Thursday, August 6, 2015

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY–Why don’t I have a death date or record for William H. Thorpe?

THORPE_William_headshot cropped from group photo
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I sit down in front of my computer, with my two nice monitors and stare at them without a clue as to what I want to do in the way of research.  Am I alone in this?

I decided to take a look at my THORP family.  My great grandmother was Mae Eva Thorp 4 Apr 1862, New York to 3 Nov 1946, Detroit, Wayne Michigan.  She married William Val Gould 1859-1924.  I have never been able to locate their marriage record.
Now, this particular Thorp family seems to spell the name without an “e” at the end, most of the time.
This presented quite a problem when researching my great grandmother’s sister, Catherine “Kittie” ThorpWHY?
Because she married William H. THORPE.  Yup, she went from being a Thorp to a Thorpe.

Let’s take a look at William H. Thorpe today.  Here is what shows up in my Legacy database for him.

Thorp family view Aug 2015 
Not very darn much information, right? 
  • I have him as head of household in a 1900 census, living in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio.  The family is a perfect match to this couple and their children.
  • In the 1910 census, Kittie Thorp is widowed and living with her daughter and son-in-law and family, back in Detroit, Michigan.
Did William H. Thorpe die between 1900 and 1910?  Or, is Kittie divorced, but listed as widowed? I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen that over the years.

First thing I’m going to do is go to my Ancestry tree and see if any new record hints have popped up on William.
  • Nothing new in hints.  The two census records shown appear to be another couple.  I do look at the trees to check for clues or leads, but don’t use them as sources.
  • Next, I clicked on the “search records” tab from William’s profile page in Ancestry.  AH HA!!!
  • What is this city directory I see for 1916 in Detroit, Michigan?
  • It’s a listing for Kittie Thorpe (wid Wm), boards 154 Alger Ave.
1916_THORPE_Kittie_wid Wm_living at 154 Alger Ave_DetroitWayneMichigan_annotated

This is great because now I have one more piece of evidence that Kittie was widowed.
If Kittie is boarding at 154 Alger Ave., who is she living with?
I went to the street directory portion of the city directory and located Alger Ave.  I found 154 and noted that J.D. Stanton is listed as the resident.  I immediately recognized the name Stanton as being one I had researched.  Sure enough I checked my Legacy database and there he was, John Davies Stanton married Kittie’s daughter, Grace on 24 Jul 1907.  So Kittie was living with them in 1916.  Yeah!! I have the right Kittie Thorpe.

1916_STANTON_J D_living at 154 Alger Ave_DetroitWayneMichigan_annotated

When did William & Kittie Thorpe move back to Michigan?  Did she moved back after his death?  Or before.  I’m now going to check for Detroit City Directories for the years 1900-1910.  

Although the family was in enumerated in Ohio for the 1900 census, they could still show up in a 1900 Detroit city directory.

1900 – 1904 - Not in Detroit
1905 – Located Wm. H. Thorpe at 422 4th.  Also living at that address is Mabel Thorpe, which is his daughter, who didn’t marry until 1908.  This gives me reason to believe this is our William.
1906 – Wm. H. & daughter Mabel living at 393 15th.  He is working as a steward.
1907 – This Detroit Directory is not complete and does not have the “T’s”.
1908 – Neither Wm. H. or Catherine, his wife are listed in this directory.
1909 – Catherine (wid Wm) bds 401 15th.

I have concluded from this evidence that William probably died between 1907 and 1909.
Next step  I looked and looked and searched for a long time on this site.  The 1897-1920 deaths are there, as are the images.  But, no manner of searching turned up William H./Wm. H. Thorpe.  I tried just the year, just the first name, just the last name and many other combinations.

NO, I haven’t.  I still don’t have a death date or burial location for William H. Thorpe.  I’ve certainly narrowed it down.
I was just about to post this and thought, well, I'll just look one more place before I share this with my readers.  I had checked FindAGrave many many times in the past.  BUT, don't we all know that we have to keep checking?  YES!!!!!

I FOUND A MEMORIAL FOR WILLIAM H. THORPE WHO DIED IN 1909 (Just at I had narrowed it down to).
When was this memorial posted?  Just 18 days ago!

Do I seem excited?  Well, I'm doing the genealogy happy dance right now.
Here is a link to William's memorial #149488550 The memorial includes his obituary from the Detroit Free Press. 

He is buried at my favorite Detroit cemetery, Elmwood. 

So, now have I accomplished my goal today?  YES!!!!  How long did this take me.  The better part of the afternoon.  Worth it?  You bet.


PLEASE contact me if you think you might be related, even remotely, to anyone mentioned in this blog.

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2015   Diane Gould Hall


  1. The most rewarding part of research is, after narrowing it down to a specific time and event, you find someone already knows what you deducted from analyzing all your known documentation. Even though for one second you might feel a bit dumb for not checking FAG or an online family tree, it is so rewarding to learn you know what you are doing. Usually this is less work than trying to find confirmation for an event date found in an unsourced book, tree, website. Congratulations. Great post! ~ Cathy

    1. There was the "duh" moment when I wondered why I hadn't checked FAG during my process. However, I guess the good thing about something like this, is that we learn that we actually do know how to research and come to correct conclustions, based on evidence we have located. That is a happy thought. But, oh my, finding that memorial on a last minute whim, prior to posting....that was priceless.
      Thanks for your comment Cathy :)

  2. I'm doing the happy dance with you! I've been in a similar position more than once. Those people who have been the hardest challenge have been the most enjoyable. I'm working on two that I would like to have an enjoyable challenge conclusion myself.

    1. I wish you the very best of luck in your search and hope you can also do the "happy dance."
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Yes - keep checking FindAGrave! I have had a few happy dances myself when checking it. Makes me want to get out and fulfill some F-G photo requests to pay it forward.

    1. Elizabeth - I've truly had some amazing finds on FindAGrave. This isn't the first time I've located a memorial that had only just recently been created. If I'd have looked a month ago, this one wouldn't have been there. I try to fulfill requests in my area, but they are snapped up pretty quickly. It is rewarding paying it forward.
      Happy hunting.

  4. I am finding a lot of information with the city directories and newspaper collections. I am researching my great-grandfather who married 5 times that I know of, but just a day or so ago I found a notice in a newspaper that he had sued the heirs of his 4th wife who was deceased - it gave her maiden name which I had not known and gave me an approximate date for her death. This was in 1912; then in a 1914 and 1916 city directory he was listed with another wife who is not the woman who was his (what I thought) his 5th wife. Looks like the last wife may have been his 6th wife! I have a lot of info about her as she and my grandmother corresponded for many years and she came to visit our family when I was in my early 20s. So now I am looking for info about this possible wife that I did not know existed! Wish me luck, I think I will need it!

    1. That sounds like an interesting story to follow. Great luck with your search.
      Thanks for stopping by.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.