Monday, February 18, 2013

Mystery Monday: Who was Grandma Alice?

Last October, my mom and I spent several hours scanning old family photos. I was home visiting as I do every year and since I started getting in to our family history over the summer, my mom agreed to indulge me. While looking at pictures from the early 80s, we came across this photo from my mom's baby shower:

I recognized my mom, her mother, and of course my Great Grandmom, but I didn't know who the woman to my mom's left was. She wasn't sure either. After thinking about if for a while, she finally came up with a name: Grandma Alice.

Apparently this woman was called Grandma Alice by my biological father and his siblings. However, she wasn't someone I had discovered on the family tree yet. My paternal grandmother's mother was Sadie Davis. My paternal grandfather's mother was Myrtle Park. She also wasn't one of my father's great grandmothers.

My mom suggested that perhaps this was a second wife of my father's grandfather, Charles McConnell. Good theory. I checked for any marriage records for Charles, and came up empty. The Delaware County Archives has searchable indexes to several records collections, including marriage records up to 1940, but I didn't find a record for Charles McConnell there either. Charles was born in 19001, so I would think he would have married before 1940, but it's always possible he found a wife later.

While looking for definitive death information for Charles, I came across an entry in the SSDI which seems probable. This entry put his death in 19802. Using that date, I searched Find a Grave and came up with this memorial, located in Chester Rural Cemetery:

Photo by: Bill Bloom
If this is in fact the right Charles, this would be confirmation that Alice was his wife. I have no idea who Joseph McAldon was. A search through the Delaware County Newspaper Archives gave me a story about his death3, but no information that really connected him to Charles. I thought perhaps Alice was a McAldon, but I haven't found any connection there either. I did find an article about Helen, Charles's sister's, wedding. Joseph McAldon was in attendance4. Perhaps he was a close friend to their family. Or a cousin. More digging will hopefully illuminate it.

For now, the working hypothesis is that 'Grandma Alice' was my grandfather William's stepmother. We will have to see if further sleuthing proves or disproves that.
11900 U.S. census, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Chester City, 3rd Ward, enumeration district (ED) 147, sheet 13A, dwelling 224, family 252, John Keenan household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm 1241404 roll 1404.
2"United States Social Security Death Index," index, ( : accessed 17 Feb 2013), Charles McConnell, Dec 1980; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
3"Joseph McAldon," Chester Times, 21 Apr 1947, p. 2.
4"Melody-McConnell," Chester Times, 28 Oct 1935, p. 8.


  1. Reminds me of my Grandma Ollie. Except that she wasn't actually married to any relative. I called her Grandma Ollie from the time I was very young. When I was old enough to understand how grandparent relationships worked, I was confused because I already knew both of my grandmothers. My mom explained that she really wasn't related to us but that she lived in the house behind my grandparents throughout my mother's childhood. She and my grandma were such good friends that all my aunts, uncles, and cousins had just grown to call her "Grandma" Ollie. I'm sure somewhere down the line one of my descendants will find a reference to "Grandma Ollie" in family photos and wonder "who the heck was that?"

    1. That's a very good point. Perhaps Grandma Alice isn't even related to me! The tombstone is suggestive, but I think I need to get a death certificate to be sure I have the right Charles and take it from there. Hmm.


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