Finding Ilo’s Son, Lee Devine – 52 Ancestors #3


Well, this certainly wasn’t at all what I intended to write about for week #3 of 52 Ancestors, but we’ll let synchronicity have a run here and go with the flow.

This amazing mystery has turned from a search for the nameless son of a young lady named Ilo, with no last name, to a search for Ilo E. Bailey, born sometime between 1901 and 1904 in Ohio, who lived in Battle Creek, Michigan by 1920, daughter of John Bailey and Maude Wable.  Then it went one step further and became the search for Leo Thomas Devine, and then Lee Joseph Devine.  Yes, that’s the name of Ilo’s infant son and then what he was called as an adult.

You’re invited…come along…but word of warning…this is a theme park thriller stand-in-line-for-an-hour ride as it unfolds.  Except you don’t have to stand in line and you have a front row seat!  And, at the end, you get to vote….but I’m not going to reveal the question because it would spoil the story.  And what a story it is!  Pull up a chair…

My week #1 ancestor of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge was Searching for Ilo’s Son.  Wow – what a mind-boggler this has turned out to be.  Remember the game Twister?  This is a lot the same.  I feel like I’ve been living on an emotional roller coaster for the past two weeks.

A short summary is that my father, William Sterling Estes had a child in 1920 with a woman in the Battle Creek/Kalamazoo area of Michigan, near Camp Custer, where he was stationed.  I had been unable to find either the woman, Ilo, or the male child, but a letter she left, included in the week #1 article, provided several clues.

Many people left comments and several of the commenters hit pay dirt.  I could not have put this puzzle together without all of you.  So let me say a very, VERY, big thank you to readers Carole, Laurie, Phyllis, Donna, Jerry, William and librarian in Louisville, Mark Taflinger.  I hope I didn’t miss anyone.

This exercise just goes to show why you should always obtain the actual record, no matter what the abstract or index says, and why you absolutely must think way, far, outside the box – and check even the unlikely.

This is the third time that viewing an actual record provided critically vital information.  You’d think I would have learned.

I had previously found the marriage record between an Ilo Baily and a Don Caroles in Battle Creek and discarded it because my father’s name was William Estes and an Ilo marriage to a Don Caroles seemed irrelevant.  It was the only Ilo record in that time and place and I felt that Caroles marriage eliminated that Ilo.  As it turns out, that marriage was far from irrelevant.

William Sterling Estes was the son of Ollie Bolton and William George Estes of Claiborne County, Tennessee.  Around 1910, the family came north to live in Indiana and in the late 19-teens, Ollie and William George divorced, with Ollie Bolton Estes moving to Chicago and William George Estes moving to Harlan County, Ky.  My Dad joined the Army.

Ollie Bolton’s mother was Margaret Claxton.  Why is this the least bit relevant, you ask?  Good question, because I certainly never thought it would be to Ilo Baily and Don Caroles.  But, it looks like Don Caroles just might not be who he said he was.

bailey-caroles marriage 1

This is the actual marriage index entry on two pages.  I don’t know why it’s marked through, but it is and 2 others are on the same page are as well.

Bailey-Caroles marriage 2

Ilo Bailey lists her parents as James I. Bailey and Ollie Bolton, but Ollie Bolton was the mother of William Sterling Estes.

Don Caroles says he was born in New Mexico and his parents are George Caroles and Mary Claxton.  Claxton?  Ollie Bolton’s mother’s surname??

Perhaps even more important is the note under their marriage record that says “In War Service Against Germany from Clayborn Co., Tenn.”  Clayborn is a misspelling of Claiborne which is where the Estes family hailed from.

Checking the 1910 census, there is no Don Caroles nor any Caroles born in New Mexico.  Maybe more importantly, there were no Caroles in Claiborne County, Tn., either.  My Estes and Bolton families were from Claiborne County, and I have many reference books.  There were no Caroles.  To be absolutely positive, I checked the Claiborne Pioneer Project too, and nada.  There was Carroll, but no Don.

By now I’m extremely suspicious, so I checked further.  The 1920 census showed Ilo and Don Caroles.  The census date was Jan. 13, 1920, just a month after their marriage, and there is no baby yet, but they are living with Maud E. Bailey.  Maud looks for all the world to be Ilo’s mother.  And notice that Ilo’s age has been reduced by 2 years in the month since she got married.  Hmmm…usually marriage ages people!  Don Caroles’ occupation was “fireman” and then “locomotive” which is what William Sterling Estes did in WWI at Camp Custer.

Bailey 1920 census

Ilo is living in the same house with Maud Bailey, probably her mother.

William Sterling Estes is not listed in Michigan in the 1920 census, but we know positively that he was stationed at Camp Custer at that time.  However, he was also AWOL, from November 1919, before he married Ilo, through April 1920, so maybe this is her family’s attempt to hide him.

Looking back at the 1910 census, we do find Ilo with her family and indeed her mother is Maud and the siblings match.

Bailey 1910 census

Ilo E. Bailey in the 1910 census was age 6, so born in 1904, and living in Belvidere in Montcalm Co., Michigan.  That means in 1919, she was age 15 when she married “Don Caroles.”  Her parents were John Bailey and Maude E., although her father had died before the 1920 census.  Her grandfather John C. Bailey age 78 also living with them in 1910.

Reconstructing her family between the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census, we find the following:

Ilo’s father, John Bailey was born in 1865 in Ohio and his father was John C. Bailey born in 1832 in Ohio.  Ilo’s father, John, died sometime between the 1910 and 1920 census.  Ilo’s mother was Maude E. born in 1881 in Ohio.  We discover Maud’s maiden name in two of her children’s death records.

Ilo’s sibings:

  • Martha E. Bailey born in October 1898 in Ohio, died Aug 3, 1913 in Belvidere Twp, Montcalm Co. Mi., father, John Bailey, mother, Maude Wable.
  • John C. Bailey born in 1901 in Ohio.
  • Mervin E. Bailey born in 1907 in Ohio (Ervin born Jan 24, 1907 in Van Wert, Ohio, according to Ohio births,) Mervin Eugene died March 11, 1921 in Belvidere, Michigan, his death record says that Ervin born was Jan. 24, 1906 in Van Wert, Ohio, child of John C. Bailey and Maude Wable.
  • May E. Bailey born October 1918 in Michigan.

John Bailey married Maude Wable (Or Woble) in Jackson, Jackson Co., Michigan on March 31, 1897 according to Michigan marriage records.  According to the 1900 census, John already had 3 daughters from a first marriage.

Ok, it surely looks like we have the right Ilo, but where is Ilo in the 1930 census, or, for that matter, anytime after the letter she wrote to William Sterling Estes dated March 22, 1921?

The 1930 census shows no Don Caroles or any other that look familiar at all.  Of 5 Caroles listed nationally, 4 are born in Italy and one in Nebraska.

Once Again, We’ve Run Aground.

Here’s my working theory in terms of what happened surrounding Ilo Bailey and “Don Caroles’” marriage.

William Sterling Estes was actually either 17 or 18 in 1919 but his military ID would have said that he was 22 or 23, born in 1898.  He would not have needed his parents to sign.  Ilo, if she was born in 1903 would have been 16 and if born in 1904, 15 when she married in 1919.  She was obviously pregnant, I’m guessing at least 3 months, so the child was born sometime after the census in January and probably before June.  My sister was born May 22nd that year to another woman.  I wonder if he knew my sister’s mother was pregnant when he married Ilo.

When applying for a marriage license, Ilo claimed she was 19, but her youthful appearance might have caused some suspicion.  Her own mother had a young baby at home herself and was a widow by January 1920, so obviously a woman facing hardships.  It would be easy to surmise that she did not want her daughter finding herself in the same kind of situation and might not have been in favor of her marrying so young.  I suspect that Ollie Bolton went along with the young couple to get their marriage license and then to get married, and posed as “her” mother, not his.  Note that Ilo did not give her correct father’s name either.

I checked Ancestry, Family Search and Rootsweb for Ilo’s family, with no luck.  There is one very sketchy record at Ancestry.  I did leave the contributor a note but also noticed they had not signed on in over a year.  Not a good omen.

I was trying to track Ilo’s siblings forward in time, thinking I might be able to find their obituaries which could lead me to Ilo once again, as an adult, with a married surname…but all I found was two of her siblings death records as young people.   Of the two siblings who lived, I was unable to find anything at all about May Bailey, and John C. Bailey was too general.

So, we’re at a dead end again.

The Ridiculous and the Sublime

Do ridiculously silly questions sometimes haunt you?  If not, l’ll gladly share some of mine!

Here’s a mind-twister that might even stump legal eagle Judy Russell.  If you’re Ilo, and you marry “Don Caroles” and have a baby, and then discover that there is “another woman” and “another baby,” and that your marriage is illegal, probably saving you the trouble of getting divorced – what surname do you file under in court?  Bailey, Caroles or Estes?  And given that, who do you file against, Don Caroles or William Sterling Estes?  And what do you file?  And what kind of a court do you file in?  And what do you ask for, exactly, other than having the scoundrel shot?

When the baby is born, what surname do you give your baby?  Caroles?  If you give the baby the name Caroles, do you then ask for it to be changed when you discover that not only were you illegally married, but not to the man Don Caroles at all?  And changed to what, Estes or Bailey?  Is the child then legally illegitimate?  And assuming all of this is filed, is the entire court record and file now sealed because it involves changing the parentage of a minor, similar to an adoption?  In other words, will I ever be able to find this record, wherever it is, whatever it is?

In Ilo’s letter, she tells William Sterling Estes that “it’s in a lawyer’s hands now” and that she doesn’t need his signature at all.  And besides that, even if she did, exactly which signature would he use???  And wouldn’t you think he would get in trouble with the military for getting married under a fake name, I mean, if he wasn’t already in trouble for being AWOL?  Wouldn’t you think he would think about these things?  Just saying….

And if Ilo then went to remarry, or marry, whatever you call it, what surname would she use in that marriage record?  The 1920s was a long time before women petitioned to take their maiden name back.  In the 1980s, judges were reticent to grant the return to maiden names if children were involved – and that’s 60 light-years later.

One of the reasons that I ask all of this is that I know the “father” was changed on my sister’s birth record to reflect my father’s name, after her mother married my father in December of 1922.  He seemed to like December weddings.  My sister’s birth record was then refiled with the later “delayed” or “adopted” records and given that my sister didn’t know about this, she had fits getting her birth certificate because it had been stricken in the original book with no “pointer” to the new entry.  A clerk finally found it on a fluke and with her standing there refusing to leave without a birth certificate.

Am I ever going to be able to find out what happened to Ilo’s son?  I actually wonder if he died.  My sister who was born within months or weeks (or for all we know days) of Ilo’s child was well known to the family, even if her mother and her mother’s family “didn’t care for” my father, to put it mildly.  So if Ilo’s child died, what surname would his death record have reflected?

I may never figure this out, but still, I want to know…

  • Who was that child?
  • What was his name?  No child should be remembered namelessly.  Even my babies who died all have names.
  • Did he live or die?  Is my brother alive?  Did he have children?
  • If he died, when, and how?

And oh, just one more crazy twisted question.  If you were William Sterling Estes, and you had two women pregnant at the same time in the same town, due, it seems, about the same month…wouldn’t you worry that they might meet each other?  Like at the doctor’s office…or worse yet, wind up being roommates giving birth???

Wait a minute!  Maybe that’s what happened.  He was AWOL from November 1919 through April 1920 when he was arrested.  Arrested?  Maybe he turned himself in….maybe it seemed like the safer choice.  Oh what a tangled web we weave…..

Ilo’s Son

Just as I was ready to call this a draw, again, for about the 100th time in the 36 years I’ve been searching for my brother…another reader sent me a vital piece of information.  Ilo Esther Bailey remarried in Ohio using her maiden name.  And yes, it’s the same Ilo because she gave her parents names.  And for once, the names all match.

On June 9, 1928, Ilo Esther Baily, born in Van Wert, Ohio to John Bailey and Maude Wable married Thomas Devine, son of Mathew Devine and Elizabeth Hawkins.  They both listed their marital status as “single” and they were married in Bowling Green, Wood County, Ohio, just south of Toledo.

The image of the actual application shows that they weren’t just single, but that they both state they have never been married before.

Bailey-Devine marriage app

The 1930 census, just two years later shows this couple with several children, including one named Leo Jr, age 10, so born in 1920, in Michigan.  They were living in Lucas County, where Toledo is located.  Ilo is listed as age 27, so born in 1903.

Bailey-Devine 1930 census

Children listed were:

  • Leo Jr. – 10 – born in Michigan
  • Matthew T. – 8 – born in Ohio
  • Robert J. – 6 – born in Ohio
  • William E. – 3/12th – so born in January of 1930

Leo would have been the son of William Sterling Estes.  How then could he be Leo Jr.?  Did she rename the child after her second husband?  This doesn’t make sense, but then nothing about this entire situation makes sense.

About this time, I recalled what my crazy aunts had told me.  That my father was married about 1920 or so to a Laila LaFountain and they had a son Lee, who eventually took his step-father’s name of “Levi or Levy or something like that.”  Lee wound up in Louisville, Ky studying the ministry in a seminary “or something,” they recalled.  All this time, I thought Laila LaFountain was a different person, if she and Lee even existed at all.  Remember, they were the crazy aunts:)

By 1933, Ilo was in Louisville, Ky., with husband  L. Thomas, as listed in the Louisville, Kentucky City Directory.  L. Thomas Devine is listed with Ilo E., r rear 911 Washington in 1933 and in 1934 Leo T. Devine with Ilo is listed at 1056 Washington.

By 1939, Mrs. Ilo E. Devine is listed by herself at 1005 E. Main.

Another reader found ILA (sic); Leo, Jr., student; and Matthew, living at 412 E. Grey in Louisville, in the 1940 city directory. Ilo is listed as widow of Thomas. There is a Thomas listed in 1940, who is a Laborer at Cavehill Cemetery. There is also a William, but there is no way to know if he is Ilo’s son.

The family is missing in the 1940 census.  In 1940, Ilo’s children would have been:

  • Leo – 20
  • Matthew – 18
  • Robert – 16
  • William – 10

According to the Ohio birth registry, another child, James J. Devine was born Oct. 24, 1923.  Would this be Robert James Devine who died in 1975?  The answer is in Robert’s death certificate and obituary.

And I have to ask…why does this family continue to change their names???  Leo Thomas Jr. became Lee Joseph., James J. became Robert James and William E. became William Douglas???

In 1942, Matthew T. and Robert J. are living at 829 Washington Street. There is also a Thomas.

We know that at least Robert James was alive beyond 1942, because he died in Fort Worth, Texas on July 7, 1975.  His mother is listed as Ilo Esther Bailey and his father as Leo Thomas Devine.

Robert James Devine death cert

I ordered Robert’s obituary from the Fort Worth Library.  It did not list his parents, but did list his siblings.

Robert Devine obit cropped

So we now know that in 1975, Lee, Matthew and William were all still living in Louisville.

According to the birth index, Matthew T. was born January 15, 1922 in Lucas County, Ohio to Ilo and Leo.  This means that this child was conceived in April 1921, approximately 1 month after Ilo wrote the letter to William Sterling Estes.  Perhaps this relationship with Leo Devine, is what Ilo was referring to in her letter when she stated that William, upon his return to Battle Creek, would hear “quite a bit about me.”  If indeed she did return to Michigan in June as she indicated was planned, she was then pregnant with her second child.  It’s interesting that the location from where she wrote the letter to William was Louisville, where she and Leo Devine ultimately wound up living.  Maybe Leo is the “very fine people who are wealthy and willing to take care of baby and I.”

If Leo, or Lee, the child, was raised as part of the Leo Devine family, he may never have known that he was not Leo Devine’s biological child.  But was Lee Devine the biological son of Leo Devine?  As it turns out, Leo Devine was living with his brother Douglas in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1920, per the census, and it appears that Douglas was working at the Army Base.

One thing is for sure, Matthew Devine was positively not the child of William Sterling Estes, because he was in the Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks, in Kansas, at the time Matthew was conceived.

Matthew Devine died August 19, 1997 and his obituary is as follows:

Matthew Thomas Devine, 75, died Sunday at Caritas Medical Center.  He was a retired employee of the old International Harvester Co., an Army veteran of World War II and a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1181.

Survivors: his wife, the former Norma J. Taylor; sons David and James Harbin; daughters Mary Scott and Esther Choi; a brother, William Devine; six grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Funeral: 1 p.m. Tuesday, Resthaven, 4400 Bardstown Road. Burial: Resthaven Memorial. Visitation: 2-9 p.m. Monday.

From the Ohio Birth Index – William Douglas Devine was born December 31, 1929 son of Leo & Ilo.  His birth date in the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) matches this date.

Here is his  obituary From findagrave.

Devine, William Douglas, 77, of Louisville, passed away on Tuesday, March 27, 2007, at Jewish Hospital. Mr. Devine was a retired captain on the Louisville Fire Department, a member of the Fire Fighter’s Union, Retired Fire Fighters, honorary member of the 10th. Mountain Division, and Guardian Angels Catholic Church. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Mary Lee Devine; a daughter, Dusty Callahan-Hardin (Tim); and two grandchildren, Ryan and Caitlin Callahan. Funeral Mass will be 10 a.m. Saturday at Guardian Angels Catholic Church, 6000 Preston Highway. Burial will follow in Resthaven Memorial Park. Visitation will be 2-8 p.m. Friday and after 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Arch L. Heady at Resthaven, 4400 Bardstown Rd. Expressions to Guardian Angels Catholic Church.  Published in The Courier-Journal on 3/29/2007.

Unfortunately, this obituary doesn’t say anything about his brother, Lee.

Where is Leo Thomas Devine?

In 1939 and 1940, we find a Lee Joseph Devine attending the University of Louisville in the Liberal Arts program.

In the 1956 City Directory, we find Lee J. Devine with wife Ruth who works for the Pan Am Service Station.  Then we find Matthew T. Devine who works in the same place.  That seems just too much of a coincidence and connects Matthew T. with Lee J. who is married to wife Ruth.  To me, this removes most of the doubt as to whether or not Lee. J. Devine is the same person as Leo T. Devine.  Having said that, this family “ball of string” has thrown me so many loops and blindsided me so many times that I’m very hesitant to conclude anything without definitive proof.  It seems that no one behaves or plays by the rules, or even keeps their names!

By the 1960 directory, we find Lee J. Devine who is now a vice president of Thurston Cook Mercury.

In 1989, we find the death record for Lee J. Devine, also listed as Leo Devine in at least one death record index.  He was born February 24, 1920, obtained his SS number in Louisville prior to 1951 and died in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, FL on January 21, 1989.  He had a death record both there and in Louisville and was buried in Howe Valley, Hardin Co., KY.  Hardin County borders Jefferson County where Louisville is located.

Devine cemetery stone

Photo taken in January, 2012….and Ruth isn’t buried at that time.

This particular Lee Devine married Cordelia Ruth Lyon on June 26, 1943.  But, is this Lee Devine the son of Ilo Esther Bailey or is this a different Lee Devine?

When in doubt, call the library.  I learned this years and years ago, and once again, it didn’t fail me.  Mark Taflinger, the Data Desk Manager provided me with Lee’s obituary which clearly links him with brothers William and Matthew.

Lee J. Devine, 68, died Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

He was a retired president and administrator of St. Matthews Manor and Mount Holly Convalescent Centers, a former president of the Kiwanis Club of Louisville and the Executive Club, and a member of the Pendennis Club, Boys and Girls Council of the Salvation Army, English Speaking Union, Stephensburg Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite and Kosair Shrine Temple.

Survivors: his wife, the former Ruth Lyon; and two brothers, Matthew T. and William D. Devine.

Funeral: 10 a.m. Wednesday, Christ United Methodist Church, 4614 Brownsboro Road, with burial in Howe Valley Cemetery in Cecilia. Visitation at Pearson’s, 149 Breckinridge Lane, from 1 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

But there is one more thing….he had no children.  So I don’t have any nieces and nephews, and there is no one to do DNA testing to prove, or disprove, that Lee was my brother.

From Lee’s obituary, I would have been proud to know this man.  It certainly looks like he made a very positive difference in the world.  Ilo, your son would have made you proud.  I’m just so sorry that I never got the chance to meet him.  But now I know.  I no longer have to wonder.  There will be no mysteriously appearing sibling DNA match, at least not from him.  I can stop waiting.

So, now I must pause to reflect.  It has been an extremely long couple of weeks.

Is Lee Devine My Biological Brother?

Is this man my brother?  I’m sure you’ll understand my need to ask after discovering that my brother Dave was not.  Added to this doubt, in this case, is the fact that Leo Devine was also in Battle Creek in the 1920 census and that Ilo named the child, according to the 1930 census, Leo Thomas Jr. – although his name would somehow evolve over time to Lee Joseph.

I’m sure that this Lee Devine is the man that is supposed to be my brother. We have finally walked, crawled and then sprinted to the end of that trail. But was he really my brother?  The only resource left now is photos and once again, Mark, from the Louisville library came through for me.  Libraries have clipping files.  This photo of Lee Devine is from March 2, 1955.  It’s the only photo in his file.


I have no photos of my father from the time of his military service until about 1950 or so.

Bill about 1950

Here is a photo of my father I’d guess about 1945 or 1950.  And no, I have no idea who the child is…which leads to more questions, that, unless someone recognizes this photo, will forever be unanswered.  It was labeled as “one of his girlfriend’s children” by my brother Dave’s mother, so it’s not Dave.

William Sterling Estes circi 1950 crop

My father about 1950, so about 13 years older than Lee was in the photo taken in 1955.

Bill military 2 cropped

Here, above and below, are photos of my father in the military around 1918, so about age 15.

Bill about 1918 cropped

Bill 1960

Here’s William Sterling Estes about 1960 with my step-mother, Virgie.

Edna 1955 cropped

Here is a photo of my genetically proven sister, the one born in 1920 just three months after Lee, taken about 1955.

Sister age 60

Here’s my proven sister at about age 60.

Estes Publicity

Here is a photo of me taken when I was about 5 years older than Lee was in the photo in 1955.

There are a few more family photos in the “Crazy Aunts” story.  I personally think Lee resembled my father’s brother, Joseph, shown in the family photo in that article, and below.

Estes family 1914 joseph cropped

This is the end of the story.  We’re done.  Case solved, thanks to many contributing people.  It stops here because there are no children to DNA test.  There can be no final chapter, so to speak, no definitive conclusion.

Feelings and Coping

I feel that it’s only appropriate to add a quick note about how I feel about this.  These have been an extremely emotion-filled few days.  I have chosen to share not only this experience in total, step by step, but also how I feel about it, for two reasons.

First, many others will go through this same process.  I didn’t quite expect to go through it publicly, but that is how it started with the Ilo story and I felt obliged to share with you “the rest of the story,” especially given that so many of you contributed the key pieces of the puzzle.  It would not have been solved without the reader contributions.

The resolution of this type of search within a few days is actually very unusual.  Often there are weeks or months between pieces of information and you can deal with each one as they arrive.  For me, this process has been extremely compressed these past few days due to the newly available online records such as the Ohio birth, death and marriage indexes. This process and the emotional roller-coaster attached to each new piece of data feels quite lonely and the emotions are extremely raw, especially if you’re searching for the family you don’t have.  These journeys by virtue of what they are often isolated and alone.  Other than giving birth or burying a family member, these types of searches are one of the most personal journeys you can embark upon.  They will change your life forever, the journey itself, if not the outcome.

For many, especially adoptees, there is a sense of desperation that defines these searches.  The clock is always working against you in the sense of finding the person alive, and working for you in terms of new records becoming available that may help your search.  Your feelings are always a conflicted hodgepodge of hope and fear, often wildly swinging between the two.  Fear of what you will find, what you won’t find, that you’ll find nothing, or that it will be too late.

Second, I’ve shared to help those who never experience this understand the process for those of us who have.  Almost all of us will know someone who goes through this.  Many people experience this over and over trying to find parents and then siblings, having no idea what awaits them….what they will find…if anything.  It never becomes easy or even easier, especially after a few choice rejections and setbacks.  Many times, each one becomes more difficult.  The end of these stories aren’t always happy endings in the classic sense of a tearful, joyful reunion.  Trust me – there is another sister I haven’t told you about.

Anyone who searches for a sibling or parent or child knows that the entire search, for however long it takes, often decades, is fueled by hope.  Some hope for a joyful reunion, for love.  Some just want closure.  Some want to know what that person was or is like.  Many want to find some commonality.  Some of us are almost afraid to hope.  Given the dysfunctional state of my father’s life and his history of drinking, I had no idea what to expect in his child.  Lee was a pleasant surprise.

I clearly knew that it was extremely unlikely that I could ever find this brother, and by this time, more than 90 years after his birth, if I did, he would likely be deceased.  I’m far more surprised that I’ve actually found him than I am that he has passed over.

I was extremely blessed to have found my sister Edna in 1978 and my brother Dave in the early 2000s.  I had a few years with both of them before they passed – years I would not trade for anything.  I think we loved each other more intensely and gratefully to make up for the years we didn’t have.  My sister and I were so very much alike in uncanny ways.  I was utterly devastated at her passing – given and so unexpectedly wrenched away again just a dozen years later. It was many years before I stopped picking up the phone on Sunday afternoons to call her.  The second anniversary of Dave’s passing is next week.  And so – another brother lost, and found, and lost again.

When we obtain closure, it allows us to move on, in our own way, in our own time.  In the meantime, we grieve what wasn’t, what might have been, what we hoped would be and never happened.  Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, we grieve what was.

This discovery, as glad and extremely grateful as I am to have made it, is, in it’s own way, a death.  It’s finally over.  The door has shut, as gently as possible, but it is closed, latched, and he is on the other side…and although I’ve found him, given the murky circumstances, I still don’t know if he is actually my brother.

What I wanted, of course, was a brother, and failing that, the truth.  Had he been alive, or had children, the truth would be easy to discern utilizing DNA testing.  It seems ironically fitting somehow that even at the end of this convoluted journey, the truth would still be permanently unreachable.  For the past 36 years, my brother has always seemed to be just beyond my fingertips, and he still is.

So, in keeping with my quilter’s heart, I bought fabric this week to begin a quilt (for me) for him…to celebrate finding him, to be thankful for my many friends who solved the mystery, to mark the end of this part of the journey, and to honor his life well lived.  When life gives you scraps, make quilts.  There is beauty in everything.  I chose beautiful batik snowflakes to represent the steps in the journey that ended “cold,” in the middle of the toughest winter in decades.

Hoffman Bali tiles

As for whether he is my biological brother, I truly don’t know what to think, so I’m asking you.

Let’s Vote

So, what do you think, based on the pictures?  By the way, your votes are anonymous,  so be truthful.

Is Lee Devine my biological brother?



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26 thoughts on “Finding Ilo’s Son, Lee Devine – 52 Ancestors #3

  1. To me… your siblings are possibly not ‘lost again’ but incorporated within you. This poignant story has taught me so much about how to research some of my brickwall lines. I hope you write more stories in a similar style as they occur in your 52 week challenge!

  2. Thank you for sharing your more than challenging research. A wonderful example to others.
    I love your ending: “Feelings and Coping” comments to sum up your research to why, how, you did and shared family connections, thoughts to share with others.
    -not matter by blood or not.
    So many still searching – an great inspiration to others to continue with similar “trying” family research directions…
    You have shared sssooo much with us all.
    Sincere thank you again,

  3. This sounds like a story about myself and my half sister/maternal, and yes, comparing photos is a very helpful tool. I had better photos of my/our bio mother than she did, and at specific ages. Thank you for posting the same way. It IS helpful.It has been every helpful to my 1/2 sister, the picture thing. Of course, I had to bug her for photos at various ages, but she did comply. :-).

    In a way, this reminds me of how I’m still looking to find a connection between myself you you, Roberta. It may not be DNA linked, but I’m sure there is one.

    ‘there are NO coincidences’, coincidences are merely ‘things to catch our attention’, as being guided to a part of the puzzle.

    When you first mentioned Claxton’s, I thought “hmmmm, I have Claxton’s on both sides…. paternal Woeltz’s and maternal Turner and Taylor’s.’ then I read here, Robert James Devine’s Birth Certificate, and I said; “hmmmmm, weird, I am an October 24th child who has also known only one parent for many years’. Reading on, I see ‘Tarrant’, whose surname happens to be a pen pal on my fb page, a distant cousin in TX…. and yes, married into the Tarrant’s who founded that area. Then, many of my WV kin moved to South Eastern OH for jobs and live there now, another connection to get my attention. I have Woeltz’s in KY/Paternal.

    I am paying attention because these items were calling to me to help you by putting forth my honest opinion, yes, but also to ‘give you info’ as to why I placed a Yes vote.

    Now,,,, something I know about. Cleft Chins. We know it is inherited and can come from either side of the family. My Grandfather had one, his father had one, albeit slight one from his younger years when he was slimmer, and my paternal grandmother had one. My paternal Father’s line, had very square faces and jaws… wherein my grandmother had a long jaw and slightly pointed chin (I don’t know how to post pics on replies here). When I was thin and younger, and before my neck surgery, you could very clearly see I had the Woeltz facial structure and the cleft chin. However, you CAN feel the cleft chin. My nose was my paternal Grandmother’s and my light eyes are from my mother’s side… I am the ‘only’ sibling of any of my great grandfather’s kids, to have light green/grey eyes. Everyone else has dark brown.

    Taking that information and previous research and today’s double checking, comparing your photo examples, Lee is absolutely your brother. Hairline, Eyebrow shape, face shape is the same. Cleft Chin, the ligher eyes and the nose, who is a combined shape of your father but more narrow like his mother’s side (no photo, but I’m sure based on my own studies), is her side. She must have contributed some to his hair, being more curley and as thick as your fathers, but a little finer.

    Congrats on your find!!!!!!

  4. I voted yes, but if it were me i would be adding him to my family tree with a question mark ?, and let’s not forget the DNA just yet, if we can establish the DNA of a 5000 year old skeleton from a toe bone there is still a possibility for you to do something similar, depending on the laws of the state concerned and i would be looking into that, with no descendants who would object there just might be a chance.

  5. I agree with the above comment of comparing individual features of the face- I was looking at the nose, the ear, jaw, space between eye and brow, I feel that they are strong matches.
    One of my favorite memories is trying to help my dad figure out family pictures that he saved from a cousin throwing them away. We put many pictures side by side and used clues to figure who was who in the pictures- perhaps that experience has shaped me all these years later to love doing portraits in oil. I still love to analyze photographs to try to figure out who is in the picture.
    Thank you for sharing the joy and the pain of your journey,
    Dolores West

  6. I was compelled to vote yes based purely on the genealogy. I think you nailed it. One thing we learn is that names are not to be trusted just because they are different. It seems to be a devilish hobby of so many ancestors. And, that leads me to the questions how will future descendents find my lines or will they- my 10th great grandchildren or will my line die out with so few children. Did our ancestors ever contemplate the future generations past trying to survive one more winter or war or even the birth of the next child.
    Now, if I could just nail the genealogy of my Slaughter 3rd g grandmother, and a sixth great grandfather, and a 3rd cousin 1R……… and yes so many of the 5th, 6th and even further great grandmothers and give them the voice they deserve. I sure hate the UKWN moniker.

  7. I had a similar father. In fact I found a marriage certificate for my father dated a year after he finally married my mother (he was already married to another woman when myself and brother were born). He had dropped the ‘s’ from his name. I know little about his family but cousins somehow tracked me down and brought photos of my half-sisters wedding – I did not know for sure at that time if she was my sister just my mother’s cynical belief that she was. He certainly did not acknowledge it while he was alive though she was raised from mid teens by my (and her) Nana (she was adopted by my father’s first wife who had since remarried!). She was born to yet another woman and was born a year after my youngest brother was born. There is more but I wont bore you.
    My point in writing is to object to that term “scoundrel”. My father’s cousins also called him that – the “charming scoundrel”. People like that – who go through life without any regard for the harm they cause others – no-matter how “charming” or perhaps because of it, should not be given such a kindly descriptor. I think “louse” is a better word!

  8. “Your feelings are always a conflicted hodgepodge of hope and fear, often wildly swinging between the two. Fear of what you will find, what you won’t find, that you’ll find nothing, or that it will be too late.”

    Boy, did you peg that one! I can’t describe the emotions welling up inside after reading this. As a 61-year old adoptee, I had just taken a few tentative steps…and then stopped. From the limited state-provided non-identifying information I obtained, my birth mother would be 94 now, if alive. Should I try to find cousins or not? By doing so, do I open wounds now healed? What do I really want to find – heritage or family? Many who search genealogy already know their living relatives and its more of any academic search – finding the old country origins of their pedigree, for example. For me, it would be finding a whole new family, a family that probably doesn’t know I exist, and may not want to. Maybe I’ll be satisfied knowing my terminal SNP. I haven’t decided yet, but either way, I appreciate so very much your journey and the love that went into it.

  9. If Ruth is still alive, might she have some articles from her husband that contains his DNA? A hair brush comes to mind. It might be worth a try and give you that final answer.

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing your research, and most importantly, your heart, with us. I can relate to this on so many levels. My only regret is that I read it at work, instead of at home, with a big box of Kleenex! Well done Roberta!

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  13. My Mother had around 12 Children, I was taken at Birth by My Dad ( He really wasn’t, I found out when I was 40) His name and every other record showed Him as my Father, but I found out accidently I was not HIS>MY mother admitted it, and told me My Father was a Truck driver named Frank, passing through town?? She was 17 Y/O. MY sort of adopted Dad had married her and thought I was premature, until the Doctor told him I was full term (UH OH)!!! Then my Dad told me all of my Life My Mother was Dead, Kind of looks Like a Steve Martin Movie! Then I met her and 3 of my 1/2 siblings when I was 28 Y/O, but she never divulged him not being my Birth Father. With me so far? I have been doing research to find my Birth Family, to no a vale, but I have found many other facets of my Chemical Makeup, One is My Native DNA and MY mother’s Native ancestors. I had my DNA tested in 2006 at FTDNA and immediately found my Jackson Yline, and most of these people are in similar boats and situations. This has been a very informative and perilous journey. Roberta your Blog and some of your research has been helpful to me. The Mary Kittamaquud article struck a nerve with Basil Waring Beaven, then with some ancestry crossmatching and DNA matching on Gedmatch, Viola, I found some of my Native roots. Roberta helped me get into the Native American Project and through my Autosomal DNA able to match up to the Beaven line and onto Giles Brent. But back to my Birth Fathers line. I match Jacksons and Crabtree’s quite a lot and am trying to hone into this information, and hopefully with advent of the new technologies and through these blogs we can all discover what we are looking for.

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