Friday, 30 March 2018

The Hunt for Elizabeth Doyle

But why do I care about the mysterious PM anyway? (See my previous post if you're confused already.)  If I find out how I'm related to him/her, so what?  He/she is highly unlikely to be willing or able to share any information with me about our common ancestors.  So why am I obsessed with PM?

Well, I'm not.  I'm curious, and I like puzzles, that's all.  That's my story, anyway.  And when I started looking at the Doyle family, I got obsessed with Elizabeth, which is a far more reasonable thing to do, especially because it turns out she's a bit of a puzzle herself.

I spent quite awhile hunting her down, and although I found several records confirming that an Elizabeth Doyle married a John Torongo and had a lot of kids with him, I haven't found any documentary evidence that this is MY Elizabeth Doyle.  There are a few positive signs in her children's names though. People often named their children after their parents or siblings, and there's some suggestion of this in the Torongo family.  Elizabeth's father was Francis; one of her sons was Hilliard Francis.  One of her brothers was Isaac and the other was James; one of her sons was John Isaac and another was Walter James.  This gives me hope - but that's all.

Judging by two censuses, John and Elizabeth got married either in 1870 or 1875 - and since their first child, Albert, was born in January 1871, I'm guessing that the earlier date is correct.  They had four more children - 'Lettie', Walter James, John Isaac and Hilliard Francis - born in Ontario before 1881.  They're all in the 1881 census, in Mt Forest, Ontario, where John was a blacksmith.  And then they all put on their invisibility cloaks and disappeared.

At least, that how it seemed at first.  But in fact they went to the United States - marriage records for some of the children told me that, and when I eventually found some of them in US census records, I learned that they had gone to Michigan in 1881.

So why can't I find any of them there in the 1890 US census or the 1894 Michigan census?   The problem is that most of the 1890 US census was destroyed in a fire in 1921.  And much of the 1894 Michigan census was destroyed too, including the records for Wexford county, where the Torongos lived.  So there's no joy there.  And the problem with looking for Torongos in any census or other record is that their name was spelled and mistranscribed in all sorts of ways, from Trangeau to Lorongs.  So it takes some perseverance (and imagination).

Eventually, I was able to piece the family together from directories, birth, death, marriage and later census records.  And they revealed the puzzle.  After having fourteen children together, most of whom were born in Cadillac, Michigan, John and Elizabeth seem to have parted ways.  In the 1900 census, Elizabeth is the head of the household, which doesn't include John, although Elizabeth is still married.  I finally found John in California that year, working as a blacksmith on a ranch.  He too, said he was married.  Well maybe it was just a temporary separation...

But no, in 1905, John was in Oregon, and in 1907 he was marrying somebody else there!  But poor John, according to the 1910 census, he was divorced and living alone.  His second wife Annette Stark is a complete mystery, who seems only to have existed briefly on the day she married John, then - poof - she was gone.

John died in Oregon in 1912.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth was on the move with some of her children.  In 1907 she was in Montana, and later in Tacoma, Washington.  Was she looking for her missing husband, who wasn't far away in Oregon?  Then she went to Everett, Washington, where she said in the 1910 census that she was still married, although John had already married and divorced somebody else by that time.  That same year, Elizabeth appears in the city directory for Tacoma, Washington, as the widow of John Torongo, who was still very much alive.  She was apparently there until about September 1911, and then she and at least one of her children went back to Michigan, where she died in 1912, a few months before John died.  And her death certificate states that she died a widow.  It names her father as Doyle, with no first name, and according to this record, her mother had a very common name - 'Not Known'.  I hate it when I see that!

Here are bits of some of the documents that contradict each other (click to enlarge them):

Elizabeth Doyle Torongo (known as Tessie) and some of her children in the 1910 census in Washington state, as head of the household, and married.
Elizabeth Doyle Torongo and three of her sons in the 1910 Tacoma City Directory, as the widow of John.

Elizabeth's husband John Torongo in the 1910 census in Oregon, alone and divorced (apparently for the second time), and most certainly, alive.

Elizabeth Doyle Torongo's death certificate showing her date of death as 28th of January 1912, when she was a widow.

John Torongo in the Oregon Death Index, showing his date of death as 29th June 1912, five months after his 'widow' Elizabeth died.

I can only assume that John left Elizabeth sometime before 1900 (their last child - as far as I can tell - was born in 1895, when Elizabeth was 47!  She must have been worn out).  Elizabeth continued to call herself married, but at some point, they got divorced, after which, she called herself a widow, perhaps to avoid the shame of a divorce.  Or maybe they were never divorced, and John was a bigamist, and his second wife discovered that and left him right after the wedding.

Or maybe I've been looking at two Elizabeth Doyles and/or two John Torongos.  Groan.....

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