Genealogy Again

Being school vacation week, I spent some of my down time on genealogical pursuits. Unraveling family mysteries is nothing short of breath-taking when (and if) those mysteries are unraveled. This week, there were no grand discoveries, however, just more questions.

This week, I had hoped to pin down my great-great-grandmother, Sophronia’s death date and burial. She lived in Indianapolis, Indiana for much of her life, but seems to have moved to Peoria, Illinois in the 1900s.

My great-great grandmother Sophronia Lee Wyant was married a second time after her first husband, William Orrin Wyant,  died. Her new spouse, Roswell Beardsley, was a fire insurance agent in Indianapolis. When Sophronia married Roswell Beardsley in 1878 she had been a widow for about 10 years — and given her actual birth year (not the “corrected” one in the Lee family Bible) she was 42 at the time with a teenage son along for the ride. Family stories are that Roswell was not a very kindly step-father and that my great-grandfather Frederick Wyant went to live with relatives shortly after Roswell and Sophronia married. This is borne out by researching census information.

Things seemed to have soured rather quickly for Sophronia and Roswell: according to the Indianapolis City Directory, Roswell was boarding at the Emmett Hotel and Sophronia, who made her living as a music teacher, boarded at 204 N. Illinois Street. As far as I can tell, neither party ever lived together again, although Sophronia kept the name Beardsley for quite a while even after Roswell died in the 1890s.

And here is where things get a bit messy. In the late 1890s, Sophronia lived with her younger (and presumably more connected – a physician’s wife), sister Julia in Indianapolis. Sometime in the early 1900s, Sophronia left Indianapolis and seems to have lived with my great grandfather Wyant, who by that time was a hotel baker and had a family of his own in Peoria, Illinois. During this time, Sophronia used her first married name – Wyant. I have a scrapbook that she created during this time and the name in the front is indeed Sophronia Wyant. Did she go back to this name when she moved in with my great grandfather? Or is that how an unofficial “divorce” worked in the early 20th century?

With all the mystery surrounding Sophronia’s last name, it is proving to be quite a challenge to trace her last years. Was she buried in Peoria? Was she buried in Indianapolis? So far the answers are alluding me.

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