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Dee Burris Blakley ([personal profile] dee_burris) wrote2011-02-13 03:18 pm
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Rewriting history as you go...

It's inevitable when you start looking at family history, you encounter varying levels of dysfunction. I don't think there really is a family with no dysfunction at all. The very nature of humanity begs dysfunctional responses and behavior.

From the tragic life of one of my Williams grand-uncles (which ended in suicide and was spun by his survivors as an automobile accident a heart attack) to the decades long wandering of my g-g-grandfather James L Burris (which resulted in two separate families), my family history is replete with surprising twists and turns - many of which have created hurt and confusion that linger to this day.

But it wasn't until I started taking a harder look at Essie Chapin that I was able to witness - for the first time in the decade I've been searching - the rewriting of history as you go.


Essie Chapin was my great great grand-aunt. Because of this blog, I "met" three of her direct descendants.

One of them is seriously seeking answers to questions about his roots. I am committed to helping him find those answers, if I can.

The other two believe they already have all the answers, and their primary source of information seems to be a family Bible, plus the oral history that was handed down to them. They do not wish to share any written documentation in their possession. Neither is convinced I even descend from "their" Chapins.

Fair enough.

I just hope they are not equally wedded to a refusal to look at other written documentation that cracks the veneer of what they believe to be true, and lets sunshine in.

Because they might gain new perspective.


Essie Chapin had four husbands and two children that I have been able to document. One of the "family secrets" is the issue of the father of her son, Elbert C Shephard, known to his family as "E C."

If Essie's first husband, George Franklin Shephard, was not E C's father, then Essie started lying about it very early on. My understanding is that Frank left the family in 1893, when E C was 2 years old. If Elbert W Carr (whom I am having *great* difficulty locating) was E C Shephard's father, and Essie continued to live with Frank Shephard all that time, well...

In the 1895 Kansas state census, she said she was a native of Kansas - hadn't come from anywhere else. At that time, her daughter Broshia was 4 years old, and E C was 3. Essie's brother Cyrus was also living with them. She said both children were born in Kansas.

In the 1900 census, Essie said the father of both her children was born in Iowa. Frank Shephard was born in Iowa.

So where did the two cousins with the Bible records get the idea that Frank Shephard *was not* E C's father? Their comments on my blog entries seem to indicate it was from the family Bible and E C's sister, Broshia Shephard.

So, that stuff was written down in a Bible? That didn't make it gospel.


The more I learn about Broshia Shephard Boorman, the less credibility I am able to put into anything she allegedly said.

Broshia went through at least 12 years of her life saying she was a widow before her husband actually died.

Joseph Aloysius Boorman was born on 23 Jan 1892 in Altoona, Blair County, PA to David C Boorman and Sarah E Monaghan. According to census records, he and Broshia Shephard (who, according to the cousins with the Bible, preferred to be known as Broshia Lebolt - the surname of her mother's third husband) married in 1914.

They had 3 children - Broshia, Adaline and David. In the 1930 census, Broshia Boorman was listed as the married head of her household, and Joseph was not enumerated in that household.

By 1941, the Polk's City Directory for Altoona, PA had a listing for Broshia Boorman, widow of Joseph.

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Ditto 1945...

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1948/49 City Directory...

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I have no idea what happened between Joseph and Broshia Boorman. Maybe they were divorced. Why not just say that?

Saying "He is dead to me," is one thing.

But saying "He. Is. Dead." is a whole 'nother deal.


One of the ironic twists in that lie was that even during part of the time Broshia was holding herself out to be a widow, Joseph Boorman lived 98 miles from his children in York, PA.

His World War II draft registration card listed his address as 316 South Duke Street in York.

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He signed the card on 27 Apr 1942.


According to his obituary in the Altoona Mirror on 24 Jul 1953, Joseph Boorman died on Wednesday, 22 Jul 1953.

He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Altoona.


If any of the Chapin kin want to produce some documents, I'm happy to look at them.

[identity profile] nolichuckyroots.blogspot.com (from livejournal.com) 2011-02-13 09:44 pm (UTC)(link)
I will say the "widow" designation may not be that uncommon. My personal favorites are my husband's great grandparents. They separated after years of marriage and are both enumerated as widowed in the 1930 census - living in the same town they'd lived their entire lives. No more than 2 miles apart as the crow flies.

[identity profile] oakmouse.livejournal.com 2011-02-13 11:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Interestingly, I've been finding out a few previously buried family scandals this weekend too. Some of the relatives don't want these things to come out; others are fascinated. Such is life, I suppose... not to mention family politics.