Friday, August 3, 2012

Turns Out Aunt Lillie Didn't Marry Jack Young

Yes, I'm writing about my grandfather's sister, Lillie Vashti Lanier, again. Frankly, I'm fascinated by her for many reasons and her apparent five marriages aren't even at the top of that list. But this is not just another post about Lillie; it is also about how making assumptions without all of the available facts can send you down the wrong road. I knew better but that did not stop me.

I knew from Lillie's death certificate that she was buried in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta so when I was planning a trip there in the fall of 2010 I decided to visit her grave. I was surprised to learn from the cemetery office that Lillie and her last husband, James H. Dixon, were buried in a plot with J. W. and Mattielaine Young. There is a "Young" marker in the center of the plot with Lillie and James buried on one side and J. W. and Mattielaine on the other. J. W. died first in 1929, James next in 1951 then Mattielaine in 1967 and finally Lillie in 1987.

Who were these people? Why were Lillie and James buried with them?

Even though Lillie lived until 1987, I didn't know her. But I've corresponded and talked with a 2nd cousin, once removed who did. In my notes from various e-mail and phone conversations, I found mention of someone Lillie called "Mother Young." This Mattielaine Young had to be Mother Young then, right? 

Right. (I'm not going in the wrong direction, yet.)

Further contact with my cousin revealed that her aunt (and my 2nd cousin) remembered hearing that Lillie was once married to someone named Jack Young and "Mother Young" was, of course, his mother.

A check of the 1910 census in Fulton County, Georgia found James W. Young and his wife, Mattielene, living at 59 McDaniel Street in Atlanta. Living with them were three children: Jewell Young (daughter, age 12, born in Georgia), Jack Young (son, age 12, born in Georgia) and Roy Young (son, age 10, born in Georgia) and several boarders. There he was - Lillie's future husband, Jack Young!

James and Mattielene had only been married three months so, obviously, she was the children's step-mother. The record shows that Mattielene was the mother of three children, two living at that time. I wondered for a second where her two children were since they were probably too young to be on their own but that wasn't important. I'd found Jack Young. (This is where I started making that wrong turn.)

I found James and Mattielaine in 1920 - still in Atlanta but now at 31 South Gordon Street. James's son, Roy, was living with them but Jack and Jewel were not. I didn't find Jack (with or without Lillie) anywhere in 1920. Oh well, at least I knew that they had once been married and, regardless of what happened to Jack, Lillie remained close to his step-mother for the rest of her life

I recently found Lillie and James Dixon in the 1940 census and learned that they lived in New Orleans in 1935. I started searching for her again in 1930 and this time I found her. In New Orleans. With yet another name. That left 1920 as the only census record missing so I took another look at what I "knew" about Jack Young. 

This time I checked the 1900 census and was surprised to find J. W. Young with his first wife, Maude, and their son, Roy, living at the same 59 McDaniel Street address where James and Mattielaine lived in 1910. But where were Jack and Jewel? 

Uh, oh. Those two living children of Mattielaine's in 1910 started looking more interesting. What if they were just incorrectly listed with their step-father's name in 1910? Why didn't that occur to me two years ago? 

Finding Mattielaine's previous married name was fairly easy - thanks to marriage records at Georgia's Virtual Vault. J. W. Young married Mrs. M. Smith on 26 Dec 1909 in Fulton County. It didn't take long to find William A. and Mattieline Smith in the 1900 census. They lived in a boarding house at 25 Houston Street in Atlanta with two children: Jasper D. Smith (son, age 1, born Jun 1898 in Georgia) and Jewel M. Smith (daughter, age 1, born Jun 1898 in Georgia). Of course, I'm making assumptions again - their relationships were all "boarder" - but those are the children in the Young household with Mattielaine in 1910. (William was a physician, odd that they lived in a boarding house. Wonder what the story is there?)

So. Lillie didn't marry Jack Young because he didn't exist. She married Jasper D. Smith who went by the nickname Jack. (I have more questions for my 2nd cousin but haven't been able to get in touch yet.)

With the correct name, I was sure I'd find Jasper and Lillie in 1920 but they are still hiding from me.

Jasper might not even be living by 1920. Lillie had one child who died very young. It's possible the child's father also died around the same time. If Jasper was the father of Lillie's child and they both died, that would certainly explain the bond that held Lillie and Mattielaine together through all of those years and Lillie's later marriages. 

But I'm trying to stop making so many assumptions. I'll just keep looking.


  1. OH, she is the slippery one, isn't she. Enjoying her stories, and I know you are enjoying the chase!

  2. Fascinating story, Linda! There's a novel in this, I'm sure...

  3. Possible that father and child may have been victims of the influenza epidemic in 1918/1919. Mortality schedules if you can find a location.