Monday, March 1, 2010

91st Carnival of Genealogy, A Tribute to Women! The Biography

Edna May Fenton was born on May 20, 1888, or 1889 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Documents containing her birth information differ, and I am sure Edna would have approved, she maintained a certain amount of secrecy about her early days.  The age on her marriage certificate is pretty hard to read, it might be 22 or 24, of course, that gives us a birth year of 1896 or 1894.  Her death certificate states she was born in 1893.

Her parents were William Franklin Fenton and Fannie Hurlburt Fenton,  Edna was the youngest of 4 children born to this couple.  Edna's was only about 10 years old when her mother died in 1898.  If she were born in the mid 1890's, she would have been even younger. Note:  Edna does appear on the 1891 census with her father, mother and three siblings, as a 1 year old babe, so that pretty much puts her birth year before 1890, not the mid 1890's.

By 1901 her father had remarried and had a second family in the making.  Edna appears on the 1901 census with her father and step-mother, Ida (nee Jarvis).  She does not appear on the 1911 census.  In fact, from 1901 until 1918 we have no idea where Edna is or what she is doing.

Above:  The 1901 Census of Canada, Nova Scotia,
4th District Yarmouth, Polling District of Arcadia
Note the confusion over Edna's age and birth year. 
The numbers just don't add up.

Above:  1911 Census of Arcadia, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
No Edna.

According to another descendant of William Fenton and Ida Jarvis, a family story is that Edna went to the states as a maid.  We have heard she lived in Massachusetts.  Searches of passenger lists, census both in Canada and in the United States have yet to find Edna, at least as Edna Fenton.

In 1918 Edna married Arthur Norman Stevens, Sr.  Arthur has his own secrets and his story alone would be a great mystery novel.  But, alas, I don't wish to tell his story here, but the story of his Nova Scotia born bride.  I will tell you, however, that in the research on Arthur we discover that in the year 1918 he is living in an apartment house at 208 Abbott in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.  208 Abbott was the address of the Fort Apartments, he is listed as living in apartment # 14. In that same year, 1918, we find Mrs. Edna Stewart, waitress, living in Apt 11, 208 Abbott, Detroit.  Edna married Arthur as a single lady under her maiden name, claiming she was never married before.  Is Mrs. Edna Stewart in reality Miss Edna Fenton??  

Over the next several years, Edna and Arthur become the parents of three boys, Arthur Norman Stevens, Jr., Walter William Stevens and George Elmer Stevens.  In the photo to the right, from left to right, Walter, George (standing), Arthur.

The Stevens family moved from Detroit to the suburbs, and we find them on the 1930 census living at 1566 Empire Street, Lincoln Park, Michigan.  In 1944 they lived at 4165 Coolidge, Lincoln Park, Michigan.  The family moved again, by 1947 we find them living at 1044 Farnham Avenue, Lincoln Park, Michigan.

In 1940 tragedy hit, their 2nd born son, Walter was killed in a automobile accident on the eve of his 21st birthday. World War II took both of her other sons off to war, both returned home.

In 1952 her husband Arthur died.  In 1954 Edna too passed. 

Edna lived through 2 major wars, World War I and World War II. Two of her sons fought in WWII. From the date of her birth (using the year 1888) to the date of her death, 12 American Presidents held office, starting with Glover Cleveland, ending with Dwight D. Eisenhower, noting that until sometime after the 1901 census, she lived in Canada, not the US.

Edna was an extremely private lady.  She was Man's grandmother, he has no recollections of her, the only memories are stories he has heard from his mother (Edna's daughter-in-law.)  Until I started doing research and connected with other Fenton descendants, Man had never met another Fenton.  Never.  Granted he was only a wee bit of a lad when Edna passed, but there were no aunts or uncles, no cousins, no family kin named Fenton.
We have been told Edna loved her garden and flowers.  We do have some photos from Edna, many of which have no names or dates.  There are no photos of  Edna's mother and father.  We have no photo of Edna before her marriage to Arthur in 1918.  We have no diaries and only a small handful of letters and cards.  Several of the letters are dated after the death of her husband, she was attempting to apply for a social security card/number, she needed a birth certificate from Canada, it appears she never obtained one. 

We know little about her life in Nova Scotia, nothing about her for almost 17 years between 1901 and 1918. After her marriage it appears she lead a "woman's life", bearing children, caring for home and family. But far from being a boring woman, to me she is a lady of intrigue.  When did she leave Nova Scotia, where did she go, how did she end up in Detroit, was she Mrs. Edna Stewart? 

Edna and Arthur are buried in unmarked graves at the Ferndale Cemetery, Riverview, Wayne County, Michigan. Somehow the fact that their graves are unmarked suits them, they were both hiding secrets.  That said, I hope someday to place markers on their graves, even if I never figure out Edna's secrets of 1901 to 1918.

What were you doing Edna, from 1901 to 1918? I want to fill in your timeline!

*Time line post about Edna appears separately.

**Thanks to Jasia of Creative Gene for hosting this 91st Carnival of Genealogy

Copyright 2010, CABS for Reflections From the Fence.



lindalee said...

Intrigue is good! She was a very nice looking woman. I have a couple of my ancestors that present me with some research secrets and it drives me crazy. Well researched, Carol. Congratulations.

J.M. said...

What a greta post. It's indeed quite a mystery you have here. I'd love to hear how it ends!

Joan said...

We all need a bit intrigue in our lives --- and you have the very private, intriguing Edna. It will be interesting to see if Edna gives up her secrets. Thanks.

Jo said...

Sometimes I think those ancestors of ours who have secrets are the most intriguing to research. It is the detective in us that drives us to continue to seek the answer to the questions. Nice story and I hope someday you find the answer to the questions. Good Job.

Judith Richards Shubert said...

I hope Edna's missing years were full of happiness and adventure for her! Maybe someday you'll be able to fill in those blanks and then you will let us know, too. Great job with the timeline and research.