This post picks up where Part I left off….
Details of an untimely death
When Grandpa Ley died in 2008, I was touched to receive a pocket knife from his time in the Boy Scouts and some books he had owned. One of them, Writing and Thinking, bore his signature in the front along with his address at Ohio Wesleyan University, his fraternity letters (Delta Tau Delta), and what looks like a locker combination (34-18-26), preserved on two pages.
I also received a book of his mother’s, The Teacher and the School. The book is inscribed Mary Zula Lucrece Fisher, and contains notes from either her schoolwork, or her time in the classroom, or both. There is an entry “Nov. 27 for Dec. 11”:
Review the Work of term and write down questions that you have concerning the course so far. Next, 12 chaps in Sociology.
On the opposite page is a list of names — Cleo, Doyle, Helen H, William, Billy, Edith S. — that look like students to me, each paired with a notation of award, or something she received or gave: 3 packages, 2 seals, 5 seals, 1 package, etc.
The pages of the textbook, published in 1910, have held up remarkably well. Aside from the notations above, Zula didn’t crease or mark a page. I laugh about how much in contrast that is to the abuse I dish out on my own beloved books.
It helps to have mementos such as these, because the details found in records of our long-dead ancestors can seem cold and encyclopedic. Still, they reveal a lot.
When tracing my family tree, I first set out to confirm birth dates, death dates, parents, where they were living. The extensive online archives of Ohio deaths from 1908 into the 1950s brought me the actual record of Zula’s death, and the baby she was carrying.
According to her death certificate, Zula became sick with influenza in the fifth month of her pregnancy. She contracted pneumonia as well. The illness lasted about six days and ended with the baby’s miscarriage and her death, about 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 1, 1920. Zula was just 24 years old. Grandpa Ley was barely 17 months.
There is also a record for the baby, noted as “Stillborn Ley” in the state files. According to the certificate, she was named for her mother, Mary Zula Ley, and buried beside her in East Avenue Cemetery.
This installment continues in Part 3…