One idea that was presented in a beginning genealogy course I took from the St. Louis Genealogical Society was to create a detailed time-line for individuals in your family tree. Have an event for every year of their life. As many of these events as possible should be documented, but years can be filled in with events that were happening locally or nationally. Benefits of this include that it makes it easier to see where chronological gaps exist in your knowledge, and it creates an outline for a more detailed biography
I decided to start with my grandmother, Myrtle Ethel Van Every Deutsch. The following isn’t complete, but it’s what I know, and unless I learn more, will be filled in with local and national events. (e.g. 1901 will likely be: Sept 14 - Vice President Theodore Roosevelt begins first term as President after William McKinley's assassination. That's a pretty good historical marker.)
1900 – On March 21, Myrtle Ethel Van Every was born in Maxwell, Texas, the eighth and final child of Melvin Van Every and Margaret Jane McAlpin Monteroy Denyer. (Three of those eight died as infants, so Myrtle grew up as the youngest of five children.) [Note: Ancestral surnames as middle names are common in the Denyer line, but no evidence of Scottish McAlpin roots have yet been uncovered.]
1905 – On November 8, Myrtle’s sister, Minnie Ray, at age 19, marries August Benold.
1916 – On January 8, Myrtle’s sister, Willa Ann Van Every Roberts dies at age 26, leaving behind a daughter, Agnes, age 5.
1918 - probable graduation of high school. Personnel records indicate she had a high school degree, and two years of post-secondary education.
1920 – Myrtle may be residing at Fort Bliss, in El Paso TX, at the QuarterMasterCorps, according to the census. (Surname on census is illegible.) She is a clerk at the QMC according to her personnel records.
1921 – Myrtle has begun working for the US Post Office in St. Louis according to her personnel records. Myrtle’s brother Samuel, an optometrist, also moves to St. Louis according to the St. Louis City Directory.
1923 – May 2, in Hudspeth, TX, at the age of 55, Myrtle’s mother dies of Chronic Interstitial Nephritis, a kidney disorder usually caused by a reaction to pain medication.
1926 – Sometime between 1926 and 1930 Myrtle’s brother, Samuel, moves to Kansas City.
1927 – Myrtle changes her surname to Ridgely. Personnel Records say due to a marriage. The marriage doesn't appear in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, or Kansas City indexes.
1929 – May 26, Myrtle’s father dies at the age of 66 in New Mexico. At some point in the past 6 years he had remarried. Myrtle also changes her surname back to Van Every.
1930 – On census, Myrtle is listed as divorced.
1933 – Sept 18, Myrtle’s brother, Samuel, dies in Kansas City, MO of cirrhosis of the liver, caused by alcohol. Myrtle was the informant on the death certificate. Family would later tell Myrtle’s daughters that he died in a flu epidemic. [At age 33, both of Myrtle’s parents are deceased, and only two sisters remain alive.]
1936 – December 31, Myrtle marries Martin Joel Deutsch in Springfield, IL They were driving to Chicago to see Martin’s sister, Berta, get married. Martin also received a significant raise to his salary on Dec 31, 1936 according to his Personnel Folder. This may or may not be related.
1937 – January, Myrtle resigns from the Post Office.
1938 – Myrtle and Martin have a daughter.
1940 – Myrtle and Martin have a second daughter
1942 – In March, Myrtle’s husband Martin, already an Army reserve officer, enters active service, most of it spent overseas.
1945 – Myrtle and daughters are living in West Palm Beach, FL.
1945 – November, Myrtle’s husband Martin returns home from active duty.
1946 – Family returns to St. Louis
1947 – Myrtle takes family on vacation to Texas to visit her sisters Minnie and Eva, and their families.
1951 – Sept 11, Myrtle dies of colon cancer at the age of 51.
There are family rumors of a ‘fling’ in her late teenage years. This ‘fling’ may have been with a soldier, as the 1920 census says she’s married, even though her personnel records says she is using her maiden name. (Which isn’t mutually exclusive, even in 1920.) It would also explain why she is residing at Fort Bliss as a civilian.
The personnel records in St. Louis were sparse…A signed oath of office, and a list of dates of promotions, salary increases, and name changes. I was extremely excited upon seeing this list, because my mother had known about prior brief marriage(s) but had no details, and had no idea Myrtle had been in St. Louis since 1921. I am awaiting the possibility of more records from Washington, DC.
Unfortunately, it isn't known who accompanied her on her vacation to the Grand Canyon in 1925 from which the photos were taken. Her companion appears younger, and may have been a niece.