Dispelling Family Folklore


I had been working on my family genealogy for almost a year when my Dad asked me an odd question, “So, since your great-grandfather was adopted. Have you found out what his real last name was?”

I was shocked and could not hide it on my face. What was he talking about?! I had been researching and hoarding for a year all the Harry C. Schofield ancestors data I could find on-line.

After a pause, my Dad explained that something had happened in Illinois just outside of Chicago when my great-grandfather was young and his parents could not take care of he and his sister, so another family had adopted them.

It seems my great-grandfather, Harry C. Schofield, was not too happy with them, so when he turned 18 he jumped a cattle train in Chicago and rode to South Dakota to start a new life.

After a few months of wallowing in the fact that I may not have been a real Schofield ancestor, I hit the investigation of Harry C. Schofield to determine what was his real name?

Harry had lived the remainder of his life in South Dakota, died in 1969 and had left behind twelve grown children, many grandchildren and many more great-grandchildren. All of which seem to be destined to belong to another family line if my Dad’s belief was correct.

Since I knew my g-Grandfather had died in South Dakota and I knew the exact date and location from his obituary. I wrote the State of South Dakota for his death certificate along with a check to cover the copying and handling fees. (When you search on-line, the various states have websites that tell you the best way to submit requests for documents. Follow that to the key as they are very busy and get hundreds of requests. You do not want yours to be thrown aside.)

From the death certification, I then found out his birthdate and where he had been born. I wrote a second formal letter to the Illinois Records department to the specific county in which he was born and requested his birth certificate.

It took 6 weeks, but I did receive a thin letter in the mail. Although I was thinking it was going to be a form letter stating my request could not be found or they did not have the resources to find it…SURPRISE, it was a small copy of his birth certificate, only 6×6 inches in size.

I bet I read that small piece of paper over almost thirty times. It gave a lot of key, important information: the time of his birth, the birth site, his weight, his length, his eye color, his health and yes…..his birth parents. And listed right there in plain site were their names….

Kate Virginia Forrest and…

Clarence Hiram Schofield!

Clarence was my grandfathers name.so I was a Schofield?….we all were?

I took that info, scanned it and e-mailed right off to my cousin in South Dakota. He is about 10 years older than I and actually lives in my g-Grandfather’s original homestead.

He & I pieced together this information over e-mails with all the info he had found in the attic, letters and all the data I had found  and it all fit. My g-grandfather and his sister had been adopted from the Schofields to a family named Pierce. That was where the confusion had started. There was no way to deny it now….The Schofield adoption folklore had been dispelled. We could move on with our genealogy work. (Other big clues that helped were the names that had been given to my ancestors and their offspring; as well as other relatives death certificates. I will talk about those type of findings in my future blogs.)

I told my Dad after two months of that discovery, wanting to wait a bit to ensure the folklore stayed dispelled. As the smile crept up on the corner of his mouth, I could tell that after forty-six years of his life, he was relieved to know as well.

That was almost twenty-five years ago. My Dad will turn 70 years old this April and do you know what he asked me last Christmas? “Angie, are you still working on your genealogy because I would like to know more about the Schofields?” I did not have much new to tell him as it had been 15 years since I last picked it up.

But now thanks to this blog assignment, I have found a renewed passion for working further on my family history and have eked out the time to make it happen.

So, come April, I know I will have something new to tell my Dad about his Schofield ancestors. Happy Birthday, Dad!


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