Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Twins Separated and Adopted by Sisters - How Did I Miss This?

This post could be titled "You Can't See Everything in a Genealogy Database." Even though that is true, I'm still amazed that I didn't put this story together or even realized it was a story - until someone who knew the story e-mailed me.

First a little background:
Isabella Jane Goodloe, my 2nd great-grandmother, was married three times and lived her entire life in Hopkins County, Kentucky. She and first husband, Albert Hankins, had four children (including my great-grandfather, Lee) before Albert met an untimely death between 1863-1870. The facts about that are a little sketchy but that's another story. Janie had a brief second marriage to Thomas Yates before marrying her third husband, Thomas K. DeVault in 1879. Janie and Albert's children were mostly grown by the time she married DeVault. Two of her sons married that same year. 

I was always a little puzzled by the 1900 census record for Janie and Thomas. There was a 16-year-old girl named Bessie Walker living with them. Bessie was born in March 1884 in Kentucky and her relationship was adopted daughter. I had no idea if they adopted her as an infant or took her in much later. It seemed odd that she was listed as Walker instead of DeVault if they really adopted her but I confess to never really looking for answers to my questions. The only other mention I'd found of Bessie was in Janie's obituary in 1905 which mentioned her four Hankins children and "an adopted daughter, Miss Bessie DeVault." 

Here's the part I didn't connect:
Janie had a younger half-sister named Virginia who married William Henry Moore in 1878. Virginia and William had a daughter named Jessie Walker Moore. (That's how she is listed in my database.) Just like Bessie, Jessie was living with the Moore's by the time of the 1900 census. Her relationship was listed as "adp daut" and she was born in March, 1884 in Kentucky. (Oh sure, it's easy to see now that I laid it out for you. Bessie and Jessie. March, 1884. Walker. But in a database, in separate households, one of which got very little attention from me - not so obvious.)

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from a man who found Bessie and Jessie on my website. He told me they were the younger sisters of his grandfather and he wondered if I was interested in more information about them. Well, of course.

And this is the story:
On 13 Aug 1879, John Lewis M. Walker married Nancy E. Price in Hopkins County. It was Nancy's third marriage and she had four children from the second one. John and Nancy had a son, Eldred, born in 1881 and twin daughters, Jessie and Bessie, born on 15 Mar 1884. Nancy died of childbirth complications five days after the twins were born. John, probably with the help of relatives, cared for the three children until he died three years later in 1887.

Jessie and Bessie were adopted by the DeVaults and Moores but Eldred lived with several different families and was never adopted. From family stories, it appears that Eldred didn't have much contact with his sisters or, at least, didn't recall much about them. But you have to believe that the girls spent lots of time together growing up in the same extended family. Their brother's grandson said "These wonderful Goodloe sisters surely saved my great aunts from a life of orphanages or foster homes." The unsaid part of that sentence seems to be that his grandfather was not saved from that life.

Jessie married Will Fugate, raised a family and lived to the age of 75. Jessie and Will are buried in Grapevine Cemetery in Hopkins County - the same cemetery where Janie and Thomas DeVault and Virginia and William Moore are buried. 

Bessie's fate is unknown. 

Yes, I have some research to do starting with looking for some kind of adoption records.  


  1. Wow! What an incredible story, Linda. So glad you were contacted about this information. Enjoy your new connection. And, of course, more research!

  2. Great story, Linda! Especially now that you've "reunited" them in the family tree. Keep us posted on what else you find!

    1. Thanks, Shelley. Can't believe you have time for blog reading at GRIP!

  3. Amazing! And exciting, too. I hope you'll be able to find out more about Bessie.

  4. Linda,
    Have you had any luck with adoption records? I think so often they are sealed. My husband's biological daughter was adopted by his ex-wife's second cousin. She can't even get a birth certificate listing her father as her father. what's interesting is that she was a twin. The twin died within a couple of days. They legally have different fathers. Just curious.

    1. Kathy, I haven't looked yet and I don't know anything about adoption records. But these adoptions would have been pre-1890 so I'm hoping they might just be in regular court records.

  5. Great story, Linda :-) Jo