Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mystery Guy - 52 Ancestors #30

First, I found a newspaper article about a relative who died from his injuries after he was struck by a car. That sent me on a quest to find out more about this relative and I ended up with as many questions as I found answers. In other words, a pretty typical day in the life of a genealogist.
Lewiston Sun Journal, July 11, 1940, accessed on Google News Archive
Guy Morrison Cotton was my 1st cousin, 3 times removed. He was born on February 14, 1888 and died on July 11, 1940, the son of William F. "Frank" & Deborah J. "Jennie" (Lamb) Cotton. He was a teamster, a shoemaker, a member of the National Guard, a servant, and a farm laborer. He married an older widowed woman, Inez (Kenerson/Kennison) Goodwin, on March 20, 1913. Guy's occupation is listed as shoemaker. Tracing this couple through the records in very interesting. Inez was married previously to James Goodwin, who died on April 30, 1911. They appear in the 1900 census and her birthdate is given as May 1866. However, the marriage record between Guy & Inez lists her age as 40 (born about 1873) and he was 25. Since Inez shows up with her parents in the 1870 census, it would seem that she was shaving off a few years when she stated her age for her marriage license in 1913. James and Inez had one adopted daughter, Etta. Guy and Inez have no children as she was about 47 when they married.

So how does a 47-year-old widow end up married to a 25-year-old young man? There must be a story here. Their marriage record makes it look like she's only 15 years older than him, rather than the actual age difference of 22 years.

From marriage record - Note the bride's stated age and Guy's occupation

1900 Census shows Inez (Enez) listed with her first husband and her correct birth date - May 1866
In 1900, Guy is 12 and living in Oxford, Maine with Charles & Lilian Brown. They are only 21 and 17 and he is listed as the brother of the head of household. His parents are renting in the same building with his 14-year-old sister, Florence. My guess is that they were all living together and the census taker recorded Guy with his brother-in-law as head of household. His uncle (my great-great-grandfather), Francis Llewellyn Cotton is living next door in a home he owns. My great-grandfather, Ray Everett Cotton, son of Francis Llewellyn, is the same age as Guy and I imagine that they would have gone to school together.

In 1910, there is no trace of the family in the census. In 1920, Guy and Inez are living with his parents in Paris, Maine. George is 32 and Inez lists her age as 52 (closer to the truth but still shaving off a couple of years). Guy is listed as not working but Inez is a "laborer" and Guy's parents are listed as "farmer" for his father and "laborer" for his mother. There is no sign of any other family nearby but a granddaughter is listed, Dorothy Brown, age 1. She is likely the daughter of Guy's sister Lilian and her husband, Charles.

Where is Guy and/or his parents in 1910? Where are Charles and Lilian Brown in 1920? Lilian is not listed among his surviving relatives in the news article about this death. Is Dorothy being raised by her grandparents or her aunt and uncle, Inez and Guy? Since all the other adults worked, was Guy the caretaker for Dorothy? That seems quite unusual for the time.

In 1930, Guy is listed as singe, living in Northumberland, New Hampshire, and a servant in the household of Ernest Tillaltson (pretty sure the transcription is wrong). Also in the household are Ernest's wife, Gadriella (possibly Gabriella) 56, sons Paul 31 and Blanchard 22, daughters Florence 20, and Barbara 18.

So what happened to Inez? Why is he not listed as a widower if she is deceased? Who is this Tillaltson family and what work does Guy do as their servant?

Guy served in the military. His draft registration card indicates that he works as a teamster but was out of work at that time. In addition, he has six years of service in the National Guard and his application for a military headstone indicates that he enlisted in the 331st Guard and Fire Company on July 29, 1918 and was honorably discharged on January 8, 1919. The war ended on November 11, 1918 and he never was deployed overseas.
Physical description from Guy's draft registration card
Guy's work experience from his draft registration card

Guy's military experience from his draft registration card

On July 11, 1940, the Lewiston Sun Journal, reported the death of Guy Cotton after he was struck by a car. Although the age is not correct, the parents and other relatives are those of Guy Morrison Cotton, born in 1888. That means he was 68, not 40, when he died.

Guy's cousin, Ray Everett Cotton, was my great-grandfather.
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother.


  1. Fascinating records here, Pam. And wow - so many more questions to answer!
    I have a greatgreat-grandfather in England who, at the age of 23, married a widowed neighbour woman with 5 children - she was aged 37. The pair had only one son two years later, my great-grandfather. The age difference was very surprising to me also. Oh well - a mystery. Don't you wish they had written letters or diaries? Cheers.

    1. Celia, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I certainly wonder what they would think about all the records being out in public and so easy to access and compare. I'm sure they couldn't envision a world where their lives would be such an open book. I would love letters or diaries! Thanks for sharing your family story too.