Monday, January 23, 2017

52 ANCESTORS IN 52 WEEKS ~ Week #3–My great grandfather–William Wallace Lindsay 1859-1931 (a bit of a mystery)

GGrandpaWmLindsay-repaired headshot
Headshot of William W. Lindsay cropped from group photo

Today’s post is about my great grandfather, William Wallace Lindsay. 

Thank you to Amy Johnson Crow who writes No Story Too Small, for this theme.

William Wallace Lindsay was born on 18 Oct 1859 in Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland to William Lindsay (abt 1830 - 4 Jul 1898) and Mary Wallace (abt 1832 – 17 May 1895)

Here is his birth record from Scotland
LINDSAY_William_birth record_18 Oct 1859_DundeeScotland
Birth record for William Lindsay - Scotland, 18 Oct 1859

There were 6 known children born to William & Mary as follows:

1. Robert (1852-1911)
2. Mary Ann (abt 1853 – bef 1898)
3. John (abt 1856 – bef 1901)
4. Elizabeth “Betsy” (1857-1931)
5. William Wallace  - my great grandfather
6. Richard “Dick” (1862-1937)

I find my William living with his family, in Dundee, Angus, Scotland, in the 1861 & 1871 Scottish census.  His father worked as a Linen Weaver.  By 1881 William is living as a boarder in the Euphemia Lamb household, aged 22, unmarried, with no occupation listed.

In the 1882 Detroit City Directory I located William W. Lindsay boarding at 19 Elizabeth e., working as a clk at Am Nat Bank.  Three entries above him on the page is Robert Lindsay, boarding with John McRobbie (Robert was married to an Isabella McRobbie for a short time, but we don’t know much about that family)

1882_LINDSAY_William W_boarding 19 Elizabeth_DetroitMich

My question when I look at city directories, is always, who else is living at the same address as my ancestor?

In this case I find a Jane Lindsay (wid James) also boarding at 19 Elizabeth e.  How is Jane Lindsay?  How might she be related to us?  I have no James and no Jane in my database.

I don’t have an immigration record for my grandfather, William and his brother Robert for the time period preceding this city directory listing.  My information has him coming to the U.S. in 1886.

Further research has me coming to the conclusion that the William W. listed in this directory is not my William W.  I have excluded him after finding a U.S. census record for 1880 that lists Jane Lindsay and her son, William W., bank clerk.  Every record I have for my William W. gives his parents names as William & Mary (not James & Jane).
NOTE:  Sometimes we can go down a wrong path because names and dates are close matches.  In this case I was able to come to a negative conclusion and eliminate the incorrect information.

On 28 Apr 1886 I have a ship manifest for William Lindsay on the ship State of Indiana.  Also on this same ship, on another page is Bessie Fitzcharles.  I know that Elizabeth Fitzcharles went by the name “Bessie” and I have several records showing that nickname, including her headstone.

Here are the ship manifests showing William and Bessie.

LINDSAY_William_age 24_passenger list 28 Apr 1886 on the ship State of Indiana_annotated
Ship manifest for William Lindsay 1886
FITZCHARLES_Bessie_NY Passenger list_1886_April 28_ship State of Indiana_annotated
Ship manifest for Bessie Fitzcharles 1886

William & Bessie were married in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan on 21 May 1886, just 24 days after their arrival in the U.S.

LINDSAY_WilliamWallace to Elizabeth FITZCHARLES_1886_Detroit
Marriage record for William Lindsay and Bessie Fitzcharles - 1886, Detroit, Wayne, Michigan

My records originally indicated 4 children born to this couple.  However, I later discovered they may have had 5 children.  While I was growing up, I was only aware that my grandmother had 2 sisters and one brother.  That fifth child may have been stillborn or died shortly after birth.  However, since a court record and one census record list 5 children born to the couple, I have included this child as “unknown” in my database.

The known children were: Ellen W. (1887-1927), Marie Wallace (my grandmother) (1888-1970), Bessie (1892-1971) and William “Bill” (1894-1976).

Here is a family photo showing William & Elizabeth with their 4 children.  This is the only photo I have of my great grandfather, William Wallace Lindsay.  Although my family took lots of pictures throughout the years he was alive, I haven’t found any others of him.

William Lindsay Family circa 1896
The William Lindsay family - circa 1896  Standing in the back are Ellen & Bessie Lindsay - seated is William W. Lindsay holding his son William Lindsay - the girl in the front on the right is my grandmother, Marie and behind her is Bessie

I find William & Elizabeth with four children in the 1900 census in Detroit.  He is working as a Machinist.
In the 1910 census I find William Sr. age 49 and his 15 year old son, William, Jr. living in the Roller household in Detroit.  This is evidence that there might have been trouble in the marriage as I find his wife, “Mrs. Elizabeth Lindsay”, working as a housekeeper in the home of Christ Hough and living in Mt. Clements, Macomb, Michigan.  Two doors from her is Charles Hart who is connected to my Gould family.  This is also one of the records that lists her as the mother of 5 children, of whom 4 are living.

On 18 May 1912 my great grandparents divorce was made final.  It was William who filed for the divorce and the grounds were “cruelty.”

LINDSAY_Divorce of William and Elizabeth Fitzcharles_1912_Mich
Divorce record for William & Elizabeth Lindsay - 18 MAY 1912 date of final judgement

Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952
Name:William Lindsay
Marriage Date:21 May 1886
Marriage Place:Detroit, Michigan
Decree Date:18 May 1912
Decree Place:Wayne, Michigan, USA
Spouse Name:    Elizabeth Lindsay
State File Number:40,660
Number of Children:5
Divorce Status:Granted

I next find William listed in the 1914 Detroit city directory.  Working as a Machinist and living on Labadie Ave.  I also located William in the 1916, 1918, 1919 and 1920 city directory listing for Detroit.  He is working as a Machinist or Operator in each listing.

I cannot locate him in the 1920 U.S. Federal census, but not for lack of trying.

Both my cousin, Paula, and myself believe that we have located a marriage record for William in the Ontario Marriages on 8 Jan 1912.

This would have been prior to his divorce from Bessie.  
Here is the record we found.

LINDSAY_William W marriage to Sarah FEARNLEY_8 Jan 1912_EssexOntarioCanada
Marriage record for William W. Lindsay and Sarah Fearnley - 8 Jan 1912

I have created a red box around identifying items on this record.  I have indicated with a red star items in conflict with what we know.

List of identifying items:
Name – William W. Lindsay
Place of Birth – Mich. (William W. Lindsay was born in Scotland)
Nationality – Amer. (this could be true as he applied for citizenship)
Bachelor or Widower – W (indicating he is a widower, which he isn’t)
Age 49
Religious denomination – Pres.
Name in full of Father – Wm. Lindsay
Rank or profession of Father – Machinist
Name and maiden name of Mother – Mary Wallace
Status in #5 on this form – Widower (again, he is not a widower)

NOTE: It seemed to be a Lindsay family tradition, in some cases, to go over to Canada from Detroit to get married.  But, it seems that was only the tradition if the marriage was somehow questionable.  Two of William’s daughters, Bessie and Marie were married in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  One listed herself as a spinster, when she wasn’t, and we believe the other one was pregnant at the time of her marriage in 1912.

I have tried to locate any other record with William & Sarah in it and I am unable to.

William’s ex-wife, Bessie, died on 11 Jul 1914 in Detroit.  Her cause of death was carcinoma of the jaw.  She was 49 years old.
The last record I have for William when he was living, is the 1930 census.  He is living with his daughter, Bessie and her family at 9416 Burnett in Detroit, Michigan.  He is listed as a widower.

William died on 23 Apr 1931 in Detroit.  His cause of death was Cerebral hemorrhage.  He is buried in Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit along with other Lindsay family members.  

His ex-wife Bessie is buried at Grand Lawn Cemetery with her daughter Marie Lindsay Gould and other Gould family members.

Here is his death certificate.  This was provided to me by the State of Michigan and was the best copy they could offer.

LINDSAY_William_1862-1931_death cert_Michigan
Death certificate for William W. Lindsay - 1931

I have an obituary and a funeral notice for William Wallace Lindsay.  These were shared with me by my cousin, Marian.
LINDSAY_William W._Obit from newspaper_DetroitMich

There is a memorial on FindAGrave for William, but no photo of his headstone.  My cousin, Marian and I have been to Woodmere Cemetery to the Lindsay section.  At that time we could not locate a headstone.  I later learned that it was buried 12” down.  A member of the cemetery staff found it.  It has not been photographed.

His cemetery card states that he was buried on 25 Apr 1931 in the South Lake Section, Lot 16.  No grave number is listed.

FindAGrave #21178174

My thoughts – I used to hear my grandmother, Marie, William’s daughter, talk about her family.  I don’t remember her talking much about her father.  Why?  Was there a lot of bitterness after he divorced Bessie?  William had at least 8 grandchildren, most of whom were in Detroit, including my father.  Why is he not seen in any of our family photos?  I’d like to know more, but maybe I never will.

If you are connected to this family in any way, I’d love to hear from you.


Breaking Down a Brick Wall - Finding Elizabeth Fitzcharles' Parents - my 10 year search ends

Birth Records with Incorrect Names - What Would You Think?

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2017   Diane Gould Hall


  1. This was easy to follow and you found some great records. My post for this week will also contain negative proof. The tree is pruned of three generations - I don't know if I should dance or pout. Thank you for the mention although credit should go to Amy Johnson Crow who started the challenge in 2014. ~ Cathy

    1. Thanks Cathy. You know I thought about that when I posted (re Amy). I'll make a correction. Most of those records were already in my files and I had them entered in Legacy. However, I did make a couple of new discoveries and in reviewing one record I came upon the actual town in Ireland where William's father was born. That's huge. I can't take 3 days to write all of these 52 ancestor posts though, so I need to speed it up. LOL!
      As always, thanks for your comment.

  2. I am having trouble finding information about a divorce in Michigan between Rufus Burnham Winfield Plummer and Bessie McKay. Divorce would have happened after their 12 Nov 1893 marriage and spring of 1894. Marriage took place in Berrien county. Not sure where divorce was. It made news because she found out he had a wife and 4 children in Oregon.


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.