The names and locations in the following chronicle have been changed to avoid adding more drama to an already unpleasant family story.
John Sorengill asked me to use my genealogy resources to look into a family story he’d heard since childhood. John’s Aunt Vera, born in 1924 in Portland, Oregon, was the oldest child of his grandfather, Carl. The family had been told that her mother was Maureen, unlike Carl’s other children whose mother was Sophie.
The family knew that the Sorengills originated in Kansas. They also knew that Carl and Sophie were married there in 1925. And since Vera was born in Oregon the year before, they wondered what circumstances caused her to end up with Carl and Sophie instead of staying in Oregon with her mother.
The story in question—probably started by Carl himself and perpetuated by others because of his belligerence toward his family— said that soon after Vera was born, Carl pushed her mother down a flight of stairs, killing her. Another, more genteel version—probably started by those who didn’t want to admit that Carl was the way he was—said that Carl pushed Maureen during her advanced pregnancy and she died during childbirth. Either way—Maureen died, leaving Vera motherless, and Carl was at fault.
My task—find out if the story was true.
I accessed Ancestry.com and found a 1924 city directory for Portland, Oregon. Listed among the residents at a boarding house was Carl Sorengill. Beside his name, like many of the other males listed, was a female name—Daisy—in parentheses, indicating a spouse.
Hmmm… so many times in genealogy research, every answer asks more questions. Was Carl married to someone other than Maureen at the time of Vera’s birth? Or, were Maureen and Daisy possibly one and the same?
I searched for a marriage license and found nothing between Carl and Daisy. I did, however, find a listing in the 1925 Portland Directory for Daisy Sorengill (no other name attached) living in the same boarding house. And I found a 1925 marriage license for Daisy Sorengill and Chas McGhinty. It indicated that Daisy was 19 years old, single, and born in Kansas—as was her father, Norman Sorengill.
Hmmm… that didn’t prove whether Daisy was Maureen, but it did give a clue about Daisy’s lineage.
I searched census records for Daisy’s father and found his parents, Nathaniel & Lucy, in 1880. They lived in Harrison County, Kansas with seven children, including Norman (age 3) and Ethan (age 8).
From previous genealogy research, John knew that his great-grandfather, Ethan, was 8 years old in 1880. Ethan was born in Harrison County Kansas, and his parents were Nathaniel and Lucy.
Aha! Ethan and Norman were brothers. So…. Carl and Daisy Sorengill were first cousins.
Hmmm…. but…. What about Maureen? Who was Vera’s mother?
Sometimes genealogy research leads to educated guesses—meaning the researcher can make highly probable assumptions based on coincidences in the records. So, they report something like, “I don’t know for sure, but the records show these facts and I think ___________ is the most logical scenario.”
I dug a little deeper into Daisy’s lineage and found that in 1910 when Daisy was 4 years old, Norman Sorengill moved his family to Colorado. In 1918 his wife died in childbirth. Then in the 1920 US Census, Norman was still in Colorado listed as widowed and living alone in a boarding house.
Hmmm… what happened to his young children—Daisy and her siblings? How did Daisy and Carl find each other if he lived in Kansas and she lived in Colorado?
In those days it was common for widowed fathers to send their children to live with relatives, sometimes in other states. Also many times, children were and are given names of beloved relatives as their middle names.
After reviewing my findings so far, I ran across a coincidence in the records. According to the 1880 US Census mentioned above, Norman and Ethan had a 6 year old sister—Maureen.
Hmmm…. I’m waiting for a copy of Vera’s birth certificate to see how her mother’s name is listed. Until that proof comes, I’ve made an educated guess based on the most logical scenario….
Probably, Daisy was sent to Kansas after her mother died. And probably, Daisy’s middle name was Maureen—which she used among family and friends.
And the question that I was asked to answer…. Was the story about Maureen’s demise true?
Daisy [Maureen] Sorengill married Chas McGhinty on July 6, 1925. And Daisy McGhinty is listed in the 1940 US census. So…. If Carl pushed Maureen down the stairs sometime during their time together, she didn’t die from her injuries.
But, the Sorengill family might never know why Carl took Vera away from her mother.
More questions…. I LOVE THIS STUFF!! 🙂