Great Grandmother Alpha Wilkins

My Great Grandmother, Alpha Wilkins was born 18 May 1880 in Burlington, Iowa. She is the daughter of Thomas and Christine (Pearson) Wilkins. The number of siblings is not clear but she definitely had 1 half sister, 1 sister and 1 brother: Teresa Hamerstrom 1870, Hugh 1877, and Florence 1884. There is question if there is another half brother, another sister and another brother Alfred Hamerstrom 1874, Alma 1876, and Lawrence 1886. That I will try to sort out in a future post.

Alpha and Florence unknown year

It seems that Alpha spent a very short time in Iowa before the family moved to Chicago, Illinois. There is an article in the newspaper that shows her mom went to Davenport, IA with 4 children under the age of 9, in July 1880 to meet her husband but Thomas was no longer there. That is a whole other post to sort through. Anyway, her sister, Florence was born in Illinois so the family was living there by 1884. Now, all of the family researchers never give a date of death for her parents which I believe is a significant event in Alpha’s life. Upon asking my mom about her, it dawned on me to ask if my grandma ever talked about her grandparents(Alpha’s parents). My mom thought about it and said she can’t recall one story about them. So I decided to start looking for their deaths before my grandma was born in 1902. Sure enough, I believe I found them. There was a Thomas Wilkins who died in 1895, in Chicago, and his wife was Christine. It turns out, he took an overdose of morphine and it was covered in the newspaper and there was an inquest. I then knew to look for Christine after that date and she was easy to find. She died in February 1897 of a strangulated hernia. With this information, it appears Alpha was an orphan at the age of 16 and her little sister Florence was 12. I have been unable to find any papers about what they would have done with these children. Their oldest half sister , Teresa was 25 when their parents died and older brother Hugh, was 20. I suspect the sisters stayed together for a while and I know Hugh married in 1898.

Alpha lived in a boarding house according to the 1900 census. No family was living with her. According to my mom, Alpha worked in a restaurant and was running to the window with the other employees to see the US president go by. Alpha fell, broke her leg, and it never healed properly. She walked with a limp the rest of her life.

On 2 June 1901, Alpha married Charles Bostwick in Chicago, IL. They had 8 children: Florence 1902, Raymond 1904, Marion 1906, Delphine 1911, Virginia 1915, Dorothy 1917, Margaret 1919 and Lucille 1922.

The census reveals a lot. They moved to New York as they are found in the 1905 NY state census. They are living with her little sister, Florence who is 21 and with a niece Dorothy Wood 10, who is her older sister’s daughter. Also, they are living with a couple of women with the surname of Peterson who are from Sweden. Alpha’s mom was from Sweden and the surname I have seen her associated with is Pearson. This may be a coincidence or it may be family. More follow-up is needed.

The 1910 US census reveals Alpha living in Massachusetts with her older sister Teresa and her niece, Dorothy. Alpha’s husband and children are living in Chicago, IL again. I have heard that Alpha left Charles for a while and this may be when she did. The family story was that she lived in New York without him but this isn’t what I have found.

Alpha, Teresa, Florence unknown date

The whole family is together for the 1920 US census in Chicago, IL.  The two oldest children are working and the age range of the kids are 17-3. She had one more child in 1922 which is one year after her oldest daughter, Florence had her first child, Florence, who is my mom.

Alpha died 8 August 1929 of pneumonia. Her wake was in her daughters home and my mom remembers this. She said they would close the casket at night before they went to bed.

Alpha Wilkins Bostwick is buried on 12 August 1929 at Mount Hope Cemetery in Chicago, IL. I have been unable to get a photo of her grave and there must be some reason as this cemetery has over 700 photo requests. I have written to the cemetery and they don’t respond. This must be a large cemetery and perhaps because of the size if you don’t have the exact location there is no way to locate the grave for a photo.

One final note, Mom remembers her grandma and she would press a penny in the palms of the grandkids and whisper “now don’t tell your mom I gave this to you”. She has fond memories of her grandma.

Alpha 1928



“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 March 2017), Alpha J Wilkins in household of Annie Ryan, Precinct 57 Lake town Chicago city Ward 30, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 947, sheet 13B, family 285, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,283. Cook County, Illinois Marriages Index, 1871-1920 [database online], Provo, UT USA operations

New York State Census, 1905, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 26 November 2014), Charles J Bostwick in household of Anna Peterson, Yonkers, Ward 05, E.D. 02, Westchester, New York; citing p. 36, line 42, county offices, New York.; FHL microfilm 589,664.

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 March 2017), Alpha Bostwick in household of William E Mosher, New Bedford Ward 3, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 195, sheet 1A, family 8, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 578; FHL microfilm 1,374,591.

United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 March 2017), Alpha Bostwick in household of Chas Bostwick, Chicago Ward 3, Cook (Chicago), Illinois, United States; citing ED 161, sheet 7B, line 80, family 148, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 313; FHL microfilm 1,820,313.

One thought on “Great Grandmother Alpha Wilkins

  1. People had such hard lives—we all would seem so pampered compared to them. How sad about Alpha’s father. I look forward to your other stories about Alpha and her life.


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