Wednesday, February 1, 2017

AN INTERESTING FIND TODAY ~ Author/Professor - Ida Gertrude Riley Duncan 1892-1989

I began poking around in my Legacy database this morning trying to figure out which ancestor I wanted to work on.

On my desk was a blank application for a vital record for Ruth Duncan Cunningham Hogue.

Ruth was the only daughter of my maternal grandmother’s beloved sister, Edna “Denny” Mabel Bowden.  I was debating whether I “needed” that death record from 1978, from Missouri, or could I live without it?
Next thing I know I’m looking at Ruth’s father John Brown Duncan.  He and Ruth’s mother divorced in 1911, after just 4 years of marriage.  John later married Ida Gertrude Riley.

Here’s a screenshot from Legacy. What stood out to me was the absence of a cause of death on either John Duncan or his second wife, Ida Gertrude Riley.

Duncan screenshot-annotated

I’m know I haven’t been able to locate an image of John’s death certificate, but I do have index records for it.  I also tried to locate an obituary for John Duncan, but was unsuccessful.

UPDATE - Thanks to a comment from a reader, I now have John's death certificate.  Thanks Marian.  It was on and I'm not sure how I missed it.  But, I'm sure grateful for the help.  I was able to fill in that space for his cause of death and here's the new screenshot.


As far as Ida, different story.  Remember from my recent post, I talked about the research notes I keep?  Here is my research note from Ida’s death notes.

12/30/12 - Date & place of birth and date & place of death are from the Lake Family Tree owned by tucker08 on 
The dates have not yet been verified.

This note tells me two things.  I last looked at Ida’s death information in Dec 2012 and that I have not verified the information.

Since that date, I know that the Detroit Free Press has been put online on  It’s allowed me to find over 100 obituaries and other articles for my family.
Maybe I could find an obituary for Ida Gertrude Riley Duncan, since she died in the Detroit suburb of Livonia.  If the information from that family tree I found on Ancestry is correct, then Ida lived for 44 years after John Duncan’s death.  She could have remarried.

I went to the website and here was the search criteria I used.

Idas records on newspaperscom-annotated
Screenshot from search

There were 136 matches, but the first four were the ones I needed.

I selected the first article and was surprised to find it was quite a write up.  Not your normal, short obituary.  And….look there’s a photo included!

HIGGINSON DUNCAN_Ida nee RILEY_Obiit_DetroitFreePress_Jul_10__1989_pg 23_cropped
Compiled screenshot of article published in Detroit Free Press, 10 Jul 1989, page 23

Ida is not a blood relation to me, but I can’t help but find this interesting.  She was an author and a professor.  According to this article she was well liked and witty.  Sounds like a lady I would like to have known.

From this obituary I learned that she had remarried after John’s death in 1945.  I haven’t located any records on that marriage….yet.

Next, I thought I would take a look online and try to find some of Ida’s books, mentioned in her obituary.  I located all five of her books, available on

The Complete Book of Progressive Knitting
Knit to Fit: A Comprehensive Guide to Hand and Machine Knitting and Crocheting
Pattern Drafting and Foundation and Flat Pattern Design
The American woman's complete sewing book
The Complete Book of Needlecraft

In looking further I located a couple of knitting bloggers who have written about Ida’s wonderful books.  They give them high marks.

I don’t know what became of Ida’s second husband (whom I believe may have been a man named Harry Higginson).  That belief is only based on a couple of references in online trees and has not been verified.

Whatever happened, Ida is buried with her first husband, John Brown Duncan and their daughter Alice Jean Duncan Lake, at Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo, Lucas, Ohio.

Here are links to their memorials.  There is no way to send a message to the person who took the headstone photos so I cannot ask permission to use them.  Note:  I do find it frustrating not to be able to contact a FindAGrave contributor.

Memorial for John B. Duncan #131983103 (there is an error on this memorial page regarding a son named John Duncan born 1901)

Memorial for Ida R. Higginson Duncan #131983166

Memorial fo Jean Duncan Lake #131983221

Even though Ida was the second wife of the husband of my Grandaunt, this was an interesting story to research.  Sometimes…you just “have” to know more.

If you have any information relating to this family, I would love to hear from you. 
Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2017   Diane Gould Hall


  1. This is definitely an interesting find. Sometimes researching these extended family members can be fascinating.

    You could try to contact this FindAGrave member by going to one of the member's memorials (and this photographer appears to manage these memorials), click on "Edit" and then click on "Suggest any other correction or addition" which sends an email. Now whether or not the graver will reply is another question...

    1. Elizabeth,
      I agree. Although I don't spend a lot of my time on extended family, sometimes I can't help but follow those leads. And thanks for the tip on contacting the FindAGrave member. I'll try that.

  2. I think that John's death certificate is here:

    Seeing the image requires a log-in.

    1. Marian. Oh my gosh! Thank you so much. How did I miss that? You're wonderful!

  3. Relative or not these are very cool finds.

    1. I think we all have a difficult time ignoring these kinds of finds Anna. They are way too interesting.


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.