Thursday, October 11, 2012

From Cradle to Grave - William T. Burnett

William T. Burnett was my second-great grandfather on my father's side. He was born January 16, 1861 in Kingsville, Missouri to Thomas Jefferson Burnett and Harriet Potts. I don't know much about William other than his appearance on various census documents.
William is found on the 1870 census in Cass County, Missouri with his parents and sisters.
In 1880 the family has moved to Kingsville in Johnson County, Missouri and William is listed as working on a farm, presumably his father's.

Now we lose William for twenty years, thanks to the loss of the 1890 census. We pick William up again in 1900.
He has been very busy! The 1900 census gives us a lot of information on William. He was married sometime around 1886 and has had four children: Iola, Audrey (my great-grandfather), Irene and Oliver. The family now lives at 2615 Harvard Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. I can find no official record of his marriage to Mattie or Martha Landes in 1886.

In the 1910 census Martha Burnett is listed at 3020 Montgall Ave., Kansas City, Missouri.
William is noticeably missing. And Martha is listed as a widow. Sad. However, I know that William isn't dead because I already have his death certificate listing his death in 1932. Interesting.

In 1920 Martha is living with her daughter, Lola, and is listed as divorced. In 1930 she is again in Lola's household and listed as widowed. Make up your mind already! Is the kat dead or not? During these years I have not been able to find William with any concrete proof. I found one potential match but he is married with additional children, none of which are mentioned in his obituary.
William T. Burnett's obituary printed in The Kansas City Times April 28, 1932
His obituary lists Mattie as his widow. And, at the time of his death he is living with his brother, Marion. So what happened between 1900 and 1932?
William is buried in Kingsville Cemetery, Kingsville, Missouri, along with his parents. I have not found any information on a divorce between William and Martha. I'm not even sure where to look. They would have been living in Jackson County, Missouri, so I'll start there.

William's missing pieces:

- Where was he between 1900 and 1932?
- Divorce decree between William and Martha.


Debi Austen said...

Sounds a little like a situation we have going on with a former employee. He died a few months ago and everyone was surprised to find a wife! He never talked about a wife and lived alone so everyone thought he was divorced. I guess they just led two very separate lives. Only now she has life insurance, 401(k), etc. coming to her and faces tax burdens because of that. Maybe that's what was going on with William and Mattie.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Yes, I think that is very possible. I will never know what kept them separated...unless it is mentioned in the divorce documentation. I've sent a request to the county court house...we'll see what it brings.

Wendy said...

Divorce proceedings often fall under Chancery Causes. Does your state library or state archives have an index? Page County, Virginia put its Chancery Causes online, and my great-grand aunt's whole divorce proceedings are there, 243 pages worth. Like you, I've found ancestors alternating between divorced and widowed in the census records. I don't know if the terms were used loosely and interchangeably or "widowed" was just less embarrassing.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

I imagine that the big "D" was still socially frowned upon in the early 1900s so I'm guessing you are right: less embarrassing. I did a Google search and it appears that divorce proceedings are kept at the county court house in the county they lived in. I just wrote them a letter and mailed it today. We'll see what I find!

Debi Austen said...

My in-laws were divorced in the mid 1950's and my mother-in-law still talks about how she was "shunned" in the neighborhood she moved into in 1962. She always felt like the married women thought she would try to steal their husbands!