Helen R Sears b February 1876 (Barbara Brooks’ Story)

Helen R Sears was born in February 1876 in Massachusetts.  She’s one of the newest people in my database.  How did she get attached to the family?  Usually when I write a bio, I tell the person’s story chronologically.  But I usually don’t find information – the vital records and census records and posted family trees in chronological order.  When doing genealogical research, we are told to start with the newest person, and work backwards through the generations. 

From time to time, I go through my “unknowns” – people with information lacking, that I know just has to be out there.  For example, I know very little about the women married to Albert Hodges’ brothers. 

What I knew about Frank Chester “Chet” Hodges is that he married Barbara Brooks Smyth on 16 November 1946 in Bingham, MA. She was born in 1907 in Massachusetts. A mere 19 months later, Chet died. His obituary names other family members but made no mention of his wife.  Why was that?  I had never been able to find any records for Barbara, even with the uncommon spelling of her last name.  I did find a record in the social security death index for Barbara Hodges born 27 January 1907, died January 1972 in Scituate, MA.  But that wasn’t enough information to prove that she was Chet’s wife.

Fast-forward to earlier this month.  I suggested to Mom that she should scan all the photos in her old albums.  She could scan a page at a time, send them to me, and I would separate the photos, rename them, and send them back to be saved individually.  During this process, she came across a couple photos taken at Chet’s wedding.  But the good stuff was what was written on the back. 

Turns out that they were married at the Old Ship Church, in Hingham (not Bingham).  One photo says “at the home of Win Brooks” – probably the reception.  I thought that name gave more credence to the idea that Barbara’s maiden name (rather than middle name) was Brooks, and she might have been previously married.  I started looking at census records and found a Brooks family in Massachusetts which included a  Barbara and a “Win” – in this case, Winfield S (as in Sears) Brooks, in the family of William J and Helen R Brooks.  Barbara was born in 1907 in Massachusetts.  This all matched up. I also found Winfield S Brooks in a posted family tree.  The people hadn’t included his brothers and sisters, but did identify his mother as Helen Sears.  Winfield Brooks died in Hingham. I’m confident that this is Barbara’s family.

But I couldn’t find Barbara in the 1930 census.  She was old enough to have married, so I looked for Barbara Smyth, and found one married to James E Smyth.  Census records don’t usually list maiden names unless you happen to get lucky and find members of the wife’s family included in the group.  But I did find a marriage record for Maine (town not listed) that said that Barbara Brooks of Milton MA married James E Smyth of Boston on 30 October 1926.  The length of marriage listed in the 1930 census matches that date of marriage.  And James and Barbara were listed in the Milton MA city directory in 1929.  It has to be the same people. I wonder why they went to Maine to get married. 

The 1930 census record also listed 27-month old daughter also named Barbara.  Back to the photos.  Written on the back of one are the names of the ladies in the photo.  One is called “young Barb” so I’m betting that this is Barbara’s daughter, Chet’s step-daughter.  Two others in the photo are Aunt Louise and Marley (a younger girl).  I have no idea (yet) who they are, so believe that they have to be from the bride’s side of the family.

The Old Ship Church in Hingham is very old – mid 1600s.  It has a website, so I sent them an e-mail to see if they hold the marriage record.  They did  and sent me a copy.  Barbara’s parents are William J Brooks and Helen Sears.  Occupations  of the groom and bride were listed – he was a designer, she was a draftswoman.  The person recording the marriage in the book did not list the witnesses. 

I’m always happy to find more details about the family, but of course this may lead to more questions, and not all of my original questions have been answered – yet.  What happened to Barbara and “young” Barb?

www.FamilySearch.org  just released updated Massachusetts birth records, 1840 – 1915, with the actual images.  I found Barbara Brooks, with the correct parents, and confirmed her birth date as the one I had found in the Social Security Death Index, so now know that she died January 1972 in Scituate MA, and that she probably didn’t remarry, since she was going by Hodges at that time.  “Young Barb” is too young to be listed in the new database, by about 15 years.  She might still be out there…


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