Long Lost Sibling: Ostrom Witherell

I’ve been focusing a bit more on my Witherell line than others of late. I mentioned in a previous post a few specific people I wanted to know more about, and one of them is Ostrom Witherell, my 3rd great uncle.

My specific part of the Witherell surname has narrowed considerably over the last few generations. Passing on the surname is now left to my two nephews and my cousin’s son as the last remaining males in my known line. At least, as far as I can confirm anyway. My 4x great-grandfather likely had siblings as well but I haven’t been able to confirm who they are yet. So from my 4x great-grandfather on, that line has became quite small when it comes to carrying on the name. This is why I wanted to find out more about my 3rd great uncle and see if he had children as well.

The search for him has not been easy as he eventually immigrates to Canada and from there, records are harder for me to follow.

The Early Years

Ostrom Curtis Witherell was born 27 March 1885 in Saginaw, Michigan to parents Gard and Lillian (McLeod) Witherell.(1)Saginaw County, Michigan, Record of Births Book F (1885-1886):58, 1885 entry for Ostrom C. Witheral, record dated 22 June 1926; Saginaw County Clerk’s Office, Saginaw.

He was the second son for Gard and Lillian and this is one of those cases where I wish the 1890 census existed, as it is the only census where he was enumerated with his complete family. In 1895, his mother, Lillian, died from stricture of the bowels, which sounds absolutely awful.(2)Saginaw County, Michigan, Death book D (1895-1898): 921, entry for Lily Witherell 1895; Saginaw County Clerk’s Office, Saginaw.

There was still plenty of family around to help though. In 1900, Ostrom was living with his father, brother, and grandmother.(3)1900 U.S. Census, Saginaw, Michigan, population schedule, Saginaw City Ward 15, ED 71, page 4A, dwelling 68, family 71, Gard Witherell Household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2014), citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 740.. At the age of 15, he was already a laborer at a tooth pick factory.

Adult Life

Ostrom did live with his family for a few more years and worked various jobs.(4)R.L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Saginaw City Directory (Detroit, Michigan: R.L. Polk & Co., 1901), 873; also subsequent years by the same title: (1902) 924, (1903) 938, (1904) 886. However, in 1905, he is no longer listed in the city directories and I cannot find him in the 1910 census.

Gard Witherell (the elder), Ostrom’s father, dies in 1915. Gard’s obituary says that Ostrom was living in Grand Rapids, however, it seems if this was true, it was such a short period of time that no city directory or census caught him there.(5)“Second Brother Dies in City Park,” Saginaw Courier Herald (Saginaw, Michigan), 2 September 1915, p. 7. I am not even sure that Ostrom attended his father’s funeral, or his brother for that matter. Simply because Gard’s pall bearers were all nephews or husbands of his nieces. I found that to be interesting that it wasn’t his sons; however that doesn’t mean they didn’t attend.

Ostrom is a unique name, which means identifying him in records is somewhat easier. In 1918, he filled out his World War 1 draft card in Duluth, Minnesota. His nearest relative on that card was his wife, Pearl Witherell.(6)“U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 March 2016), card for Ostrom Curtis Witherell, serial no. 3174, Local Draft Board 3, Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota; citing “World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” NARA microfilm M1509, roll 1675463.

In 1920, Ostrom Witherell was in Hill Lake, Aitkin County, Minnesota with the same wife, Pearl.(7)1920 U.S. Census, Aitkin County, Minnesota, population schedule, Hill Lake Township, ED 13, page 9A, dwelling 185, family 188, Ostrom Witherell; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 March 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 822. He worked as a turner in a paint factory. His wife, Pearl, was born in Wisconsin to French-Canadian parents. I haven’t yet been able to find her maiden name or find marriage information for the two of them. I’ve looked into Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota marriage records for possible matches, but have yet to find anything. I need more identifiers for Pearl and a better range for marriage dates, which could help narrow down possibilities. It’s also possible that they went to Canada to marry seeing as her parents were from there, as was Ostrom’s mother.

By Anastasia Shesterinina (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Anastasia Shesterinina (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Death

From 1920 until 1962 I have no idea where Ostrom went. In 1962, Ostrom was in Vancouver and retired. (8)Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Elections Act: Urban Preliminary List of Electors, 1962, stamped 71646:1, Ostrum Witherell; “Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980,” image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 March 2016), citing Vancouver Centre, Vancouver, Urban Polling Division No. 88.

In between 1920 and 1962, his brother, Gard, died in 1952. I happen to have Gard’s funeral visitors list. Much to my surprise, Ostrom is not listed on there. This could be because Ostrom was already in Vancouver, and the travel cost was liekly too much. There wasn’t much of an obituary for Gard, just a note of his death so no other family was mentioned there, which could have been helpful in identifying where Ostrom was at that time. I do wonder if Ostrom even knew of his brother’s death. Did something happen between the brothers? Was there an argument? Did they just not get along? Did they keep in touch?

It was another 16 years after Gard’s death before Ostrom died. He died in Vancouver on 30 May 1965 in what I believe was a home for the elderly (The Taylor Manor in Vancouver). (9)British Columbia Archives, Death Registrations, 1872-1986, Ostrom Curtis Witherell, registration no. 68-09-007734 (1968); FHL microfilm 2, 033,943.

His death certificate does give lots of good information. It gives how long Ostrom had lived in Canada and the Province. Both of which were 50 years, which means he likely moved after the 1920 census. Ostrom also lived in the municipality of Vancouver for the last 20 years. He was a widower at the time of his death and his wife had been Mabel Sheean. Lots of good hints but I haven’t yet found marriage information for Mabel and Ostrom (and whatever happened to Pearl?), nor any other record to indicate where he lived in those 50 years. However, Ostrom was a Canadian citizen, but I’ve not had much luck on finding naturalization records for him (anyone know of some help there?).

Burial

Ostrom was cremated and then interred at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver.(10)Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 30 March 2016), memorial 26428692, Ostrom Curtis Witherell, Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I contacted the cemetery to see what further records there could be. I received the saddest reply: his remains were never claimed and were therefore brought to the cemetery for a mass internment with other unclaimed remains and put into a communal grave.

No one came for him. That statement feels so lonely.

Did anyone know? Did my great-grandfather even know his father had a brother? I would like to believe my great-grandfather would have tried his best to have gone to Canada to claim the remains if he did know. Or maybe, if he was aware of his uncle, was there some reason why he wouldn’t have gone to claim the remains? Some deep family wound?

I have no idea.

I’m waiting to hear if the crematorium has more information on him and I’m hoping the Vancouver library can find an obituary for him as well. I am doubtful about that though, considering his internment.

So far, there is no indication that Ostrom had any children, and at the moment, I get the impression that Ostrom lost complete touch with his family in Michigan. I haven’t finished researching his story and I’m hopeful to find some silver lining with more research. Stay tuned!

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Saginaw County, Michigan, Record of Births Book F (1885-1886):58, 1885 entry for Ostrom C. Witheral, record dated 22 June 1926; Saginaw County Clerk’s Office, Saginaw.
2. Saginaw County, Michigan, Death book D (1895-1898): 921, entry for Lily Witherell 1895; Saginaw County Clerk’s Office, Saginaw.
3. 1900 U.S. Census, Saginaw, Michigan, population schedule, Saginaw City Ward 15, ED 71, page 4A, dwelling 68, family 71, Gard Witherell Household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2014), citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 740.
4. R.L. Polk, compiler, Polk’s Saginaw City Directory (Detroit, Michigan: R.L. Polk & Co., 1901), 873; also subsequent years by the same title: (1902) 924, (1903) 938, (1904) 886.
5. “Second Brother Dies in City Park,” Saginaw Courier Herald (Saginaw, Michigan), 2 September 1915, p. 7.
6. “U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 March 2016), card for Ostrom Curtis Witherell, serial no. 3174, Local Draft Board 3, Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota; citing “World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” NARA microfilm M1509, roll 1675463.
7. 1920 U.S. Census, Aitkin County, Minnesota, population schedule, Hill Lake Township, ED 13, page 9A, dwelling 185, family 188, Ostrom Witherell; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 March 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 822.
8. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Elections Act: Urban Preliminary List of Electors, 1962, stamped 71646:1, Ostrum Witherell; “Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980,” image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 March 2016), citing Vancouver Centre, Vancouver, Urban Polling Division No. 88.
9. British Columbia Archives, Death Registrations, 1872-1986, Ostrom Curtis Witherell, registration no. 68-09-007734 (1968); FHL microfilm 2, 033,943.
10. Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 30 March 2016), memorial 26428692, Ostrom Curtis Witherell, Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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2 Comments

  1. Such a sad story! Best of luck in your hunt. I do a lot of French Canadian research, mostly in Quebec with a bit in Ontario and Vancouver. I have never come across the name Pearl. I wonder if she Americanized her first name? I have one family in my tree that did that – Landrie went by Andrew, Marie Narcisse went by Nelson, Anastasie went by Esther etc.

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