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Unlucky In Love, Lessons Learned

Grandaunt Loretta was a woman of mystery. She was born in 1892, the twelfth child of thirteen.

Family lore had that she was briefly married, once, to a man named Reynolds, and that he had come to sad end involving a train while very young. No one was allowed to speak of it. We never knew his first name.

In 2016, I was surprised by a second cousin with a copy of a newspaper article about Loretta's divorce from another husband after only one month of marriage!

Loretta Jennings divorce McKinstry

My cousin was told that the family had the article published to show everyone that it was not Loretta's fault she was divorced, which was scandalous at this time. This was also when I learned that she was an artist.

I have searched to no avail for the identity of the mysterious Mr. Reynolds for many years. Looking through newspaper articles for tragic train deaths, marriage licenses for Loretta and a Reynolds, obituaries, you name it, I looked through it!

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about how annoying I find the constant hints sent to me from My Heritage about distant relatives not in my direct line, or other people I may be researching. How do you "Ignore" these like on Ancestry, so you can come back to them later? Any suggestions mightily appreciated.

In any event, I got a hint from My Heritage for Loretta in a new tree posted at Family Search, that included a husband - Charles B. Reynolds! Plus the marriage license taken out in Erie County, PA where she used the last name of McKinstry! Head slapping immediately ensued, why had it never occurred to me to search under THAT name?

Marriage Lic. LAJ McKinstry to C Reynolds

What a great find! This was from Pennsylvania County Marriages 1885-1950. Not only do I know the mystery husband's full name, his occupation, salesman, I know where he was born and who his parents were. Now, I could research his tragic end. They were married in 1919 per this document, but in the 1920 Census in Buffalo, she is listed as "widowed"

as divorcees often reported themselves as opposed to "divorced." Poor Loretta!

In researching Charles, he is listed as a "traveling salesman," or a "travel salesman" who has already been married 2 times before by the time he got to Loretta. Both marriages (1902 and 1905) ended in divorce due to his desertion. Boy, she knew how to pick them! I have not yet found a record of Loretta's divorce from Charles, but I did still wonder about his meeting his maker by way of train accident.

Thanks to, I found the story of Charles Reynolds being in a car wreck with his (fourth!) wife in 1925 in Zanesville, OH. He lost control of his vehicle and it ran into a train just as it was crossing the road he was on! He was killed, but his wife survived. He was on his way to meet his employers at the Charles F. Thompson Scenic Co. which was a travel sales business. Not only was he a travelling salesman, he was a travelling travel salesman!

Lessons learned: 1) Don't begrudge the deluge of hints from My Heritage,

2) take nothing for granted when it comes to surnames. If I had just thought to look under McKinstry instead of stubbornly holding on to her maiden name, I could have solved this mystery back in 2016 when I found out about the first marriage, and 3) never give up!

Grandaunt Loretta was not so lucky with the men she picked, but she did apparently learn that marriage was not meant for everybody, as she never tied the knot again. She reportedly lived the somewhat luxurious life style of a liberated woman of later decades.

My first New Year's resolution - contacting my new-found distant cousin and fellow genealogist about my family. Her FamilySearch post that gave me Charles Reynolds' first name indicates she has a family bible that has been passed down by one of Loretta's siblings.

What are your goals for 2023? Are you going to use that DNA test you got for a gift? Ancestry memberships are on sale for 1/2 price until January 10! If you are ready to dive into your own family's story, I'd be glad to help. Drop me a line!

Best wishes for you in the New Year,

Leslie Ryan

I receive no compensation for any references or links, and no copyright infringement is intended.


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