All that isn’t known of a lifetime, part 2

(Continued from part 1, here, because of a technical issue with the original posting)

We know from a lot of sources that Mattie married John Berens. Her father John’s obituary in 1951 listed “a daughter, Mrs. Johnny Berens of Mobridge,” as a survivor.1 Abigail’s 1965 obituary says she was survived by Mrs. Mattie Berens, Mobridge.2 Mattie’s own obituary says she married John Berens and “lived in Selby for several years before returning to Mobridge.”3 John Berens’ obituary in 1990 identifies his wife Mattie, and says the marriage was in Eureka, which is McPherson County.4

Exactly when Mattie married isn’t clear. There is, of course, no entry for the marriage in the searchable South Dakota marriage indexes — and I haven’t yet gone card by card through the entries to see if one got missed. From the 1930 census, we can figure that she was still single then. But by 1932, her brother Philip was recorded as attending school in Selby with John Berens recorded as “parent or guardian.”5 So it’s pretty likely she was married by then. And when the Berens family was recorded in the South Dakota state census in Selby in 1935, the cards for Mattie and John say the marriage was in 1930.6

And if that’s all correct, then Mattie had one son: Robert John Berens, shown as age two on that 1935 state census7 and as age seven on the 1940 federal census.8

The reason why I add the “if that’s all correct” part is that the child was not named as a survivor in any of John Cottrell’s obituaries in 1951… and attempts to contact him (if he’s still living) haven’t been productive. Sigh…

And nothing I’ve recorded so far begins to explain why Mattie was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Mobridge,9 along with her father, stepmother and brother, while John Berens was buried — according to his obituary — at the Mobridge City Cemetery,10 which would put him with his parents — and not his wife.

And even going through every bit of this… all I have are names and dates and places.

I don’t know what Mattie looked like, what her voice sounded like, what she liked and disliked. I don’t know if she was happy or sad, by nature an optimist or pessimist. I don’t even know if she ever met her cousins — my mother and her siblings for example, or the children of any of my grandfather’s other brothers and sisters.

It’s painful to have to end this the way I began: just who was Mattie Lee (Cottrell) Berens… and what was she like? But there’s still an awful lot about this cousin that we may never know.


Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “The enigma of a cousin, part 2,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 23 May 2020).

SOURCES

  1. “Dakota Deaths: John W. Cottrell,” Aberdeen (SD) American-News, 20 April 1951, p. 3, col. 4; digital images, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com/ : accessed 14 Dec 2018). And see “Funeral Held Monday For John Cottrell,” Mobridge (South Dakota) Tribune, 17 Apr 1951.
  2. “A. Cotrell Mass Dated,” Aberdeen (SD) American-News, 19 January 1965, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com/ : accessed 14 Dec 2018).
  3. “Local, Area Deaths: Mattie Berens,” Aberdeen (SD) American-News, 4 January 1980, p. 8, col. 2; digital images, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com/ : accessed 23 May 2020). Also “Rites for Mattie Berens Held Here Saturday Morning,” Mobridge (South Dakota) Tribune, 7 Jan 1980.
  4. “Midland Deaths: John W. Berens,” Aberdeen (SD) American-News, 26 March 1990, p. 5, col. 5-6; digital images, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com/ : accessed 23 May 2020).
  5. Walworth County, South Dakota, School Census 1932, Selby District 2, entry for Philip Cottrell; “South Dakota, School Records, 1879-1970,” digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 23 May 2020); citing State Historical Society, Pierre.
  6. See 1935 South Dakota census, Walworth County, South Dakota, Selby, card nos. 59-60 (John W. Berens; Mattie Berens); digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 23 May 2020); citing State Historical Society, Pierre.
  7. Ibid., card no. 61.
  8. 1940 U.S. census, Walworth County, South Dakota, Mobridge City, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 65-7, sheet 81-A, line 4 (“persons… enumerated at the Berens Hotel”), Robert John Berens; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 May 2020); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 3869.
  9. Greenwood Cemetery, Walworth County, South Dakota, Mattie Lee Berens marker; digital image, Memorial No. 155717975, Find A Grave (https://findagrave.com : accessed 23 May 2020).
  10. “Midland Deaths: John W. Berens,” Aberdeen (SD) American-News, 26 March 1990, p. 5, col. 5-6; digital images, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com/ : accessed 23 May 2020).
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