Thursday, February 23, 2012

The marriage of Joseph Lytel Russell and Emma Ackley

by Jerome

(slightly abridged from an article on blog 2)

Before the title gives false hope, I must start by saying that this article is a story of failure. However, I am writing in case others have suggestions for further research. Also it may save others a waste of effort travelling down a path I have already furrowed.

I have tried hard to document the wedding of Joseph Lytel Russell and Emma Ackley. Is it important? I would venture Yes – others might opine No. In the late 1890s there was to be family estrangement when CTR advised his father on making his last will and testament, and provision was ultimately made for others – not just Emma. After Joseph’s death, Emma was to support Maria in her legal action against CTR, and the two women spent the rest of their lives together. So the family history side of things is of interest. Also, a key point – we know that John Paton was chosen to conduct CTR’s wedding in March 1879, so who was asked to conduct his father’s?

Most people to date (including the Ackley family history site) have assumed a wedding around 1879, speculating on whether it was before or after that for CTR. Then a crucial piece of evidence came from a recent post from Ton on this blog – the 1880 census. This was taken on June 1st, or at least was expected to reflect events on that date. On June 1st, 1880, we have Emma single, living at the same home with CTR and Maria and Joseph Lytel Russell. It is amusing to note that JLR appears to shave a few years off his age – he is now 60, rather than approaching 67.

So when was the actual wedding? A number of newspapers were published in Pittsburgh at the time, generally replete with the same notices of marriages and deaths. However, on the internet only the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette is currently available through Google News Archives for the key period. (See: Checking marriages (and deaths) is easy because they nearly always fell on page four of the paper, immediately under advertisements for “Cut Flowers a Speciality” – which has a certain logic about it.

There were always six issues of this paper a week – none on Sundays. It can be established that all the papers online (barring one or two pages) are complete. Where the site says the paper is missing, it is either a Sunday (when no paper was issued) or two issues have been inadvertently joined together in the copying.

Working back from the census, I easily found CTR’s wedding on March 13,1879 (reported in the March 14 issue), and then going forward the notice of the death of W H Conley’s adopted daughter on December 13, 1881. The notice of the latter from the December 15, 1881 issue reads:

Deaths – on Tuesday evening, December 13, 1881, at 10 o’clock, Emma D, adopted daughter of Wm H and Sarah Conley, aged 10 years, 2 months and 18 days. Funeral service at the residence of parents, No. 50 Freemont st, Allegheny, THIS AFTERNOON at 5.30 o’clock. Interment private.

One can speculate whether that personal tragedy propelled Conley in the direction of dealing with medical and social problems in the “here and now”, rather than waiting for “The Age to Come”. But JLR’s wedding has stubbornly refused to appear.

Each issue from the start of January 1880 has been checked – just in case there was a “misunderstanding” when the census enumerator called (highly unlikely, but covering all bases). And then each issue up to the end of December 1881 has been checked – by which time (if her grave marker is to be believed) daughter Mabel was already born. But there is nothing – absolutely nothing.

Over this two year period, there is a David Russel whose marriage notice appears on February 11, 1880, then Charles P Russell whose marriage notice appeared on October 22, 1880, and a Charles A Russell whose announcement appeared on August 18, 1881– but none of these has any apparent connection to our Russell family.

And it must be noted that out of the whole two year run there are twelve issues where the notice of marriages is completely illegible. The dates are:

April 6, 1880
November 22, 1880
December 13, 1880
June 28, 1881 (whole of page 4 missing)
July 8, 14, and 27, 1881
August 2, 4, 12 and 13, 1881
October 12, 1881

This is recorded here, because when other Pittsburgh papers can be consulted, these dates can be quickly checked, just in case by some quirk of researcher’s nightmare Joseph and Emma just happened to be married on one of those dates.

I can think of no reason why their marriage should be secret. True, there was a great disparity in their ages, but it was not uncommon for widowers to marry much younger women, and younger women to willingly accept this in the interests of stability and financial security. Joseph and new family are featured in the pages of Zion’s Watch Tower on occasion in letters. The wills and the funerals are public property – why not the wedding?

And I can think of no reason why their marriage should take place elsewhere. Both were long time residents of Allegheny and Pittsburgh, and that is where their families lived.

Genealogical sites throw up various Joseph Russells and Emma Ackleys – with variant spellings – but to quote from Kipling, so far – never the twain shall meet.

So for me it is white flag time. I have drawn a blank. I am open to suggestions how one might proceed further.


Chris G. said...

Hello Jerome,
has any new information come to light since this was posted in 2012?

jerome said...

Hi Chris

Alas, no. We know for certain that Joseph L married Emma AFTER June 1, 1880, which would be well over a year after Charles T married Maria. I did not have an Ancestry sub at the time the article was written, but checking, there is no answer there. Rachael was hoping for some church records to arrive from the Mormons that might just have supplied the key information but they never came. However, thanks for reawakening the question - who knows what may still come to light.

merl gerl said...

Find A Grave Memorial for Emma H Ackley Russell reads, and I QUOTE "Emma's husband Joseph, sister Maria F. (Ackley) Russell (1850-1938), and half brother (and half brother-in-law) Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) were all founding members of the Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society in 1881." END QUOTE. To me this reads the CT Russell was Emma's half brother and that Maria was Emma's half sister if CT was only Emma's half brother-in-law.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Emma was Maria's sister. So C. T. R. was her brother-in-law and technically she was his step mother. There was NO half brother relationship. You're confused.

Emma was Maria's full sister. There was no half-sister relationship. She was also her sister's step mother in law.

Still confused?

merl gerl said...

I was never confused. I was, as I stated, quoting from "Find a Grave Memorial" of Emma Ackley Russell.