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I love participating in the weekly SNGF posts from Genea-Musings. You can view the original post here. This week’s prompt is:

Who is one of your relatives (ancestor or not) who behaved poorly during his or her life?   It can be any time period.”

I would say my most ‘badly behaved’ relative would be my great-grandfather, Walter Howard Bell. I have started but never finished several posts about him. He has been quite a mystery to me and I have worked a lot on him. There were no stories passed down about him because he died when my grandmother was very young. Everything I know about him came from research!

Walter was born in Illinois in 1881. His family moved around quite a bit during his childhood before settling in Helena, Montana, where Walter’s father Charles was awarded a contract as an architect for the Montana state capitol building. He spent his young adult years working as a bank clerk before moving to Minneapolis in 1906 where he worked as a sales agent for a local quarry.

This is when his “bad boy” days began.


From the Anaconda Standard (MT) 10 Jan 1907

I gather from city directories that Walter met his wife via her sister, who worked as a receptionist at the quarry. Although his fiance, Anna Hertel, was over the age of majority her parents disapproved of the match. Anna suffered from tuberculosis and spent long periods of time away from home in places that would ‘improve her health.’ Using this to their advantage Walter and Anna concocted a ruse. They convinced her doctor to recommend a visit to Montana. Walter and Anna left on separate trains and reunited in Great Falls, MT. The next day January 7, 1907 they married and returned home, accompanied by Walter’s brother who had been married the same day.

11 months later they welcomed a baby girl but the marriage deteriorated soon after that and 1909 is the last time he is listed in a Minneapolis city directory. Anna returned to live with her mother and her official status became “widow ” on all records. She wasn’t listed as “divorced” until her death while residing in a sanatorium 10 years later. Meanwhile Walter has moved to New York. He is living in a rooming house in New Jersey and working out of New York City as a traveling rep for an oil company. On the 1910 census it says he has been married to a woman named Genieve for 2 years (during which time he was still with his first wife) and that this is his first marriage. No other records of her have been located.

In 1911 he marries a woman named Leda Curtis from New York and they move to Chicago where he is working as a traveling rep for another oil company. On the marriage license he lists himself as never married. They have one son together and remain in Chicago for 10 years. In 1921 they move to Dayton, Ohio when Walter gets a job with Gerkin Oil and later with a gas pump company. Within a year Leda and Curtis have returned to Chicago and she, too, lists herself as “widowed” until she remarries.

Grace McKee & Marilynn Bell 1944

Grace and Marilynn, 1943

Walter then married my grandmother, Grace McKee, around 1923. Walter and Grace have one daughter, my grandmother, Marilynn Bell. They live together in Dayton for 10 years before Walter gets a job as a statewide manager for Ohio Oil and the family relocates to Findlay, Ohio. In 1934 Walter dies suddenly and his widow and daughter return home to Dayton.

A traveling salesman married at least 4 times with at least 3 children and possibly some of those marriages overlapping? I’d say that qualifies for ‘poorly behaved’!



I always have fun playing along with Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Genea-Musings! You can check out his prompts on his blog and join in on the fun!

The prompt for May 23rd:

This week’s prompt is to create a map of where you have been using the defocus blog website. Color coding indicates much you have seen of each state:

Red for states where you’ve not spent much time or seen very much.
Amber for states where you’ve at least slept and seen some sights.
Blue for states you’ve spent a lot of time in or seen a fair amount of.
Green for states you’ve spent a great deal of time in on multiple visits.

Where I have been:

Here is my map of the United States (I haven’t visited any Canadian provinces, unfortunately!)

US Map

I have lived in Ohio and recently Indiana. I might not have seen a ton of Indiana but I feel like it deserves green because I live there! I have many relatives in Pennsylvania and Florida in addition to several trips. Blue states I have been to on several trips. Orange states I have probably taken a trip to one or two cities there. Red states I have either driven through on the way elsewhere or I have flown into them to watch a hockey game and never seen anything other than the hotel and the ice rink.

Where my great-great-grandparents lived:

This map represents where my 16 great-great-grandparents lived at the time they married.

Red for states/provinces where one ancestor was born but none were married.
Amber for states/provinces where 2 resided at marriage.
Blue for states/provinces where 4 resided at marriage.
Green for states/provinces where 6 resided at marriage.

Ancestor Map

Most of my dad’s side of the family comes from Ohio with my great-grandmother’s parents also coming from Illinois. My maternal grandmother’s family is entirely from Pennsylvania and my maternal grandfather’s family is entirely from New Jersey. Both had ancestors in the state for generations before they both met and married. I also thought it was interesting to note that only three out of the 16 were born in a different state than they married in, so I tried to represent that in the red states.

The Accidental Genealogist is running her annual “Fearless Females” month of March. I’m so happy to be joining in, although admittedly a little late. I will attempt to catch up before the end of the month. If you want to see her blog and prompts you can look here:

The prompt for March 9:

“Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.”

Marriage Announcement 1895, Asa Woodford & Sabra Cather.

Marriage Announcement 1895, Asa Woodford & Sabra Cather.

Sabra Cather is the sister of my 2nd great-grandmother. She was born in West Virginia in 1859 and moved to Ohio with her family . She was an art teacher at Vincennes University and in 1895 she married a widower in Franklin, Indiana. I have no idea what took them to Franklin. They returned to Asa’s home in West Virginia where he raised cattle. Sabra and Asa had no children. By 1910 Sabra is living in Los Angeles and is listed as divorced, Asa is living in West Virginia and is listed as widowed. Sabra was an accomplished artist. I had no idea that a painting hanging in my parents’ house for years was hers!

The Accidental Genealogist is running her annual “Fearless Females” month of March. I’m so happy to be joining in, although admittedly a little late. I will attempt to catch up before the end of the month. If you want to see her blog and prompts you can look here:

The prompt for March 5:

“How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?”

Are you ready for the least exciting post ever??? I have no stories about how my parents and grandparents met!

Maternal Grandparents: William Straughen and Peggy Barbour

I’m not exactly sure how my grandparents met but my grandmother was a nursing student in Harrisburg and my grandfather was finishing medical school somewhere around there. I asked my mom and she said she never heard any stories about it. I know somewhere I have an oral autobiography my grandmother made and my grandfather did try to write some notes about his life somewhere in the boxes of genealogy I inherited. Maybe one day the story will reveal itself.

Paternal Grandparents: Milton Anderson and Marilynn Bell

I don’t really have a story here either. I know they were from towns about 20 miles apart but there just doesn’t seem to be any intersections in their lives before they married. I asked my dad and he said he heard they met at a party after my grandfather came back from WWII but that is all he knows.

Parents: Craig Anderson and Heidi Straughen

My parents met while working at a pizza place, my dad was finishing college and he was the manager and my mom was working there for the summer after high school. They dated all four years that my mom was in college before they got married. We used to go to that pizza place all the time until it closed around 2000.

The Accidental Genealogist is running her annual “Fearless Females” month of March. I’m so happy to be joining in, although admittedly a little late. I will attempt to catch up before the end of the month. If you want to see her blog and prompts you can look here:

The prompt for March 4:

“Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.”

Peggy Barbour and William Straughen, 15 Jun 1958.

Peggy Barbour and William Straughen, 15 Jun 1958.

I have the application for marriage license and the marriage certificate, which is a little book containing their vows and the signatures of the entire bridal party, along with a thick wedding album.

My grandmother, Peggy Barbour (1937-2008), and my grandfather, William Straughen, got married in my grandmother’s hometown of Chambersburg, PA on June 15, 1958. Peggy’s father ran a funeral home in town, which her family also lived at. And I thought having a cemetery behind my house was creepy! They were married in the First United Evangelical Bretheren Church of Chambersburg, the same church that Peggy’s sister still attends and several cousins have been married in and still attend.

I don’t have any family stories about the wedding, although I will ask my mother when I see her next. I’m sure she has something! Peggy was beautiful and I love the classic elegant look of her wedding dress in these photos.

Robert Barbour, Pauline Coleman, Peggy Barbour, William Straughen, Dorothy Leppert, Frank J. Straughn, 15 Jun 1958.

Robert Barbour, Pauline Coleman, Peggy Barbour, William Straughen, Dorothy Leppert, Frank J. Straughn, 15 Jun 1958.

Leaving the church after the ceremony.

Leaving the church after the ceremony.


Anderson, Bell, McKee, Hartzell, Cather, Straughen/Straughn, Barbour, Coleman, Fisher, Leppert, Shimp

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