Sunday, September 25, 2016

Aunt Charlotte

Last week I wrote about the flu pandemic of 1918-1920 and how it affected my family.  You can read about it here.

Once I learned about Aunt Charlotte’s death from the flu, I wanted to learn more about her.  What I knew at this point was that she was born in California in about 1876 and that she married Milton Schwartz, a younger brother of my great grandmother Birdie, on December 22, 1907 in San Francisco.

Milton Schwartz Charlotte Haley to wed 12_21_1907
The San Francisco Call, 22 Dec 1907, Sun, First Edition
I had lots of information about Milton but this was all I knew about Charlotte Haley.  I also knew that they had no kids so figured my chance of connecting with others wasn’t too great.
I thought it might be interesting to see what her obituary, if there was one, might say so I started searching.  I was unsuccessful but thought I’d try the San Francisco Public Library, who provides obituary look ups for free, even though Charlotte had died in Oakland.  Who knew?
And a week or so later, I received an e-mail from the Magazines and Newspapers Center at the San Francisco Public Library (NOTE:  if you are looking for obituaries in the Bay Area, this is a wonderful service and is FREE!).  And there was Charlotte’s obituary.
Charlotte Schwartz obit SF Examiner Jan_17_1919
San Francisco Examiner, 17 Jan 1919, Page 4

Hmmm, nothing about the flu.  Even though I knew she died from the flu, would it be worthwhile to get a copy of her death certificate?  As I sat there pondering that question it smacked me in the face – mother of John M. Haley?  WAIT - WHAT?  So when Charlotte and Milton were married she was either divorced or widowed?  And she’d had a son?

And then another smack in the face.  She was the daughter of Meria Mervy and sister of A.J. and Dr. E.T. Mervy?  So she was born Charlotte Mervy?  One paragraph and the world into Aunt Charlotte had been opened up in so many ways.

Back to where for whatever reason, I now started finding more information.

Charlotte Melvy John Haley Divorce
San Francisco Chronicle, 13 Oct 1901, Sun, Page 24

I guess this could have been hiding since in 1901 she was known as Lottie but look at that, John T. Haley had deserted her. 

If I had just found this obituary in my initial search, I would have had more clues right off the bat.  I guess in this case it sure paid to be persistent.

Charlotte Schwartz dies of influenza copy
Oakland Tribune, Thu, Jan 16, 1919, Page 4

So now I knew that her son was John Mervin Haley.  I did some more searching and have found that her parents were Maria (Kearny) and Ulysses Mervy and that she had at least four siblings – Emily, Edward Thomas, Alphonse John, and James.  And there is her son, John Mervyn Haley, married to Irene Sarah Wheeler, with at least one child, James Tad Haley.  I have more to learn about the Mervys but it is encouraging that I might be able to connect with some of Charlotte’s descendants and, maybe, be able to share details with them about her death.

As I continued to search for Charlotte, I realized that if I searched on Milton Schwartz (rather than Charlotte) I would find even more information since, like most women, she went by Mrs. Milton Schwartz rather than her own first name (I’m sure glad we got away from that!).  And lo and behold, up popped a photo of her!  Sure it’s not great but maybe, just maybe, it might help me identify one of my unidentified photos that my grandmother left for me. 

Charlotte Schwartz Campaigns for Funds
Oakland Tribune, Wed, May 11, 1910 – Page 9

Home for Incurables

So based on the few letters that my grandmother wrote about Charlotte Schwartz and her death from the flu, I’ve learned quite a bit about the woman she was.  And maybe one day I’ll come across one of her descendants and be able to share details with them about her death.  Who wouldn’t want to know more about that?


  1. Aren't old newspapers wonderful? Looks like you had success here "putting meat on the bones."

    1. It's amazing how you can look and look and find nothing and then when you look again, there it is!

  2. I'm highly impressed with the amount of money these ladies where able to raise in a short time to build a home that sounds like a hospice.

  3. Do the Haleys and Melvys show up in any other things in that pile of pack-rat stuff you have? It would be interesting to learn if Charlotte and her family had been around socially before she married Milton.

    I just love when you think you have nothing and all of a sudden stuff just comes rolling your way.

    1. I haven't seen anything else about the Melvys and Haleys but you can bet my radar is up now!

  4. Isn't it odd how different articles pop up when you are searching for another name that hadn't shown up when you were searching for the first name even though it appears in the article? I am so glad you were able to figure this one out.

    1. I'm sure I'd searched under Milton Schwartz before but maybe I just zipped on by this stuff.

  5. What wonderful finds!!! Aren't newspapers great? And, looking for the husband's name is always a great idea. Great finds!

    1. I tend to forget that women went by "Mrs. XYZ" rather than by her first name. My mother signed her name that way until the day she died - and my dad had been gone nearly 8 years by then.