"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

12 June 2012


Telling our stories from a distant past
Most are remembered, the good and the bad
Like an old winding river in a curious plot
-- "Mystery Game" by Clannad

Out of eight generations in my family, the name Grace has been in five - including the newest, who will celebrate her 2nd birthday this week!  So, to distinguish between the two Graces in this blog, my great-grandmother Grace is referred to as just "Grace", and her mother Grace is referred to as "Grace Cole".

Sometimes I find the most interesting family history tidbits by accident.  I regularly use the well-known genealogy websites for official records, but every now and again, I'll put a name into Google just to see what pops up.  Just recently, I stumbled across an old yearbook with a familiar name in it.

One of the gaps that I've been trying to piece together is Grace Cole's life after her first husband died and before she moved from Virginia to Maryland.  Grace Cole's first husband was Charles Siegel, and in the 1900 U.S. Census, she was living in Richmond, VA with him and their two children, Charles Jr. and Grace.  Charles Sr. died in 1903, and Charles Jr. died in 1908.

Despite searching every which way I can think of, I've been unable to locate Grace Cole in the 1910 and 1920 census records.  Part of the problem arises from not knowing when or where she remarried, or when exactly she moved to Maryland.  The only clues I have are:  1) her brother's obituary from 1917, which still gives her last name as Siegel, and 2) her D.A.R. application, which shows her as dropped in 1919, and has the name Siegel crossed out and replaced with Cole.

Though the younger Grace is also missing in the 1920 census, she does appear in the 1910 census with her great aunt Octavia Gentry, staying at a hotel not far from where her grandmother was living in Mathews County, VA.

But a Google search turned up another puzzle piece – a 1917 yearbook from the State Normal School in Fredericksburg, VA.  The school has gone through a few name changes over the years, and is now the University of Mary Washington.  It started out as an all-girls school, but became co-ed in the 1970s.  Many libraries have been digitizing public-domain books and making them freely available on various websites such as the Internet Archive.  UMW has digitized all of its yearbooks, known as "The Battlefield", from 1913 up though 2010.

It seems that in 1917, when she was about 19 years old, Grace was a student there as a member of the class of 1920:

Paging through the yearbook, Grace was involved in a variety of school activities, from playing tennis...

 (Now we know where Dad & my sister get their tennis skills from!)

... to Glee Club...

... to a student group called "Sphinx":

Comparing with the previous yearbook's photos and names, Grace has to be one of the girls in the bottom row.  I showed the yearbook to my dad, and he thinks that Grace is the third photo.

No yearbook was made in 1918, and Grace is not in the yearbooks for either 1919 or 1920, so it looks like she only attended the school for that one year.   Grace's cousin Lucy Sears was also a student there, a member of the class of 1918, and was also a member of "Sphinx".

So it seems that Grace Cole and Grace were still living in Virginia for most of the 1910s, and probably didn't move to Maryland until after 1919.  Searching marriage records in Virginia and DC has turned up no matches for Robert & Grace Cole;  at that time, Maryland still kept separate records for the Baltimore City and the counties, and has no complete index, making a search tricky at best.  All I know for sure is that the three of them were living together in Baltimore by the 1930 U.S census.

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