52 Weeks: Anna May Sanderson

Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small began the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge in 2014.  I am playing along this year.  I will be following my mom’s pedigree chart to start.  In addition to writing these posts, I will be making sure everything I have on the specific individual is in both OneNote and Legacy, do any basic research needed for missing documents, and start research plans as needed.

Me > My Mom > Her Mom > William Whitehead > Anna May Sanderson

  Anna May and Charles_thumb
I find all of my ancestors interesting.  They were all pretty salt of the earth people, a lot of farmers and laborers, living normal lives like their descendants do today.  But some hold a stronger fascination for me.  I’ve always been drawn to the sad story of Lillian.  I’m very interested in doing a one-place study for Halstead, Kent, England (an area we’ll get to with my 3rd great grandparents.) And of course there is the ancestor who got me into genealogy in the first place – Anna May.  Or Elizabeth Ann.  Whichever you want to go with.  Special thanks goes to the distant cousin who contacted my grandmother over 20 years ago with this link and got me started on this journey.

Elizabeth Ann Sanderson was born in Burlington, Ontario, Canada, 17 June 1871 to John William and Mary (Alwood) Sanderson.  She was the third of four children.

She married Willmar Lawrence 7 April 1887 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  According to her marriage record, she was 18.  According to the birth date listed on other documents, she would have been 15.  They had 4 children between 1898 and 1893, Ruth, Elizzie, Wilmur, and Carrie.

The story that was passed down by these children and eventually found it’s way to me was that one day Elizabeth packed up her children, dropped them off with various relatives, and never returned to get them.  Instead she hopped the border to Buffalo with Charles Whitehead, changed her name to Anna May, and had 3 more children, William Herbert, Harry Hobson, and Adeline Anna, born between 1896 and 1904.  She never returned again to see her family in Canada.

Parts of that aren’t true: obituaries showed that her siblings knew her new name and her sons William and Hobson were pallbearers at her brother William’s funeral.  However, when Willmur died in a tragic hotel fire n 1905 the newspaper article on the incident mentions that the whereabouts of his wife are unknown. 

The how and why of my belief that Elizabeth Ann/Anna May being the same person will one day make an excellent journal article, but until that time I will say that all of the evidence fits, including the DNA test I took a few years ago, where my closest matches were Anna’s descendants from her first marriage.

The why of her leaving like she did is more complicated, and something we’ll never know the actual answer to.  Based on her leaving her children with family, I would guess that her first husband might not have been the best guy.  Women did not have the options they do today and it is important not to judge someone through a modern lens.  I know parts of her first set of descendants still, understandably, harbor resentment, but maybe that was the only way she could figure out to give her children a better life.

I do know that Anna treated her sons William and Hobson like kings, never letting them lift a finger.  She was not nearly as kind to her daughter.  She also wasn't a very happy or nice woman in general.

She died 29 April 1928 in Buffalo of acute myocardial degeneration (primary) and acute cardiac dilation (contributory).  Her obituary mentions only her second husband and children she had with him, though it does mention her siblings in Canada, “sister of William Sanderson and Mrs. Freeman of Burlington, Ontario, and Gertrude Sanderson of Galt, Ont.”  She was buried next to her husband in Elmlawn Memorial Gardens in Kenmore.  Located in an unmarked grave, even in death she is difficult to locate.

Comments

  1. It's certainly an intriguing story. I look forward to that journal article someday. "Even in death she is difficult to locate." Perfect.

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