For ten years I’ve been asking “what happened to Lula?” My great-grandparents, Joseph Smith Lanier and Nancy Jane Bennett had ten children who lived to adulthood. Lula was the oldest.
What I Knew
In 1870 Joseph, Nancy, and four-month-old Lula lived in Chambers County, Alabama.1 By 1880, they were in Rock Mills in Randolph County, Alabama with Lula and four other children (Will, Emma, Jeff, and Hettie).2 The only other record I had for Lula was the 1900 census record where she is again listed in her parents’ household. But I doubted she was really there.
Joseph, Nancy, and most of their children moved to Monroe County, Mississippi in 1897 or 1898. Their 1900 census record lists all ten of their living children even though they weren’t all actually living with them. Lula was listed as a 31-year-old widow.3 I knew four of Joseph and Nancy’s other children listed in that census record were living elsewhere at the time, and I always believed Lula was as well.
The only other information I had about Lula came from a great-niece (granddaughter of Lula’s youngest sister Sallie Belle). In 2010, that niece described Lula as short and plump with white hair. She said they called her Aunt Lula and Aunt Lou. Unfortunately, this niece could not remember a husband, surname, children, or a location where Aunt Lula lived.
I’ve searched for Lula off and on for ten years, and then one day recently, when I wasn’t even looking for her, I found the clue that led me straight to her.
What I Found
While organizing records on Joseph and Nancy Jane’s family, I realized I didn’t have an obituary for their youngest daughter Lillie Vashti. I’d never bothered to look for her obituary because I had her death certificate. I knew when and where she died and had even visited her grave in Atlanta. But that day I looked for her obituary and found it. And that’s when I also found Lula.
Lillie’s obituary mentioned four nieces—Dorothy Louise Dial of Kenner, Louisana; Kathleen Neely of Jacksonville; Pearl Shepherd and Ella Robertson, both of Birmingham.4 I recognized Dorothy and Kathleen as daughters of her sisters Sallie Belle and Hettie. I thought Pearl was sister Emma’s daughter (Sallie Pearl). But I’d never heard of Ella Robertson of Birmingham. I knew the names of all of the other siblings’ children. None of them had a daughter named Ella. She had to be Lula’s daughter. And she was. It turned out that Pearl was, too.
After a few minutes of general searching for Ella, I tried the Social Security Applications and Claims Index at Ancestry. And there she was. Ella P. Robertson, born 15 August 1890 in Randolph County, Alabama, father J. W. Marion, and mother Lula A. Lanier.5
Lula married James W. Marion about 1888, probably in Randolph County, Alabama where James lived since no marriage record can be found.6 James and Lula were living in Lanett, Chambers County, Alabama in 1900 with their oldest four children. They both worked in a cotton mill.7 James apparently died before 1910 when Lula, listed as a widow, and their six children were living in Atlanta. Lula also worked in a cotton mill in Atlanta8 James and Lula’s children were Beaula, Ella P., Lula Pearl, John Curtis, Joseph J, and James Wymer.9
On 24 October 1911, Lula married William Franklin McDade in Atlanta.10 They continued living in Atlanta until at least 1918 when William registered for the World War I draft there. At that time, William worked as a bookkeeper for Georgia Paint and Glass Company.11
I haven’t found Lula and William in the 1920 or 1930 census, yet. But by 1935, they were living in Duval County, Florida, and William was a minister.12 In 1940, they were still in Duval County and William was listed as a musician.13
I’m happy to finally have a little of Aunt Lula’s story. But now I have more questions to answer. Like what was really her name? …coming soon
- 1870 U.S. census, Chambers County, Alabama, population schedule, Beat #1, p. 14, dwelling 186, family 186, J. S. Lanier; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Feb 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll 6. ↩
- 1880 U.S. census, Randolph County, Alabama, population schedule, Rock Mills, enumeration district (ED) 114, p. 11, dwelling 72, family 82, Joseph Lanier; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 Mar 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 30. ↩
- 1900 U.S. census, Monroe County, Mississippi, population schedule, Muldon, enumeration district (ED) 75, sheet 7A, p. 158 A, dwelling 134, family 134, Joseph Lanier; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 Mar 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 821. ↩
- “Dixon (Obituary),” The Atlanta Constitution, 27 Jan 1987, p. 49, col. 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (https://newspapers.com : accessed 23 Jun 2019). ↩
- Social Security Administration, “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jun 2019), entry for Ella P. Robertson, 1974, SS no. 422-92-xxxx. (SS-5 recently ordered.) ↩
- No marriage record for Lula and James exists in Chambers County where Lula’s parents lived at that time. Randolph County marriage records for that time were destroyed in an 1896 courthouse fire. ↩
- 1900 U.S. census, Chambers County, Alabama, population schedule, Lanette, enumeration district (ED) 9, sheet 1B, dwelling 11, family 13, James W. Marion; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jun 2019); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623. ↩
- 1910 U.S. census, Fulton County, Georgia, population schedule, Atlanta, enumeration district (ED) 81, sheet 18A, dwelling 315, family 331, Lula Marion; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jun 2019); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 192. ↩
- 1900 U.S. census, Chambers County, Alabama, pop. sch., Lanette, ED 9, sheet 1B, dwell. 11, fam. 13, James W. Marion. … 1910 U.S. census, Fulton County, Georgia, pop. sch., Atlanta, ED 81, sheet 18A, dwell. 315, fam. 331, Lula Marion. ↩
- Fulton County, Georgia, marriage license and certificate (1911), William F. McDade-Lula Marion; digital image, “Georgia Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978,” Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jun 2019). ↩
- “U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database and images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 23 Jun 2019), card for William Franklin McDade, serial no. 2832, Local Draft Board Division 3, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. ↩
- Duvall, Florida, population, Precinct 20B, p. 1, line 1, W. F. McDade; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 24 Jun 2019); citing Tenth census of the state of Florida, 1935; (Microfilm series S 5, 30 reels); Record Group 001021; State Library and Archives of Florida, Tallahassee, Florida. ↩
- 1940 U.S. census, Duval County, Florida, population schedule, Hart Haven, enumeration district (ED) 16-3, sheet 4A, household 62, William F. McDade; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://ancestry.com : accessed 24 Jun 2019); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll m-00627-00584. ↩
- Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com : 23 June 2019), memorial 99814456, Lula Marion McDade (1870–1947), Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida. ↩