my great grandfather James Bruce Hayes (1888-1970) on 02 January 1912 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. She was 18, he was 23. Viola and Bruce had nine children together, eight of whom reached adulthood. My grandmother Elsie Charlotte Hayes (1926-1992) was the seventh child. Bruce and Viola spent their marriage living in Royal Oak and Southfield, Michigan (both in Oakland County).

After Bruce divorced Viola, she moved out to Santa Fe Springs (Los Angeles County), California to live with her oldest son Bill and care for his children, and to be near my grandmother and Grandma’s older sister Cassie. I am told that I met Viola as a baby (I was not quite 2 years old when she died), but I do not have any memory of her or any photos with her.

Viola Mara, late in life
Viola, much later in life.

Death & Burial

My great grandmother Viola died on 06 December 1971, in Los Angeles County, California. It may have been in Santa Fe Springs, where she lived with her oldest son Bill (near my grandmother Elsie), but none of the records I have specify more than the county.

She is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier (Los Angeles County), California.

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#52Ancestors: 2nd Great Grandmother Annie Sophia Allen Charged with Fraud and Deception in Divorce

My 47th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

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 almost caught up after being quite ill for much of this year.

Annie Sophia Allen birht register
Birth register from Ancestry.com.

My 47th ancestor is my 2nd great grandmother Anna “Annie” Sophia Allen (b. 1871).

My mother knew Annie when Mom was a very young girl in Michigan, and she and her siblings refer to their great grandmother as “Mamie Grandma”. She was the mother of my great grandmother, Agnes Viola Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971) and my great grand uncle William James Mara (1894-1951). Annie also gave birth to an older son out-of-wedlock, Herbert Gerald Allen (b. 1889), who does not appear to have been raised by Annie.


Annie was born 17 September 1871 in Rockwood, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were William Barnabas Allen (1845-1916), a blacksmith from Rockwood, and his wife Lucy Jane Allen (1846-1931). The  birth was registered 5 October 1871, in Eramosa District, by the doctor.

I have identified six siblings for Annie; I think she was the second oldest.

First Marriage & Divorce

In my last post, I wrote about Annie’s marriage to and divorce from my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara (b. 1858), as well as a possible explanation (extreme cruelty) for why she immigrated to Michigan with their two young children Viola and William (without husband Thomas) around 1900.

Second Marriage & Divorce

I also mentioned that Annie remarried on 03 December 1902 to a John Carr, the day before her divorce to Mara was issued (if it was even ever finalized).

Annie and John Carr divorced almost exactly 11 years later, on 08 December 1913 in Wayne (Wayne County), Michigan. They do not appear to have had any children together. Seeing the claim of extreme cruelty as the reason for her divorce from Thomas Mara made me curious about the reason for divorce from John Carr. It turns out that Annie is not the one who filed for divorce. Carr filed for divorce from Annie, on the grounds of “fraud and deception”!, which went uncontested by Annie! Unlike the ambiguous register entry for Annie’s divorce from Thomas Mara, this one clearly indicates that Carr’s divorce from Annie was granted.

Allen Annie Sophia - Carr John - Divorce - Ancestry
Divorce register entry for Allen and Carr. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Fraud and deception??? Remember… I have not yet found any proof that a divorce from Thomas Mara was ever finalized. The only record I found for that first divorce showed the divorce stats as “pending”.

I decided to take a closer look at the marriage entry again for Annie and John Carr. The register entry shows one previous marriage noted by Annie (I had assumed that was to Thomas Mara). Interestingly, her father’s name is noted, but her mother’s name is recorded as “unknown”. But even more interesting are the surnames given by Annie. She identified herself as “Annie S. Allen” (her maiden name), but also as “Annie S. James”. James??? What is this James surname? Mara was her first married name.

Did she marry someone with the last name of James in between Mara and Carr? Which would be really odd since she (I think) divorced Mara one day after marrying Carr. And even if another intermediary marriage did take place, that would make two previous marriages instead of just the one she noted on the record.

Was Annie lying about her first married name, claiming it was James instead of Mara? Perhaps knowing that she was not legally divorced yet from Mara, so she didn’t want anything linking her to last name Mara at this time? Although, I assume her kids went by Mara.

Allen Annie Sophia - Carr John - Marriage - Web - FamilySearch
Marriage register entry for Annie and Carr. Courtesy of FamilySearch.org.

Whatever the reason is behind this claim by Annie of James as her first married name, it definitely looks like she was trying to deceive her new husband John Carr and/or legal authorities. This has suddenly turned into a priority family line for me to research further! My hope is that Annie was not intentionally deceiving new husband John Carr or the authorities…that her cause for filing for divorce from John Mara (extreme cruelty) had Annie scared and trying to hide from Mara…a battered woman on the run, hiding her real identity.

Shady Lady

Mom has often told me that Mamie Grandma had a lot of gentlemen callers and friends (I think her own mom told her that). We were never quite sure what exactly to make of that remark. But Mom and I would joke about it, commenting that perhaps her Mamie Grandma was a prostitute or madame. When I started digging up the family history and pestering my grandmother’s one remaining living sibling with questions, Mom told me not to bring this up with my great aunt…it might be a sensitive subject with that generation.

And this was before we knew about the child she gave birth to at seventeen.

Accidents and tough times have and will always happen to women. Annie may have been desperately in love with illegitimate son Herbert’s father, then left abandoned and heartbroken when he found out she was pregnant. She may have suffered abuse from my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara . Both incidents may have left her vulnerable, emotionally scarred, and desperate. Or my 2nd great grandmother might simply have been lacking in any moral character….a floozy and a fraud. I am not judging her. I just think these findings are amusing and make for great storytelling.

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#52Ancestors: 2nd Great Grandfather Thomas Mara Charged with Extreme Cruelty in Divorce

My 46th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

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 almost caught up after being way behind most of this year due to illness.

Mara Coat of ArmsMy 46th ancestor is my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara (1858-1916). Thomas Mara was married to my 2nd great grandmother Anna Sophia Allen (b. 1871), with whom he had two children: William James Mara (1894-1952) and my great grandmother Agnes Viola “Viola” Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971).

In doing a bit of research recently on Anna Sophia Allen, I took a closer look at the marriage and divorce records for my 2nd great grandparents.

Thomas and Anna Sophia married on 6 June 1892 in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. Thomas, a widow, was 34 years of age, worked as a machinist, and was a member of the Church of England. Anna Sophia, single (labeled spinster!), was 20 years of age, and was a member of the Methodist church. Anna had already given birth to illegitimate son Herbert Gerald Allen in 1889.

Not surprisingly, there isn’t even any place for a profession to be listed for the bride in this 1890s marriage register.

Thomas Mara & Anna Sophia Allen Marriage Record
Thomas Mara & Anna Sophia Allen Marriage Record. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Anna Sophia and Thomas divorced on 4 December 1902. The divorce decree was issued in Michigan, where Anna lived at the time with her children William (age 8) and Viola (age 9). I don’t think Thomas ever immigrated with them to the United States; I find no record of him living here. And I always wondered why Thomas did not immigrate with his wife and children.

It was a closer look at this divorce record (the divorce register, not the actual certificate or court case) that caught me off guard, and perhaps provided an answer to my own question about why Thomas did not immigrate to the U.S. with his family. Sophia was the claimant in the divorce, and filed for it 12 August 1902 under the grounds of “extreme cruelty”. Thomas did not contest the divorce. Sophia’s allegations can lead one to assume that she and the children fled from a violent Thomas.

The register entry is a bit confusing. It indicates that the divorce was still “Pending” at the end of the year. Note how records above and below show a “Granted” status and are not crossed out like the pending ones. This is the only divorce record I find for them. Perhaps there is another corrected entry or follow-up entry somewhere, but I have not found it yet.

Mara Thomas Allen Sophia Allen - Divorce Register - 1902
Divorce register entry for Thomas Mara and Anna Sophia Allen. They are listed on line 222. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

The Pending status made me wonder if maybe the divorce never went through.

Except that Anna Sophia remarried, to John Carr, so she had to have been divorced from Thomas Mara first, right?

Oddly…Anna Sophia Allen married John Carr on 3 December 1902. The day BEFORE her divorce from Mara. So at the very least, my 2nd great grandmother was a bigamist for one day. Or perhaps she was never legally divorced from my 2nd great grandfather, and spent the rest of her marriage to Carr as a bigamist. I will have to keep looking for proof that her divorce from Mara was finalized.

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#52Ancestors: Dorland Eugene Buddy Hayes, the Brother Grandma Never Really Knew

My 36th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

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 have fallen way behind in this challenge again due to continued health issues the last few months, as well as a major migration and redesign on this website last weekend, but I am trying to catch up by the end of the year.

My 36th ancestor is my grand uncle Dorland Eugene “Buddy” Hayes (1925-1929). Dorland Eugene Hayes, called “Buddy” by his siblings, was born on 23 May 1925 in Southfield, Oakland County, Michigan. He was the sixth of nine children born to my great grandparents, James Bruce “Bruce” Hayes (1888-1970) and Agnes Viola “Viola” Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971). Dorland is an unusual name, even for that time. He had a paternal uncle named Dorland (although that uncle went by other names….go figure), so I assume that Buddy was named after his uncle.

Hayes Brothers
Grandma’s older brothers: Robert “Bob”, Dorland “Buddy”, and William “Bill” Hayes.

Buddy was the sibling born immediately prior to my grandmother, Elsie Charlotte Hayes (1926-1992). They were just a little over a year apart in age. Neither I, nor Mom, nor Grandpa ever met Uncle Buddy. Because, sadly, Buddy died at just four years old, on 13 July 1929, in Royal Oak, Oakland County. Grandma told Mom that Buddy had been playing out on the family farm with his siblings, while their mother (who ran the home and worked) napped. A road ran alongside the farm, little Buddy ran out into the road, and was hit and killed by a car. I just found Buddy’s death record today, on FamilySearch.

Since Grandma was not even three years old when Buddy died, she can’t have had many memories of him. Yet Mom says that Grandma always spoke tenderly and emotionally about the little brother that died so young, and that Great Grandma Viola took her little boy’s death hard. Mom had never even seen a photo of Buddy until about twelve years ago, when she and I went through old photos than an aunt kept after my grandparents died. The photo in this post is the one we discovered.

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#52Ancestors: WWI And PFC William James Mara

My 24th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

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.

My 24th ancestor is my great grand uncle, William James MARA (1894-1952).  William was the brother of my great grandmother, Viola Elizabeth Maud MARA (1893-1971) and half brother of my great grand uncle Herbert Gerald ALLEN (1889-?). His parents were Anna Sophia ALLEN (1871-?) and Thomas MARA (1858-1916).

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the event that sparked the First World War, the Great War…the War To End All Wars. The war did not officially start until 28 July 1914, and the U.S. did not declare war until 6 April 1917, but I thought I would take advantage of today’s 100th anniversary to talk about my great grand uncle’s service during WWI.

William registered for the draft in Detroit, Michigan. I can’t tell if he registered in 1917 or early 1918 since the date is cut off on the microfilmed record. At the time, William was 22 years old, and employed as a civil engineer for the United Fuel and Supply Company in Detroit. He was single, listed his mother as his nearest living relative, and lived at 75 Herbert in Detroit, Michigan. William was described as Caucasian, of medium height, with light blue eyes and light hair, and no disfigurements.

He registered for the draft despite not being a U.S. citizen. Mara had been born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and indicates that he had already filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen.

WWI Draft Registration for William James Mara. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

An application for a veteran’s headstone filed after his 1952 death by his wife Irene provides information about William Mara’s service in the First World War. He enlisted in the National Army on 5 March 1918, and was assigned serial number 806 804. PFC Mara served in the Medical Department of the Army, at the Base Hospital on Camp Mills, New YorkMara was given an honorable discharge 1 July 1919 as a Private First Class.

Applications for Headstones for U.S. military veterans, 1925-1941. Courtesy Ancestry.com.

Camp Mills, located on Long Island, New York, was established in September 1917 to prepare Army units for deployment to Europe. After the war, it served as a demobilization center before becoming part of Mitchell Field in 1919.

Encampment of National Guard soldiers at Camp Mills, New York training for service in World War I. Public domain photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any further information about PFC William James Mara’s activities during the First World War, but it does not sound like he was deployed overseas. I wish I knew what kind of work he did at Camp Mills. He did not have a medical background, but had worked as an engineer. So he most likely was involved in facilities operations, perhaps helping to build some of the permanent structures.

William did receive that veteran’s headstone. He died 24 November 1952, and is buried in Oakview Cemetery in Royal Oak, Michigan.

#52Ancestors: Elsie Charlotte Hayes, My Only High School Graduate Grandparent

My 19th week in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

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’m closing the gap at just 4 weeks behind in this series (the challenge just wrapped up week 22). I initially blamed my tardiness on being super busy at home, work, and with my volunteer work. However, the extended lapse can be blamed on the recent diagnosis of some critical health issues that had wiped me out for a while (you can read about that on my food blog).

But I’m determined to chronicle at least 52 Ancestors this year, so I’m playing catch-up.

My beautiful Grandma (left), and a good friend.

My 19th ancestor is my grandmother Elsie Charlotte HAYES (1926-1992). I have written about Grandma before, but not as part of my 52 Ancestors series. What inspired me to write this post is graduation season. Elsie may be my only grandparent to graduate from high school. I know that her husband Michael John FLANAGAN (1927-1997), a poor orphan, never graduated, and joined the Navy at just 17 years old. My other grandfather Benjamin ROBLEDO (1919-1990), born to poor immigrants, did not graduate either. Both grandfathers’ naval records confirm this. And while I do not have any proof that my long-lost grandmother Rosie SALAS (1923-?) did not graduate, documents confirming she was raised in a poor migrant farming family make it highly unlikely she would have completed high school either.

Elsie attended Berkley High School in Berkley (Oakland County), Michigan. She lived and grew up in nearby Southfield Township, Michigan. Elsie graduated with the Class of 1944. It wasn’t until after her death that I came across her high school yearbook in her old photos and papers. I have since given it to my Mom, but not before scanning some key pages.

The front of Elsie’s yearbook.
Title page of the yearbook.

Berkley High was established in 1922, and Wikipedia mentions some sort of new school in 1949 (after Elsie graduated), but does not indicate if the school moved to a new location, if the old one was demolished and rebuilt, or if just new buildings were added. The actual school website is even less helpful, providing absolutely no information whatsoever about the school’s history. The City of Berkley has a city timeline (.PDF) on their museum page that provides a bit more info, but still no clarification if the current school site and any of the buildings are the ones that Elsie attended.

  • 1919: Construction was begun on Berkley School on Berkley Avenue north of Catalpa. Looking at Google Maps, this location is across the street from the school’s present site.
  • 1934: Berkley High School holds its first outdoor graduation ceremony at Angell School grounds for 54 graduates and 1000 attendees. Could this have been the venue for Elsie’s own graduation ceremony 10 years later?
My grandmother is in the fourth row, on the right.
Elsie was part of the Girl Reserves her sophomore, junior, and senior years. She is in the front row, at the far left end. According to current school documents, the Girl Reserves no longer exist as a school club.

I remember Mom telling me, when I was a young girl, how Grandpa used to taunt Grandma by making fun of and singing her school fight song “Maroon and Blue”. I asked Mom why, not understanding why Grandpa was being mean, and Mom explained that Grandpa was not being mean. He did this out of jealousy and hurt (Grandma compassionately knew this), because he never had the luxury of completing high school, but wished he had.

First half of the Berkley High fight song, “Maroon and Blue”.
Second half of the Berkley High fight song, “Maroon and Blue”.

To put Elsie’s high school years in historical context, the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened her sophomore year. The war ended in August 1945, 14 months after her graduation. Elsie must have lost childhood and high school friends in the war. Sometime between her June 1944 graduation and June of 1946, Elsie moved from Michigan to northern California (I think Oakland) with her sister Cassie and Cassie’s family, where Elsie obtained work as a messenger for the Retail Creditors’ Association (according to her marriage certificate). On 22 June 1946, Elsie married Michael John Flanagan, whom she just met only one month prior.

Family Photos Friday: Grams On Horseback

Elsie Charlotte Hayes (1926-1992), Michigan, probably early 1940s.

I don’t do “Wordless Wednesdays”, particularly since I can’t ever remain “wordless” on those posts. So, I’ve picked “Family Photos Friday” to serve as my version to these quick easy posts that showcase snapshots from our family history.

The inaugural photo is one of my grandmother, Elsie Charlotte Hayes (1926-1992), on horseback. I don’t know the date, or the exact place. Best guess is early 1940s, somewhere near her home in Southfield Township, Michigan — before she moved out to California during the war.

Why did I pick this photo to kick off my Family Photos Friday? Because as a child, this was always one of my very favorite pictures of Grandma, since Grandma wasn’t exactly active. A lifetime of smoking, severe asthma, and an obsessive love of reading kept Grandma pretty sedentary.

I was shocked the first time I came across this photo and questioned my mom. Mom told me Grandma used to love to ride horses as a child and young adult, and that a family at a neighboring farm used to allow Grandma to exercise their horses whenever she wanted — it gave her a sense of freedom. I used to gaze at this photo every time I went through Mom’s albums.

Although I never got to see it for myself, Mom says Grandma was an excellent rider, even into older age. Mom kept us kids away from horses because she had a terrifying experience, when I was already a young child, during a horseback riding day trip with Grandma and my uncle (who still rides).  Mom, who did not ride, was given a beginner’s horse, but the horse spooked during the ride and took off with her on its back. My calm grandma kicked her horse into a sprint, went after Mom, pulled up alongside of her, and took the reigns of Mom’s horse to get it to stop. Mom never rode a horse again. And she never quit sharing how impressed she was by Grandma’s equestrian skills.

I would give anything to have Grandma still with us, and to enjoy a day of horseback riding with her.

Like Grandmother, Like Granddaughter.