Monday, February 14, 2011

What Happened to Edith Augusta Naylor Friess (De Fries?) Newell?

As I've written about before here, one of the things that got me interested in doing genealogical research was to find out what happened to my father's father's father. Before I started, nobody in the family really even knew for sure what his first name was, let alone where he came from and where he ended up. I've been told that my grandfather never really gave it much of a second thought either, preferring to think "if he didn't want anything to do with us, we're not going to waste a minute wondering about him." I don't really know what the circumstances were behind the abandonment- I've been told that it might have started with an argument between William and Clara over an expensive coat that William had bought her when they really couldn't afford it. Nevertheless, abandoning your wife and infant son is a pretty terrible thing to do, and my interest in finding out about him has always been curiosity about the Naylor lineage rather than trying to tell his story.

That being said, I've been wondering for some time if William Irving Naylor wasn't alone in what he did. I first came across William Irving's sister Augusta in the 1910 census after I had discovered William's birth record and began to put the pieces of the puzzle together in where we all came from. The 1910 census page with the Naylor family is below.

The family appears to be living in an apartment or multi family home with several other families. The address is 23 Glendale Ave. Pleasantville, NJ. At home is William (60), Emma (49), their son William Irving (12), their daughters Margarethe (13) and Augusta Friess (22) and Augusta's son John William (1 year, 10 months). Notably absent from the household is John William's father, as I've pointed out before. I'm certainly interested in finding out who Augusta was married to and if that person died, if they got divorced, etc. John William is listed as being born in New Jersey as well as his father being born in New Jersey, but he's not in the NJ Archives online database for state births. A little closer look into the genealogy tells us why:

At the time of the 1920 census, the sons and daughters were no longer living at home with William and Emma...but John William was! It was just him (age 11) and William and Emma. In the census, he is listed as being born in New York, and his father also having been born in New York. The 1920 census record is below:

Trying to track down his birth record and finding out about his father will be a project for another time. For now, the question remains, What Happened to Augusta Friess (or her married name may also be De Fries as that is how his last name is listed in the 1920 census). After some detective work, though, I tracked her down. You see, Augusta's given first name was actually "Edith". FamilySearch keeps a database of some 2 million New Jersey births between 1660-1980 (obviously not everyone is in there). But Edith Augusta is. A further search on led me to a passport application that is shown below (both front and back) that she filed in 1920. The back side actually shows Pop Pop's Aunt (Edith) Augusta's photograph.

It states that she, Edith Augusta Newell was born on July 28, 1888 in Merchantville, New Jersey and is married to a Theodore Newell, who was born in Canton, PA and was living in Los Angeles, California. She says that she is a housewife living in Honolulu, California. A couple things on that point- I guess she has given up on her nursing career at this point even though she no longer is taking care of her son. She lists her residence as Honolulu, CA (obviously meaning Honolulu, HI). They appear to be going on quite the trip, saying she is going to Japan, Hong Kong, China, India, France, Italy, British Isles, Belgium and Spain. Perhaps this is an extravagant honeymoon?

The back of the passport application gives her physical description. She is 32 years old, 5 foot 2 1/2 inches tall, a high forehead, blue eyes, a straight nose, straight mouth, round chin, brown hair, fair complexion, an oval face and no distinguishing marks. A Francis Harris, who works at the Turkish baths in Long Beach, CA states that he has known Edith Augusta for 30 years (interesting, since she was 2? I wonder if they lived together in New Jersey and moved to California together?) and attests to her being a citizen of the United States. She gives a P.O. Box for which to have the passport sent to her, and dates the application August 12th, 1920 (interestingly enough, 3 days before her nephew William R., my grandfather, was born).

Even though the passport application is from Los Angeles, we can see from the 1920 census that just seven months prior, she and Theodore appeared to be living quite the life in Hawaii:

Theodore is listed as 62 years old, 30 years older than his 32 year old wife Augusta. And in the dwelling, they have 4 servants- 2 "yardmen", a cook and a servant. They live at 1911 Keeaumoku Street in Honolulu. They both list "none" for occupation.

3 years after filing for a passport, we have an arrival record for her, having left Honolulu on April 7, 1923 and returned on April 23, 1923. Her birthday is a few days off and for birthplace New Jersey is crossed off and New York is written in. She lists her place of residence as "Honolulu".

Interestingly, Augusta shows up twice on the 1930 census. In one, she is listed in Riverside, CA, living in a $20,000 home with Theodore (now listed as only 3 years older than he said he was in the 1920 census while Augusta is listed as 13 years old, making them now 20 rather than 30 years apart).

In addition, Augusta is in the same census at a place in Los Angeles, by herself- an apartment that is rented for 300 dollars a month. In other words, they had two residences in California- the house in Riverside and an extremely nice apartment in Los Angeles.

So what happened? Well, what we know is that sometime between 1910 and 1920, Augusta, who had a married name but was not living with the husband had a child and was living with her parents in New Jersey. At some point in these ten years, she left home and left her son with her parents, seemingly never to return (see below). She went to California (and Hawaii), married a man named Theodore Newell and planned to embark upon a trip around the world with him. She lived with him for at least ten years or more (we can find out where they are in 1940 when the 1940 census is released in January of next year).

She apparently never left Los Angeles, dying there in September, 1975 according to the California Death Index:

We'll probably never know the full story. Genealogical research only allows us to draw inferences based on public records and connecting the lines. But it certainly seems like William Irving and Edith Augusta, brother and sister, took remarkably similar and seemingly selfish paths. William abandoned the family with a 2 year old son, never to return, eventually moving himself 2000 miles away to Kerrville, Texas where he died. Augusta left her son at a young age to move herself 3000 miles away to Los Angeles, California and Honolulu, HI never to return. She did this apparently for money, marrying an exceedingly wealthy man who was 30 years her senior and stayed there until her death.

Stay tuned for the next blog post where I'll try to find out a little bit more about her first husband, how he made his money, etc.

1 comment:

  1. I just happened upon your blog, which is very interesting reading. My great-grandpa's grandma was a Naylor and my great-grandma's mother was a Newell. But I can't find any similarities in your data besides using many of the same names for their children.