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.
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.
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 newspapers.com where for whatever reason, I now started finding more information.
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.
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 Melvy 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 Melvys 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.
Oakland Tribune, Wed, May 11, 1910 – Page 9
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?