Thursday, September 13, 2012

Emma L. Pidgeon

This is little Emma L. Pidgeon.  Researching her and her family has been one heartbreaking revelation after another.

First, some background.  Although the photo was taken in Philadelphia, “Pennsgrove” was written on the back along with her name.  After searching a bit on, I found Emma was the daughter of William Atkinson Pidgeon, a salesman, and Margaret (Maggie) S. Flanigan, a dressmaker.  She was born the 2nd of November 1892.  Born the third of three children, she had an older sister Grace, born in 1889, and an older brother Henry (Harry) Flanigan Pidgeon born in 1890.  The next step was to check the 1900 census and follow the lives of this family to see what happened to them.  Unfortunately, this census provided some startling results.  I sadly discovered that by 1900 both Grace and Emma were deceased, and only Harry was still living.  This was a terrible sign of the times where it wasn’t uncommon to lose one or more children early on.  As the CDC points out, in some cities in 1900, up to 30% of infants would die before their first birthday, an unfathomable thing in today’s world of healthcare.

I still do not know exactly what age Emma died, or what caused her death, but it’s likely she died prior to age 5 and from an illness.

Since I learned, conclusively and sadly, that Emma does not have any descendants, I decided to continue to research her parents and her brother Harry.  That's when I came upon my next startling revelation.  It turns out that William A. Pidgeon died in 1908, at the age of 41.  Without an online obituary, I was unable to determine what happened to him, but it is reasonable to deduce his death caused great hardship, both financial and emotional, for his wife and only remaining child, Harry.

In 1910 Margaret & Harry were still living in Pennsgrove, NJ.  Harry, at 19, was a clerk for the railroad office.  His mother Margaret was still a dressmaker working on her own account.

On June 5th, 1917, Harry registered for WWI duty.  He was married at the time, and was now a Railroad Master.  Some details from the registration form give a bit of a picture of him.  He was stout, of medium height, with light hair and blue eyes.  If Harry did see action in the war, he had returned home safely by 1920.  He and his wife Priscilla (3 years older than him) were living with an aunt and several others.

Harry's mother Margaret died in March 1930, at the age of 61.  At that time, Harry & his wife Priscilla were still childless, he at 39, her at 42.  Harry still worked for the railroad, and at the time they were still living in Camden, NJ.  I was unable to find Harry & Priscilla in the 1940 census, but given their ages in 1930, it seems doubtful they had children.  This left me with the sad realization that there wasn't any close family who would want Emma's photo.  Still, I decided to press on and try to find out what happened to Harry and Priscilla.  At the very least I felt I owed them that.  Unfortunately that wasn't as easy a proposition as I intially hoped.

Harry was found in the WWII registration files, and still living in New Jersey.  Given his age, however, it's highly unlikely he served as he would have been in his 50s at the time.

After this, I was left with very little to go on.  From social security records, I find Priscilla Pidgeon died on the 29th of September 1974 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Harry appears to have died in the intervening years prior to this.

And this led me to a dead end.  I wish I could give you a happy ending here.  Unfortunately, I have yet another family-less photo.  I do still hold out some remaining hope, though, that some distant relative of Emma's will see her and want to honor her memory.

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