The more you learn, the more you don’t know.
One of the men named Henry Gines (and that’s a whole other story) was married to a woman named Adline Gines. Wanting to know more about her, I obtained her death certificate some time ago. [Her name is spelled “Adline” on her death certificate and I’ve seen it spelled that wya at least one other place. On the census records, not surprisingly, it varies from “Adline” to “Adeline” to “Adaline”.]
The death certificate states that she was born in Benton, Louisiana on May 10, 1864. Benton is in Bossier Parish, east of Caddo Parish. Her parents were from were from Vanceville, between Benton and Shreveport. But the thing that caught my eye first was the name of the informant: Bell Wheeler.
About five years ago, I had come across the name of Belle Wheeler in an index of California deaths. The index indicated that she was from Louisiana, but had died in San Francisco. The index also included the information that her father’s surname was Thomas and her mother’s surname was Gines. At the time, it was taking literally years to get death certificates from California, so after awhile I forgot about Belle Wheeler. When I saw her name on Adeline’s death certificate, my interest in her was re-kindled.
There were more than a few folks named Belle Wheeler or Belle Thomas in Louisiana. I eventually found that Belle Thomas had married Mose Wheeler sometime between 1900 and 1910. Mose Wheeler died in 1922. Belle Wheeler turns up a number of times in the Shreveport city directory living at 1146 Crofton Avenue in Shreveport, the same address as Adeline Gines. But the nature of their relationship was not clear.
Recently I found that I could get death certificates from the City and County of San Francisco much faster than from the state. So I sent $12 to the San Francisco Vital Records office and in about a week, I had Belle Wheeler’s death certificate. And that’s when things began to get strange.
According to her death certificate, Belle Thomas Wheeler was born on December 25, 1897 and died on January 19, 1954 (sadly of carbon monoxide poisoning from an improper;y ventilated heater. The coroner declared it an accident). Her father is said to be Tom Thomas, and her mother . . . Adeline Gines!
I went to find such a family in the census records. I found one relevant record. In the 1900 census of St Landry Parish, the household of Tom Thomas was enumerated thusly:
|THOMAS, TOM||Head||B||M||Jun 1862||38||M||8|
|——-, ADELINE||Wife||B||F||Jun 1876||24||M||8|
|———-, AZIA||Daughter||B||F||Apr 1894||6||S|
|BRIDE, BELLE||Sis-in-L||B||F||Feb 1880||20||[conc?]||X|
|BIBY, ELIZABETH||Niece||B||F||Feb 1891||9||S|
|JACQUES, NICODEMUS||Nephew||B||M||May 1898||2||S|
Consider this for a moment. Tom and Adeline Thomas have been married for eight years in 1900. Note that Belle Wheeler’s death certificate states that she was born in December 1897. Note further that no child named “Belle” appears with this family on the 1900 census. Butwho is Belle Bride and what does “conc”, in the space for marital status, mean?
Well, I alos found in the 1900 census the following record from Concordia Parish:
|THOMAS, TOM||Head||B||M||Dec 1868||32||M||20|
|——-, ANNA||Wife||B||F||May 1869||31||M||20|
|———-, BELLE||Daughter||B||F||Jul 1883||17||S|
|——-, MAJOR||Son||B||M||Nov 1885||15||S|
|——-, MARY||Daughter||B||F||Oct 1889||11||S|
Compare these two records. Note that the Concordia Parish record has a person named “Belle” who’s actually a minor and whose name is Belle Thomas. But her birth date doesn’t match the death certificate. It’s off by fourteen years, which doesn’t even seem close enough for “government work.” And what about the wife/mother’s name: Anna for Adeline? It’s almost as if these two records ran into each other and each picked some of the other’s stuff before going their separate ways!
On the matter of Belle Thomas’s supposed December 1897 birth, in the 1900 census, I found a Bella Thomas in Plaquemines Parish, born August 1897; but her parents were Joseph and Susan. I also found a Bell Thomas in Red River Parish, born April 1898; but her parents were King and Sarah. It’s more likely that the informant, said to be Belle’s daughter, got the birth date wrong rather than the parents’ names.
Then I found Belle Wheeler on the 1910 census in Bossier, then in 1920 and 1930 in Caddo Parish. But this Belle Wheeler was born in about 1890. This Belle Wheeler was married to Mose Wheeler. And this is the Belle Wheeler who lived at Adeline Gines’ address. So this is the Belle Wheeler who signed Adline Gines’ death certificate and this is the Belle Wheeler whose mother was said to be Adline Gines.
Now if Adline Gines was the mother of Belle Wheeler who was born in about 1890, when did Adline marry Henry Gines? Well, Henry’s death certificate says that he died in 1934. It lists his spouse as “Adline Gines” of Vanceville, Lousiana. She’s actually the informant. So we knew that they were married sometime before 1930. In the Caddo Parish Clerk of Court’s office, I found a record of a 1921 marriage between Henry Gines and “Addie Clay.” Is “Addie Clay” really “Addie” Thomas? Did she marry someone else after Tom Thomas? And, by the way, what happened to Tom Thomas?
I have a hard time sorting out the post-1910 Tom Thomas I want from the numerous Tom Thomases in northwest Louisiana at the time. A possibility is one Tom Thomas, 66 years old, who in 1930 lived in Bossier parish with a 17 year old grandson. His marital status is given as “widowed.” But Adeline was still alive. If t6his our man, then either (1) he (or whoever gave the census information) didn’t know that Adeline was still alive, though no longer married to him; or (2) he had married someone else after Adeline, and she had died; or (3) either the informant or the census taker would rather have reported widowhood than divorce (I’ve suspected that that was sometimes the case, especially in the southern states).
A better prospect is another Tom Thomas, 6o years old, who lived in the same area of Bossier Parish as the man disucssed above. But this second man lived alone.
Even death certificate give little help in pinpointing the “right” Tom Thomas.
Here is a summary of what we believe we “know”:
- That Adline Gines was born Adline Jackson in Bossier Parish Louisiana.
- That Adline Jackson married Tom Thomas.
- That Tom and Adline had a daughter named Belle or Bella.
- That Belle or Bella married Mose Wheeler.
- That Mose Wheeler died in 1925.
- That Adline Jackson Thomas married Henry Gines sometime before 1934.
- That Henry Gines died in 1934.
- That Adline Gines died in 1951.
- That Belle Wheeler apparently had a daughter named Flossie Harris (the informant on her death certificate)
- That Belle Wheeler died in a rooming house in San Francisco in 1954.
- That prior to their deaths, Belle Wheeler spent a lot of time living with her mother Adline in Shreveport.
Now here is what we hypothesize:
- That Belle Wheeler was actually born perhaps a decade earlier than the most recent records indicate.
- That Adline and Tom were no longer married by 1921.
- That Adline married Henry in 1921.
Both of these lists show that the more we’ve learned, the more we don’t know.
October 2, 2009 Friday at 6:54 pm