Friday, June 9, 2017

On the Trail of (a) Beauty

After retiring and having time to sort through old photos of my parents' and grandparents', I've come across a few that are total mysteries. Those that have no names written on them will remain so, but the ones that do have a name at least give me a place to start looking.
In Grandma Bessie Lynam's hand on the left side of the above folder is written: "Frances Fail. Took care of you, Louis. May 6, 1917." Louis is Bessie's son; my father. He was born May 6, 1917.
My initial search was going to be easy, I thought, because I knew that Bessie's husband's (George), mother's (Nancy) sister (Lulu) married a Fail. I imagined this young lady was going to turn out to be their daughter which would make her Grandpa George's first cousin.
Wrong. Lulu Gravett married John Franklin (Jack) Fail, but their two daughters were Nellie Ruth and Lucylle Maxine. So if Frances wasn't their daughter, where did she fit in?

When I first began my search the archived Adams County Free Press was still available to search free online. I learned through those searches that Frances' name was really Permilia Frances and that on New Year's Day 1918, at age 20, she married Joe Brown, age 23, from Artesian, South Dakota.
That was all I learned - not her parents' names, not if they stayed in Iowa after marrying or went to South Dakota - no other mention of her in any of the Free Presses. Had I known, I might have had better luck searching the Villisca newspaper.
My search went on the back burner until Wednesday when I happened across her photo once more. I feel certain this is a graduation picture. It looks like she is wearing an academic dress (or robe, or gown) and the folder the photo is in has a tiny ribbon embossed on the outside flap.

The name Permilia (generally spelled Permelia) means "by sweetness". To my mind she looks like a very sweet, very pretty, young lady. Permilia probably seemed like an old-fashioned name, even in the early 1900's, so that may be why she chose to go by Frances, which means "free one".

Yesterday I started by Googling my Grandpa George's "Aunt Lu", Lulu Gravett Fail which gave me her information in the 'Find A Grave' website. That info gave me her husband's full name and his Find A Grave Memorial which included his obituary and names of family members. I was pretty sure it would list Permilia as his sister, but it did not. It did say he was survived by his father, four brothers and three sisters, but only the four brothers and one sister were named.

So I went further back to Jack's father's (John Osborn Fail) Find A Grave Memorial. which listed five sons and three daughters. Permilia being one of them. So (Permilia) Frances and (John) Jack were brother and sister which made her Aunt Lu's sister-in-law, but not related to Lulu's sister, Nancy (my Dad's grandmother).
Even if she isn't relation, she would have been, I'm sure, a friend of Grandpa & Grandma's and willing to help out at the time of my father's birth.

I looked for an obituary for Permilia Frances Fail (also spelled Faile) Brown in both Iowa and South Dakota, but haven't found anything yet. I'm just happy to finally know where this beauty fell in relation to our family tree.

(Apropos of nothing - While looking at John Osborn Fail's Find A Grave marker, I noticed he served as a Private in the Illinois Company C, 5th Regiment, Infantry. His birth year was 1853, so I knew he was too young for the Civil War. Next to his marker is a smaller marker which reads: "Indian War Veteran". No way to know the years and engagements he was involved in, but interesting reading nevertheless.)

No comments:

Post a Comment