Marriage records are a foundational record for genealogists. I have discussed many times how finding a female ancestor’s new married name led to breakthroughs. Most of us automatically think of that when we suddenly “lose” woman.
What hasn’t come naturally for me yet is anticipating multiple marriages. Maybe two marriages is the maximum my mind thinks of.
I am still surprised by how many people married numerous times. Even well into their senior years.
I found “Le-Anna” Simpson as an 18-year old woman living with her widowed mother in Washington, D.C. in 1900:
Her 9- year-old sister Lucinda was living with their grandmother, also in D.C. In Susan Simpson’s 1910 household, Leanna is gone. She was not found on any 1910 census.
A marriage search turned up Leanna’s 1912 marriage to “Verbee H. Peaker” in D.C. But the couple didn’t appear in 1920 or any subsequent census in that city. Hmm.
I thought for sure I’d find them with that unique name.
I searched for a marriage under the name “Leanna Peaker” and I indeed found another D.C. marriage for her in 1929 to Clarence H. Hackett. That couple was not found on any subsequent census in D.C.
Why is she marrying in D.C. but not showing up living in D.C.?
I expanded my census search to Maryland. I knew that people flowed pretty freely with work and school between Maryland and D.C., especially Baltimore.
To my surprise, I found a “Verb Peaker” and wife “Laura” living all the way on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in Kent County!
They lived near a small town called Galena:
A probate case located for Verbee Peaker’s death in 1925 confirmed this was my Leanna.
The probate file contained a rare gift: a handwritten note from Leanna. It noted that she was at Hampton Institute getting her teacher’s certificate:
Verbee’s illness, death and funeral were noted in the Afro-American newspaper. Leanna was remembering him two years later:
Since Leanna lived in Kent County in 1920, I decided to look at her next marriage. I found her in the household with 2nd husband Clarence H. Hackett in the same small town of Galena in 1930 (listed as wife “Annie”) and 1940:
Her first husband Verbee left Leanna a small piece of land he apparently inherited and she married Clarence when his wife died.
But the story isn’t finished yet.
Yes, my dear sweet cousin Leanna had to do it again. She got married a third time, in 1948 to the brother of her first husband Verbee, Robert Morton Peaker. She was 63 years old and he was 67.
He was living next door to his brother so I guess (when his wife died) they figured they might as well grow old together;)
My guess about her marriages occurring in D.C. is that the requirements for marriage in D.C. may have been easier or cheaper than those in Kent County.
Or maybe since that was Leanna’s hometown, she felt she should marry there.
Leanna did not have had any children with any spouse that survived. I am researching her and her spouses in all the other records, land, court, military etc. and fleshing out her life as best possible.
This post reminds us to keep on searching marriage records for “lost” women. They may surprise you.
The icing on the cake to this story is that I had a family picture from my dad’s childhood.
The name of the woman seated alone had been lost to history and was given to me as “a cousin, from Galena, MD:”
I remembered that name because I’d never heard of the town “Galena” before. I’d long since abandoned the notion that I would find out the identity of that cousin.
And thus—she has been revealed. Cousin Leanna, nice to finally meet you!
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.