Bad Behavior Relative- Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

On the Genea-Musings blog by Randy Seaver posed the following challenge:
1) Who is one of your relatives (ancestor or not) who behaved poorly during his or her life? It can be any time period.

My Great Grandmother’s oldest brother, Emil Rolkey (1863-?) born in Germany and his wife Tillie Thorson had some marital and substance abuse problems. They are both in the 1900 census as married and living in Minnesota, Emil is a bartender. In the 1910 census they have a son Alfred M (all other censuses he is listed as Milton A) who is listed as being adopted. At some point the trouble begins because there are four newspaper articles about them. The first time I see something is in 1911 when Emil Rolkey put a notice in the paper that his wife left. Tillie’s side is that she had to leave in her bed clothing to save her life. So it seems that Tillie is being abused and at some point between 1911 and 1913, they divorced.

The next time something is written about them is in 1913 when Tillie Rolkey was intoxicated and went over to the house Emil and their son were living in and a disruption occurred. When the police arrived, both Emil and Tillie were outside fighting. The police put Tillie in the city lockup. One thing that popped out at me while reading the article was that Tillie was drinking Hoffman Drops. I looked up what was in Hoffman Drops- 3 parts alcohol to 1 part ether! Hoffman’s Drops were commonly used by women in the late 1800s to early 1900s as a medicinal usually for depression. It seems that Tillie was having mental health issues (abuse from her husband? unable to have children? problems in her childhood?) further compounded with being addicted to Hoffman’s Drops.

The Pioneer, Bemidji, MN, Nov 11, 1913

Emil was charged with assault but was found not guilty by a jury of six. The next day, Tillie was found guilty of intoxication but did not say what the punishment was.

The Pioneer, Bemidji, MN, Nov 19, 1913

There is sort of a happy ending to this story. On July 25, 1918, Emil and Tillie got married again and they are in the 1920 census together with their son Milton. I lost track of Emil, but Tillie died on August 8, 1928. She was 56 years old. I hope Tillie was able to enjoy the last years of her life.

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