History Detective Work

Sometimes when the facts don’t add up in your family story, you may find yourself playing History Detective. I found a case that looked like either the dead had been resurrected, or someone had defrauded the state of North Carolina.

In researching Oswald Alexander of Mecklenburg County, N. C., (1836-1915) I found that after his death, his wife Mary R. Alexander applied for a Confederate widow’s pension. However, in the cemetery of Sharon Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, I had seen and photographed the grave monument of Oswald’s wife, Mary Reid Alexander, who died in 1894!

Over a period of years, I collected records indicating that:

In Mecklenburg County, N. C.,

  1. Mary Frances Reid married John Mack White, who died in the Civil War.
  2. Mary Reid next married Oswald Alexander, and about 25 years later, she died.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina,

  1. John A. Walker married Mary Crain, and they had a daughter named Mary Crawford Walker, and then Mary C. Walker, Sr., died.
  2. John A. Walker married Mary Rutland, and they had a son named John Rutland Walker.
  3. John Walker, Sr., died.

Then,

  1. Oswald Alexander married Mary Rutland Walker in South Carolina, in 1897.
  2. Oswald died and Mary R. Alexander applied for a confederate widow’s pension in N. C.
  3. Mary R. Alexander and Mary C. Stough, both widows, shared a household in Mecklenburg County. Mary Alexander, only 5 years older than Mary Stough, was her stepmother.

Altogether, I found records for two Mary C. Walkers, two Mary R. Alexanders, and two John Walkers, whose life histories intertwined and criss-crossed the border between the Carolinas.

The death certificate of Mary Crawford Walker Stough, which gave the names of her spouse, parents, and stepmother, helped to clarify their relationships and put them in their proper places on the family tree. With the help of newspaper announcements of marriages and deaths, I was able to sort out these people and find their official records. After a thorough search, I was relieved to find that the dead stayed buried and all parties were honest!

Copyright 2018 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.

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