An unwanted legacy in my family is that of mental illness and suicide. The obituaries no longer explicitly state that a family member has killed themselves but we know when it happens. It’s almost an open secret. I know all families have similar experiences, but it just seems to strike our family more. It does not discriminate between sex, age, or social status.
William Calvin Street was born 18 December 1897 in the Antioch community outside Ripley, Mississippi to James Anner George Street and Julia Ann Weatherly. His life seemed ordinary and as happy as one scratching a living from the earth could be. No family was immune from devastating loss and sadness and Calvin’s family was no exception. James and Julia lost two of their children around two years of age, Elmer in 1893 and Tolbert in 1906. Two other sons, Luther and Monroe, also committed suicide within months of each other in 1950.
No one really knows why Calvin decided to end his life; they can only make suppositions. All we know, as stated in the obituary, “It is said that some physical disability or defect had caused Mr. Street to become despondent to the point of taking his own life.” What could possibly have gone wrong with a twenty year old young man? No one knows or no one’s talking.
I hope Calvin found a measure of peace.
One of my first posts considered the problem I had with my great-great grandparents, John and Nancy Holley, if indeed that’s who they were. The paper trail didn’t match anything I had been told. I know I’m not exactly supposed to believe everything I’m told, but it helps to have accurate information as a starting point.
Years ago, I had sent off for the death certificate of who I had thought my great-great grandmother was, Ann Carolina Rich. I got a letter saying it could not be found. Hmmmm, well, okay. I got on with the research, but going nowhere.
Two months ago, I was reorganizing our library’s genealogy room. I was digging through the last box when I found a book labeled Walnut death records. Walnut, Mississippi is the closest town to where that part of my family lived. On a lark and with a little time to kill, I flipped through the book, not hoping to actually find anything important. I get to the H’s and find this:
The death certificate I had been looking for. Besides the disgust at the state health department for not being able to find the obviously existent certificate, I was in shock.
The paper trail seemed to be wrong.
One, at no point do the names Nancy and Carolina ever appear together in any of my research. Two, the informant’s name J.T. Holly appears on a 1910 census as the name my great-grandfather went by. My dad’s theory is that he had three names, as many of our family tend to have. My theory is that they hated enumerators and told them whatever they wanted just to get them out of the yard. They had no compulsion about mixing names and dates often. So I don’t think I will ever know for sure.