Lorena Rice – 52 Ancestors Challenge – Proud

This week’s challenge posed by Amy Johnson Crow is Proud. Which ancestor are you proud of finding? The problem is who to choose? So I decided to pick a person that is not a direct ancestor. Lorena Rice is my Great Aunt. She is my grandfather’s oldest sister. I heard very few things about Lorena even though I knew both her sister and brother. The only thing I can remember is that she was young, in her late teens or early twenties when she died. I always assumed she was unmarried so I thought she should be an easy find. Ha!

Lorena Rice was born June 1891 in Washington state. If you believe her tombstone, she was born on June 3rd or the 1900 census she was born June 9th. I haven’t been able to find a birth record for her. Lorena’s parents, Frank Rice and Hattie Raymond, were married 7  months before her birth. They had 2 more children, Rosanna 1893 and Harry 1895. Their parents divorced sometime between 1895 and 1899.

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1905 Wisconsin census

Lorena can be found in the 1895 Minnesota census with her grandmother Clara Raymond, her mother, Hattie, and in the 1900 US census her brother Harry was also listed. The 1905 Wisconsin census and the 1910 US census lists her with step dad Edward Secor, mom Hattie, and brother Harry. Her sister Rosanna was raised by her paternal grandparents. This was easy to find and then the trail went cold. She wasn’t in any more censuses and I couldn’t find any documentation of her death. I tried using Secor for a last name but knowing that they were never adopted by the step father figured it was a long shot. I had a sinking feeling that if she got married, I would never find her as I had no clue what her married name would be.

I was fiddling around one day and decided to google her name with dates. Bingo! She came up on a website that featured the family she married into. Not only did I get a husband’s name and wedding date but a photo as well! The photo had been kept by her husband’s second wife and it ended up in the hands of a grandchild that shared the photo. It turns out, she married Benjamin A. Hawkins on March 23, 1912 in SCAN0105Fond du Lac, WI. Benjamin had 3 sisters and I believe they are in the picture with Lorena. I do not recognize any of them and know what Lorena’s sister looks like at that age. I also learned that she died in 1913. I wasn’t able to find a marriage license or death record so I turned to the Wisconsin Genealogy Network for help. Between a few people, they led me first to the cemetery she was buried in and second to newspaper clippings about her death which indicated that the funeral was at St Joseph’s Church. Armed with this information, I contacted the cemetery and was fortunate to find out that she is indeed buried there. Then, I put a photo request in to Find a Grave and within 5 days a volunteer posted a photo for me. I have put in a request with the Archdiocese to find records of her marriage and death. Also, now that I know the date of death, I have requested her death certificate to find out the cause. I suspect it may be tuberculosis as her dad died from this 3 months before her. As soon as I find out the information requested, I will update this.

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Feb 4, 1913, Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter

I would like to acknowledge all of the work other people did to help me find her and to Amy Johnson Crow for her wonderful series 31 Days to Better Genealogy. Some of her tips led me to asking for help in the right places. Between someone sharing a photo of her, a group in WI, and a person with a camera willing to go to a cemetery I have found Lorena. The genealogy community can be very helpful.

I am glad I was able to find her as she has always been a mystery to me yet she seemed close because I knew people that touched her.

At the age of 21, Lorena Rice died February 3, 1913 and is buried in Calvary cemetery, Fond du Lac, WI.

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Calvary Cemetery, Fond du Lac, WI, photo courtesy of Jean Fugate

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