Aug 13, 2011

Part 2: Finding Ancestors & Secrets You Didn't Know Existed

This is part 2 of my experiences finding ancestors and secrets when you did not know they even existed.  You can read my first story here Part 1.

First a little background.  My great grandfather Eugene Ellsworth Lammay has always been my biggest brick wall.  The mysteries that surrounded him are what got me into genealogy in the first place.  Grandma always said her father Eugene abandoned the family (11 children!).  He just disappeared and no one knew what became of him.  She said he worked in sales (appears he worked for the railroad from my research which could account for his traveling) constantly coming and going.  It was said he would hang around just long enough to get great grandmother pregnant then would be off again.

Not until my grandmother was 91 did she break down and tell us that the last time Eugene left he ran off with her mother's niece.  I do have some evidence this may be true so my suspicion has always been he ran off around 1920 with Emma Huber Schultz and had another family.  But to date I have no idea what became of him or Emma.

What I discovered was Eugene had a "third family" that I had never heard mentioned.  The unsettling part is he was involved with this other woman right from the beginning of his marriage to my great grandmother!  Here is how I found the two half siblings of my grandmother.

Lammay is not a common name which has been a great help in my research.  Because I am always searching for Eugene I routinely do searches on the Lammay last name.  Everyone in Allegheny County, PA with that name is connected.  During one of these searches a marriage record for Eva Lammay to a Ellsworth Ream came up.  No Eva or Ream surname in my Lammay family plus they were from Washington County--none of my Lammay's ever lived there.  Then in a broad census search a Stephen Lammay in Washington County appeared.  Again no Stephen's in the family.  It never occurred to me Eugene was their father because they were the same age as two of my grandmother's older siblings and I believed his cheating ways did not start until later in his life.  I thought maybe Eugene had a brother I didn't know about and put them on the back burner of my research.

When I decided to start investigating Stephen & Eva I started with published family trees.  Stephen and Eva were siblings.  Their mother was Sarah Ellen Lowery, again no recognition.  Sarah had numerous children all to her husband James Johns with the exception of Stephen & Eva whose last name was Lammay.  Oddly none of the trees had a father for these two.  Then I looked at the birthplace of Stephen & Eva and it was like getting hit in the head with a brick!  They were both born in Tarentum, PA.  That is where Eugene grew up, where he married my great grandmother and they lived until about 1900.

I feverishly began digging.  Found obits for both.  No mention of parents for Eva.  But there it was in Stephen's obit.  Mother Sarah Lowery Johns, Father Eugene Lammay.  I sent for Stephen's death certificate and there he was listed as father--Eugene Lammay!  Sarah had moved to Washington County when she married James Johns so that is why they grew up there.

From years of census research I know every Lammay in the Tarentum area.  There was only one Eugene Lammay.  I had found two half siblings of my grandmother's.  Stephen was born in May 1880.  Eugene married my great grandmother in 1880.  Because I don't have a marriage date I don't know if Stephen was born before or after they married.  I did find Stephen (a few months old) in the 1880 census.  Sarah was using Lowery, her maiden name so I assume she and Eugene never married.  She was living in Armstrong County with her sister and Stephen was listed as Lowery.  Eva was born in 1883.  Using birth dates and counting backwards I determined that Sarah became pregnant with Eva at about the time my great grandmother was 8 months pregnant with twins.

So---the big questions are did my grandmother know about her siblings Stephen & Eva?  Did my great grandmother know about Sarah?  Did Sarah know about my great grandmother?  I do not know.  None of my grandmother's sisters ever mentioned these people.  She had two sisters that were more willing to spill secrets and neither of them ever mentioned this at least that I know about.  How did Eugene keep this secret (if he tried) in Tarentum in the 1880's?  Tarentum was a small town.  He obviously continued to see Sarah since he had a second child with her.  I am also curious to know if Eugene was involved in Stephen & Eva's lives as they grew up.  They were raised using his last name and Eugene was mentioned in Stephen's obit.

I may never know the answers.  I have not been able to connect with any descendants of Stephen or Eva to see what family stories they were told.  So now I often wonder--are there more siblings out there I do not know about?

Research Tips I Learned From This Experience

  • Broad based searches can produce results, never know what may turn up!
  • Do not let the facts you "think" you know define your research.  Keep an open mind.
  • Always check out your ancestor's siblings.  I may never have looked into Stephen & Eva if I was not trying to find a possible brother of Eugene.
Stayed turned for part three which is story about Eugene Lammay's parents.   I discovered the apple does not fall far from the tree plus I may not even be a "Lammay"!

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