The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part Three: James Campbell and Mary C. Nagle

(If you haven’t read parts one and two, you’ll want to do so before diving in to this post.)

By 15 April 1910 (the official census date that year1), Fannie Campbell was a widow–of one day. In fact, the William Campbell family was enumerated on a supplemental sheet in 1910,2 which means they either weren’t home or weren’t in a position to be interviewed the first time the census taker came by.3 Understandably so, because James Campbell died at the Cleveland City Hospital at 5:30 in the morning on 14 April 1910 after a long battle with paralysis agitans, better known as Parkinson’s disease.

James Campbell Death Certificate
Ohio Death Certificate for James Campbell.4

The informant for the personal details on James’s death certificate was his son, William, who lived at 10004 Cumberland (which was also his address in the census that same month). William was certainly not present at his own father’s birth, and he possibly never even knew James’s parents. It’s likely he got some of the vital data wrong since it would largely be secondary information to him. The undertaker, on the other hand, would have had primary knowledge of where he laid James’s body to rest: Woodland Cemetery, on 16 April 1910. More specifically, according to cemetery records, in section 65, tier 1, grave 16. James was the second burial in that grave, the first one having taken place in April 1888.5

An obituary in the Plain Dealer reported that James died at home, which is probably the result of a mistake or miscommunication, considering the doctor signing off on the details, a Dr. O.B. Norman, would’ve known very well where his patient died after treating him for several years beginning 6 September 1906, as noted on James’s death certificate, which also states that James had been institutionalized at his place of death (the City Hospital) for 1288 days, or just over three and a half years.

James Campbell obituary
James Campbell’s obituary.6

The Plain Dealer obituary mentioned the widow, Fannie, a son, William, and another son, George. George was not enumerated with the James Campbell family in the 1900 Census,7 nor was he mentioned in William’s 1962 obituary,8 or any other record we’ve examined so far.

According to his death certificate, James’s former residence prior to apparently moving into the hospital in 1906 was 1723 Woodland Hills Ave–so what happened to the McCurdy Street residence James owned in 1900? Whatever happened to the McCurdy Street property, James still owned one piece of real estate when he died in 1910–an empty lot on Elroy Street in Newburgh Heights. He died without leaving a will, and one Mark McElroy applied to administer the estate in January 1911.9 The probate case file includes (among other things) an appraisal confirming that James had no household goods, as they were all “disposed of while … he [James] was in the hospital.”10 There’s also a list of James’s surviving next of kin, as follows:

record-image_9Q97-YSJG-NQC
Snippet of Mark McElroy’s application for letters of administration on the James Campbell estate.

There’s Fannie, the widow, along with William, and George. William Campbell is listed last, likely because he was James’s youngest son. Second to last is Martha J. McElroy, a.k.a. Martha Jane Campbell, who married Mark McElroy on 7 December 1903. Her parents were listed as James Campbell and Mary C. Hagel (sic) on the marriage license application, and her address at the time was 2017 Nelson St.11 Jennie is a diminutive form of “Jane,”12 so Martha Jane (Campbell) McElroy is almost certainly the same person as sixteen year-old Jennie Campbell from the 1900 Census.

The names Charles and Joseph Campbell are new. A check of the 1880 Census for Cleveland reveals another James Campbell family, living on Sterling Avenue:

1880
The James Campbell Family of Sterling Ave, Cleveland, Ohio in the 1880 U.S. Census.13

This James Campbell is thirty-three years old, which is a tidy twenty years younger than the James Campbell living at 56 McCurdy Street on the 1900 Census, who was born in July 1846, (although this consistent age between the 1880 and 1900 censuses is six years off from the 1840 date provided by William at James’s death). Both were born in England, although the 1880 Census lists James’s father’s birthplace as Scotland rather than England. James Campbell living on Sterling Avenue in 1880 was a carpenter, just like Fannie Campbell’s husband on McCurdy Street in 1900.

However, there’s no Fannie from England (with parents from England) to be found in this 1880 household. Instead, James’s wife is Mary, born in New York to parents from Germany and New York, age twenty-seven–making her about five years younger than Fannie, aged fifty-one in 1900.

Charles, the eldest son of James and Mary Campbell, was reported to be seven years old in 1880. The middle son, James, was four. George, the youngest, was one year old. All of them were born in Ohio–and would’ve been twenty-plus years old by the 1900 Census, which could explain why none of them were enumerated with James Campbell on McCurdy St that year.

Campbell-Nagle Marriage application
Marriage application for James Campbell and Mary Nagle.14

Going backward still from the 1880 Census, James Campbell applied for a license to marry Mary Nagle in Cuyahoga County, Ohio on 4 November 1873 (see above), and the marriage was performed the same day by Reverend Oliver Burgess.15

Their eldest son, Charles, was born in Cleveland on 10 January 1874.16 (Meaning Mary was already pregnant when she married James in November 1873). Next, Mary gave birth to twin boys on 1 September 1876,17 but only one of them survived.18 The other one lived for just seven hours, and was buried in Woodland Cemetery the next day in the Southeast Avenue section, tier 1 grave 138.19 The surviving twin, James, went by both James Joseph and Joseph James throughout his life, and it’s said that he added his lost twin’s name to his own.20

About a month after the twins were born, James Campbell received his certificate of naturalization on 3 October 1876. The petition is oddly blank and lined out except for the clerk’s note that the certificate was in fact issued, and that James filed his Declaration of Intent in Monroe County, New York on 1 July 1873.21 According to the Monroe County Declaration of Intent, signed and sworn to by James himself, he was born in London and lived in Rochester, New York.22

James Campbell Declaration of Intention
James Campbell’s Declaration of Intention.

If James filed his Declaration as soon as he was eligible to do so, then he would have been in the United States by 1871 at the latest,23 which is only slightly off from the 1869 immigration date noted for him in 1900, and he might well have filed his first papers a while after he became eligible. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances which inspired James to begin the citizenship process; Mary would’ve a been few months pregnant with Charles Campbell in July 1873 although she and James were not yet married. Sometime between July 1873 and November 1873, James (possibly with a pregnant Mary by his side) relocated from Rochester, New York to Cleveland, Ohio.

Another boy, George, was born on 30 April 1879.24 The couple’s only daughter, Martha Jane, was born on 7 December 1883,25 exactly twenty years to the day before her marriage to Mark McElroy, and about two months after James and Mary C. Campbell purchased a lot on McCurdy St.26 William Ernest was of course born on 29 January 1886,27 and he was followed by another boy on 28 March 1888.28

But the boy in March of 1888 was stillborn,29 and Mary did not survive giving birth to him. The baby was buried in Woodland Cemetery on 29 March 1888, in the Southeast Avenue section, tier 1, grave 138;30 the same grave as elder brother Joseph James’s lost twin. Mary died from hemorrhaging two days later, at one in the afternoon on 31 March 1888, and her death record notes her birthplace: New York.31 The Plain Dealer reported that she died in childbirth,32 the Leader said it was fever.33 When Mary’s funeral notice was printed, the Leader added a note for the papers in Rochester and Le Roy, New York to “please copy,”34 most likely so any family she still had in New York would know of her passing.

Mary C. (Nagle) Campbell Funeral Notice

Mary C. (Nagle) Campbell, the beloved wife of James Campbell, was buried in Woodland Cemetery on 2 April 1888, in section 65, tier 1, grave 16,35 where her husband would join her in thirty-two years and two weeks—to the day.

To recap:

  1. Was William Campbell’s mother from England? Or was she from New York, or Pennsylvania? William Campbell’s mother, Mary C. Nagle, was born in New York.
  2. Was Fannie Campbell actually William’s biological mother? No, she was not. She was his stepmother.
  3. Did Fannie have ten children, two of whom survived, or six children, all of whom survived?
  4. When exactly was William E. Campbell born? (The smaller fluctuations in his age from census to census might be resolved by comparing his birth month to the official census date, but other shifts are too large to be tidied up that way.) William Ernest Campbell was born to James and Mary (Nagle) Campbell in Cleveland, Ohio on 29 January 1886.
  5. Did Fannie Campbell die before 1920, or did she just move out?
  6. Are Eveleyin and Mary Campbell the same person? No. Evelyn I. McEachern was William’s first wife, Mary H. Wilson was his second.
  7. What were James and Fannie Campbell each up to before they got married in their thirties? James and Fannie were not married in 1881 as the 1900 census suggests. Before James married Fannie, he had a family with Mary C. Nagle for fifteen years, until her death.
  8.  What was William E. Campbell’s connection to Los Angeles, California?
  9. If Fannie Campbell and Mary Naegel/Nagle are not the same person, what happened to Mary prior to 1900? Fannie and Mary were not the same person, and Mary died after complications from childbirth in 1888.
  10. When did James Campbell marry his second wife, Fannie?
  11. What was Fannie Campbell’s maiden name?
  12. What was Fannie up to in the years after her immigration and prior to her marriage to James Campbell?
  13. What happened to the McCurdy Street property James purchased with Mary in 1883 and still owned in 1900?

Next up, Part Four: James and Fannie, in which George Campbell nearly gets himself sent to the House of Refuge, William Campbell plays baseball, and Charles Campbell gets attacked in the middle of the night.


1. U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Instructions to Enumerators; 1910,” p.17, image copy, Census.gov (https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/1910instructions.pdf : accessed 12 March 2018).
2. Margaret Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census,” kinvestigations.com, 9 March 2018 (https://kinvestigations.com/2018/03/10/the-cleveland-gordian-knot-a-genealogical-puzzle-part-one-william-e-campbell-in-the-census/ : accessed 19 March 2018), para. 5.
3. U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Instructions to Enumerators; 1910,” p. 22-23
4. Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Death no. 19684, James Campbell, 14 April 1910; “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GPVR-SXWT : accessed 12 March 2018), 1910 > 17871-20350 > image 2237 of 3053; citing digital images of originals, Ohio Historical Society, Columbus.
5. Cleveland Department of Parks and Public Property, Division of Cemeteries, Woodland Cemetery Interment Register 8: 85, James Campbell, 16 April 1910; database with images, “Ohio, Cleveland Cemetery Interment Records, 1824-2001,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9TDQ-QDS : accessed 12 March 2018), Film #004466577 > image 88 of 195; citing digital images of originals, Department of Parks, Recreation and Properties, Cleveland, Ohio.
6. “Campbell,” The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, 15 April 1910, p. 13, col. 5; digital images, GenealogyBank.com (https://www.genealogybank.com/nbshare/AC01150128074204280831520866687 : accessed 12 March 2018).
7. Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census,” para. 2.
8. Margaret Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part Two: The William E. Campbell Vitals,” kinvestigations.com, 10 March 2018 (https://kinvestigations.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/the-cleveland-gordian-knot-a-genealogical-puzzle-part-two-the-william-e-campbell-vitals/ : accessed 19 March 2018), para. 12.
9. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, probate case file no. 55140, James Campbell, application for letters of administration for Mark McElroy, 24 January 1911; digital images, “Ohio, Cuyahoga County Probate Files, 1813-1932,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9Q97-YSJG-NQC : accessed 11 March 2018), Docket 92 > Case no 55126-55177 Jan 1911-Apr 1911 > image 224 of 588; citing original records, Cuyahoga County Archives.
10. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, probate case file no. 55140, James Campbell, inventory Schedule D, 8 May 1901(sic) [1911]; digital images, “Ohio, Cuyahoga County Probate Files, 1813-1932,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9Q97-YSJG-NW3 : accessed 11 March 2018), Docket 92 > Case no 55126-55177 Jan 1911-Apr 1911 > image 230 of 588; citing original records, Cuyahoga County Archives.
11. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 58: 155, McElroy-Campbell, 1903; database with images, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939K-BP9P-FP : accessed 9 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Marriage records 1903-1904 vol 58 > image 125 of 302; citing microfilm of original records I the Cuyahoga County Courthouse.
12. Online Etymology Dictionary (https://www.etymonline.com/word/jenny : accessed 19 March 2018), “Jenny.” 
13. 1880 U.S. Census, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, population schedule, ED 26, p. 34 (penned), sheet B, dwelling 239, household 333, James Campbell; database with images, “United States Census, 1880,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YB8-Z6Y : accessed 11 March 2018), Ohio > Cuyahoga > Cleveland > ED 20 > image 34 of 59; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1006.
14. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Applications for Marriage Licenses 1871 – 1874, 4 November 1873, Campbell-Nagle; database with images, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939K-BP95-45 : accessed 10 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Marriage license applications 1873-1874 > image 40 of 269; citing microfilm of originals, County Courthouse, Cleveland.
15. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 17:340, Campbell-Nagle, 1873; database with images, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-PH9W-74 : accessed 10 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Marriage records 1872-1874 vol 17 > image 214 of 275; citing microfilm of original records, Cuyahoga County Courthouse.
16. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Record of Births 2: 109, Charles Cambel, 10 January 1874; database with images, “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRYW-S9XC : accessed 19 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Birth registers 1872-1875 vol 2 > image 171 of 331; citing microfilm of originals, County Courthouse, Cleveland.
17. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Record of Births 1873-1876: 410, twins born to Mary Nagle and James Campbell, 1 September 1876; database with images, “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RK8-9W1Y : accessed 19 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Birth registers with index 1872-1876 > image 241 of 288; citing microfilm of originals, County Courthouse, Cleveland.
18. City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Record of Deaths 1873-1879, unpaginated, no. 1999, Baby Campbell, 1 September 1876; database with images, “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9ZR-LCQX : accessed 19 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Death records, 1873-1879 > image 212 of 458; citing originals at Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland.
19. Cleveland Department of Parks and Public Property, Division of Cemeteries, Woodland Cemetery Interment Register 2: 25, Campbell’s Mr. Child, 2 September 1876; database with images, “Ohio, Cleveland Cemetery Interment Records, 1824-2001,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9TDQ-3NZ : accessed 12 March 2018), 004466551 > image 28 of 208; citing digital images of originals, Department of Parks, Recreation and Properties, Cleveland, Ohio.
20. Public Member Trees,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 March 2018), “Porten Family Tree” family tree by “portensa”, ‘Twin?’ story in gallery for James Joseph Campbell (1876-1942) updated 8 June 2012.
21. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas Alien Docket 5: 478, James Campbell; database with images, “Ohio County Naturalization Records, 1800-1977,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-8996-PRTC : accessed 19 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Naturalization docket 1866-1876 vol 5 > image 266 of 270; citing microfilm of original records at Cuyahoga County Archives, Cleveland, Ohio.
22. Monroe County, New York, Naturalization Declarations 1872-1873: loose items arranged roughly chronologically, see July 1873 for 1 July 1873 declaration of intention by James Campbell; browse-able images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C911-572X-J : accessed 19 March 2018), Film #7759919 > image 1359 of 1520; citing microfilm of original records in the Monroe County Courthouse, Rochester, New York.
23. National Archives and Records Administration, “Naturalization Records,” 22 August 2016 (https://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html : accessed 29 March 2018).
24. Cleveland, Ohio, Birth Return, 30 April 1879, parents Mary Nagle and James Campbell; database with images, “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RY4-396Z : accessed 16 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Birth returns 1879 > image 1570 of 4918; citing microfilm of original record at Cuyahoga County Archives.
25. Cleveland, Ohio, Birth Return, 7 December 1883, parents Mary Nagle and James Campbell; database with images, “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RY4-3JXH : accessed 16 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Birth returns 1883 > image 5828 of 6250; citing microfilm of original record at Cuyahoga County Archives.
26. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Deed Book 355: 414-415, George and Margaretha Schraufl to James and Mary C. Campbell, 2 October 1883; database with images, Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer (https://fiscalofficer.cuyahogacounty.us : accessed 19 March 2018), Recorded Documents > General Deed Search > use Book and Page fields, click through to download image files.
27. Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part Two: The William E. Campbell Vitals,” para. 2.
28. Cleveland, Ohio, Birth Return, 28 March 1888, parents Mary Kneal[Nagle] and James Campbell; database with images, “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRYH-94DP : accessed 16 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Birth returns 1887-1888 > image 2139 of 6003; citing microfilm of original record at Cuyahoga County Archives.
29. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Record of Deaths 3: 273, Baby Campbell, 28 March 1888; database with images, “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-D1G7-JP9 : accessed 19 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Death records, 1884-1890, vol 3-4 > image 354 of 701; citing microfilm of originals, County Courthouse, Cleveland.
30. Cleveland Department of Parks and Public Property, Division of Cemeteries, Woodland Cemetery Interment Register 3: 134, Baby Campbell, 29 March 1888; database with images, “Ohio, Cleveland Cemetery Interment Records, 1824-2001,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GTDQ-39K : accessed 12 March 2018), 004466560 > image 137 of 200; citing digital images of originals, Department of Parks, Recreation and Properties, Cleveland, Ohio.
31. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Record of Deaths 3: 273, Mary Campbell, 31 March 1888.
32. “Deaths,” The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, 3 April 1888, p. 7, col. 6; digital image, GenealogyBank.com (https://www.genealogybank.com/nbshare/AC01150128074204280831521501676 : accessed 19 March 2018).
33. “The Death List,” The (Cleveland) Leader and Herald, 3 April 1888, p. 5. col. 2; digital image, GenealogyBank.com (https://www.genealogybank.com/nbshare/AC01150128074204280831521501914 : accessed 19 March 2018).
34. “Campbell,” The (Cleveland) Leader and Herald, 2 April 1888, p. 5, col. 4; digital image, GenealogyBank.com (https://www.genealogybank.com/nbshare/AC01150128074204280831521498553 : accessed 19 March 2018).
35. Cleveland Department of Parks and Public Property, Division of Cemeteries, Woodland Cemetery Interment Register 3: 134, Mary C. Campbell, 2 April 1888.

The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part Two: The William E. Campbell Vitals

(If you haven’t read part one, you’ll want to catch up.)

Remember how I said that every time you answer a question about this family, another one springs up in the original question’s place? Death, marriage, and birth (yes, even though he was born in the 1880s, birth) records for William E. Campbell do just that.

William Ernest Campbell Death Certificate Snippet
Snippet of death certificate for William Ernest Campbell.1

William Ernest Campbell, a conductor/driver for the Cleveland Transit Co., who died in Lake Lucerne, Geauga County, Ohio on 16 May 1962, was born in Ohio on 29 January 1886. His wife, Mary H. Campbell, was the informant for his death certificate, and she either did not know or couldn’t recall her husband’s parent’s names.

Campbell-Wilson Marriage
Marriage application and return for William Campbell and Mary H. Wilson.2

William Campbell and Mary H. Wilson were married on 15 May 1913, which is consistent with indirect evidence of their marriage year in the 1930 Census.3 The marriage was William’s second, his first one having ended in divorce. His reported age, twenty-seven, is consistent with an 1886 birth year, and his birthplace, Cleveland, Ohio, matches every other record of his birth we’ve evaluated–so far, anyway. William’s father, James, is named (which is consistent with the 1900 Census4), but his mother is reported as “(f-n-u)” (first name unknown) Naegel. Maybe Fannie’s maiden surname was Naegel, but it would be very odd for William–who is named as a co-applicant with Mary, meaning he was almost certainly the one who provided information about himself–to not know Fannie’s first name, considering she lived with William and his first wife just three years prior to the Campbell-Wilson marriage.5

Campbell-McEachern Marriage
Marriage application and return for William E. Campbell and Evelyn I. McEachern.6

Speaking of William’s first wife, her maiden name was Evelyn I. McEachern, and they were married on 3 January 1910 in Cleveland. (You’re going to want to remember Evelyn’s parents, William McEachern and Evelyn Endean, for later). According to the application, William was the sole applicant/informant. Even though Fannie Campbell would be listed as his mother on the 1910 census just months after the Campbell-McEachern marriage,7 William either didn’t know or couldn’t remember his own mother’s name when he applied for the license. It’s beginning to look more and more like Fannie Campbell was not William’s biological mother.

Remember how I mentioned that Evelyn I. McEachern was my great-great grandmother, but William was not my great-great grandfather? Well, way back when you still had to write the Cuyahoga County Archives to request a copy by mail, the Campbell-McEachern marriage record was my first encounter with William E. Campbell, and we are just not going to talk about how much time I spent trying to find a record of him in Los Angeles to no avail before I untangled this knot. Nope. Not gonna talk about it–except to say that negative evidence is still a form of evidence,8 and to remind everyone that almost no genealogical record can be absolutely 100% trusted in and of itself. William E. Campbell, who married Evelyn I. McEachern in Cleveland in 1910 was not born in Los Angeles. Recording errors happen, people misspeak or they forget, and sometimes people lie. I think there’s a chance William intentionally bent the truth about his birthplace, but we’ll get to that (and his genuine connection to Los Angeles) later.

William is twenty-four years old on the Campbell-McEachern marriage application, which is consistent with his death certificate, his second marriage application, and his 1886 birth return. More than likely, a miscommunication or enumerator error led to William being recorded as a thirty-four year-old in the 1910 Census.9

On 12 September 1918, William Campbell registered for the World War I draft. He provided the registrar with his full name, his birth date, his occupation, and his address: 9601 Lamontier,10 which was also his residence when the 1920 census was taken.11 While not a vital record per se, World War I draft cards are often some of the earliest records of vital statistics for men of William Campbell’s generation. But do you know why I love Ohio? Because Ohio state law mandated civil birth registration beginning in 1867,12 decades before it became standard practice for the entire U.S. in the early twentieth century.

William E. Campbell Birth Return
Cleveland Return of a Birth, Campbell boy, 29 January 1886.13

Although this Return of a Birth doesn’t list the baby’s name, there’s enough information to more than reasonably conclude that it’s a record of William Ernest Campbell’s birth. The birth date and year match his death certificate, as well as both of his marriage applications. The father’s name and nativity, James Campbell from England, is consistent with both marriage applications and the 1900 Census.14 The mother’s surname, “Nagle,” is consistent with the Campbell-Wilson marriage application, spelling aside, and her nativity “American,” is consistent with the 1910 through 1930 Censuses.15 Finally, the address, 7 McCurdy St, is consistent with the James Campbell family’s address in 1900 (56 McCurdy St),16 house number aside.

Unless Mary (Naegel/Nagle) Campbell started going by Fannie later in life, it seems highly unlikely that Fannie Campbell was William E. Campbell’s biological mother. She wasn’t, by the way, and we’ll get into the proof in Part Three: The James and Mary C. Nagle Family. Fannie was related to William in other ways though (that’s right, I said ways again), and I don’t just mean as his stepmother. We’ll get there.

To recap:

  1. Was William Campbell’s mother from England? Or was she from New York, or Pennsylvania?
  2. Was Fannie Campbell actually William’s biological mother?
  3. Did Fannie have ten children, two of whom survived, or six children, all of whom survived?
  4. When exactly was William E. Campbell born? (The smaller fluctuations in his age from census to census might be resolved by comparing his birth month to the official census date, but other shifts are too large to be tidied up that way.) William Ernest Campbell was born to James and Mary (Nagle) Campbell in Cleveland, Ohio on 29 January 1886.
  5. Did Fannie Campbell die before 1920, or did she just move out?
  6. Are Eveleyin and Mary Campbell the same person? No. Evelyn I. McEachern was William’s first wife, Mary H. Wilson was his second.
  7. What were James and Fannie Campbell each up to before they got married in their thirties?
  8.  What was William E. Campbell’s connection to Los Angeles, California?
  9. If Fannie Campbell and Mary Naegel/Nagle are not the same person, what happened to Mary prior to 1900?

For completeness’s sake, here’s William’s obituary:

William E. Campbell obituary
Obituary for William E. Campbell.17

Note the mention of his previous residence, Bedford, which is consistent with the 1930 and 1940 Censuses.18 Along with McEachern and Endean, Morris is another name you’re going to want to remember for later. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of names to remember for later: did I mention last time that John Callan, who lived with William and Mary Campbell in 1920,19 was more than just a boarder?

If this story seems more straightforward than a Gordian Knot so far, stick with me. Even though William’s marriage to my great-great grandmother Evelyn I. McEachern lasted less than three years, she plays a bigger role than simply “first wife,” and you haven’t seen the last of her.

Onward to part three.


1. Ohio Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 36099, William Ernest Campbell, 16 May 1962; “Death Certificates, December 20, 1908 – December 31, 1963,” State Archives Series 3094, Ohio History Center, Columbus.
2. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 84: 291, Campbell-Wilson, 1913; database with images, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939K-BPS7-8Q : accessed 9 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Marriage records 1913 vol 84 > image 202 of 308; citing microfilm of original records, Cuyahoga County Courthouse.
3. Margaret Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census,” kinvestigations.com, 9 March 2018 (https://kinvestigations.com/2018/03/10/the-cleveland-gordian-knot-a-genealogical-puzzle-part-one-william-e-campbell-in-the-census/ : accessed 10 March 2018), para. 11. 
4. Ibid, para. 2.
5. Ibid, para. 5.
6. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 74: 194, Campbell-McEachern, 1910; database with images, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939K-BJ37-RY : accessed 9 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Marriage records 1909-1910 vol 74 > image 145 of 301; citing microfilm of original records, Cuyahoga County Courthouse.
7. Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census,” para. 5.
8. Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 13: Classes of Evidence―Direct, Indirect & Negative,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-13-classes-evidence%E2%80%94direct-indirect-negative : accessed 10 March 2018).
9. Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census,” para. 5.
10. WWI draft card for William Ernest Campbell, serial no. 196, Local Draft Board no. 12, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio; “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G1D4-9TZ8 : accessed 10 Mar 2018), Ohio > Cleveland City no 12; A-F > image 1256 of 2827; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509.
11. Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census,” para. 9.
12. Ohio History Connection, “Birth Records,” webguide (https://www.ohiohistory.org/learn/archives-library/birth-records : accessed 10 March 2018).
13. Cleveland, Ohio, Return of a Birth, 29 January 1886, parents Mary Nagle and James Campbell; database with images, “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRY4-3FR9 : accessed 9 March 2018), Cuyahoga > Birth returns 1886 > image 546 of 6993; citing microfilm of original record at Cuyahoga County Archives.
14. Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census,” para. 2.
15. Ibid, para. 6, 9, 10.
16. Ibid, para. 2.
17. “Campbell,” The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, 17 May 1962, p. 54, col. 3; digital image, GenealogyBank.com (https://www.genealogybank.com/nbshare/AC01150128074204280831520655670 : accessed 9 March 2018.
18. Crymes, “The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census,” para. 10 and 12.
19. Ibid, para. 9.

The Cleveland Gordian Knot (A Genealogical Puzzle), Part One: William E. Campbell in the Census

I call this branch of my relatives a “Gordian Knot” because their story (and the records telling that story) are so complex and confusing as to seem impossible to solve. But with well-honed genealogical methodology and analysis skills, you can make like Alexander the Great and cut right through the snarl. For the sake of spinning a good yarn (pun oh-so-very intended), we’ll begin in the middle.

Campbell 1900
The James Campbell Family of McCurdy St, Cleveland, Ohio in the 1900 U.S. Census.1

This is the 1900 U.S. Census enumeration of the James Campbell family at 56 McCurdy Street in Cleveland, Ohio. It seems like a fairly straightforward record with internally consistent information: James (age fifty-three) and Fannie (age fifty-seven) Campbell, who immigrated from England in 1869 and 1871 respectively, were married in about 1881 when they were in their early thirties. They had two children, both born in Ohio: sixteen year-old Jennie in December 1883 and 15[?] year-old William in January 188[?]. Fannie had given birth to ten children, two of whom were living. James worked as a carpenter, Jennie as a shoe saleslady, and William as a messenger boy. James was a naturalized citizen (in 1900 his citizenship would have extended to Fannie through marriage2), and he owned their mortgaged home.

If the only record you had of this family was this one census sheet, you would have no compelling reason to believe the Campbell family was anything other than exactly what it appears to be: a pair of English immigrant parents with their two American-born children.

You’d be wrong, even though the decade or so long gap between Fannie’s and James’s immigration(s) and their marriage is the only thing even close to a red flag here. The gap doesn’t inherently conflict with any of the information about the James Campbell family in the 1900 Census, but it is curious. Both Fannie’s and James’s twenties are largely unaccounted for in the information we can glean from this record.

Campbell 1910
The William Campbell Family of Cumberland Ave, Cleveland, Ohio in the 1910 U.S. Census.3

Moving on to the 1910 Census, we find William Campbell (age thirty-four), a street railway conductor, living with his wife, Eveleyin (age eighteen), and his widowed mother, Fannie (age sixty-one). William has magically aged about nine years between 1900 and 1910, but such things are not uncommon with census records, which is why they should always be cross-referenced with other records–especially in this case, as we’ll soon see. Fannie’s immigration year (1872) is only one year off from the 1871 date on the census ten years prior, but instead of having given birth to ten children (two living), this census says she’d given birth to six children, all living. That’s a pretty major conflict–a big enough one that you might be inclined to start believing that perhaps this Fannie and William Campbell, living in a rented home at 10004 Cumberland Avenue in Cleveland, aren’t the same ones who lived at 56 McCurdy St in 1900. But they are. I promise.

Although the 1910 Census explicitly states that Fannie Campbell is William Campbell’s mother, and although this information is consistent between the two censuses we’ve observed so far in almost every way, there’s just this one seemingly tiny thing. If Fannie Campbell, who according to both the 1900 and 1910 Censuses was born in England and immigrated to the U.S. in 1871/2, was William Campbell’s mother, why does the 1910 Census say William Campbell’s mother was born in New York? If you look closely, it appears that the enumerator began to write “England,” but then crossed it out in favor of New York, as if he’d been corrected as he was writing.

Hm.

For now, let’s skip ahead to 1920.

Campbell 1920
The William E. Campbell Family of Lamontier Ave, Cleveland, Ohio in the 1920 U.S. Census.4

In 1920, William E. Campbell, a railway conductor, was renting his house at 9601 Lamontier Ave in Cleveland, Ohio. He lived with his wife, Mary, his three year-old daughter Mary Jane, and a boarder named John Callan (a widow from West Virginia who worked as an engineer in a stationary shop). William’s reported age is once again inconsistent with the previous census, although it’s within reasonable striking distance of his age in the 1900 Census. But Eveleyin and Fannie from 1910 are gone, and this time William’s mother’s birthplace has been given as Pennsylvania.  Fannie would’ve been seventy-one years old in 1920, so it’s possible she’d died by then, or perhaps she was simply living somewhere else. As for Eveleyin, this Mary is twenty-eight where Eveliyn was eighteen in the 1910 Census. It’s possible that Mary is a middle name and that the two women were the same person, but if so, her birthplace shifted from Ohio to Pennsylvania, and her parents swapped birthplaces.

Campbell 1930
The William E. Campbell Family of Columbus St, Bedford, Ohio in the 1930 U.S. Census.5

The William E. Campbell family lived at 360 Columbus Street in Bedford, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) in 1930. No longer a renter, William owned their house and he still worked as a street [railway] car conductor. His age, forty-four, is (at last) consistent with the previous census, as well as the 1900 Census. His mother’s birthplace, Pennsylvania, is consistent with the previous census as well. William’s wife, Mary’s data is also consistent, with the addition of the middle initial H on this census. Information about their daughter, Mary J[ane], is also consistent between 1920 and 1930.

William and Mary’s ages at marriage were given as twenty-seven and twenty-one, respectively. Based on their ages in this census, their marriage date was about 1913, three years after William was living with his wife Eveleyin in 1910, thus lending more credence to the theory that Mary and Eveleyin are in fact not the same person.

Campbell 1940
The William E. Campbell Family of Columbus St, Bedford, Ohio in the 1940 U.S. Census.6

In 1940, the Campbell family was still living at 360 Columbus Street in Bedford, Ohio, and William E. Campbell was still a conductor for a street railway. His age, fifty-two is once again inconsistent from the previous census, but not by very much. Data about his wife, Mary H, is totally consistent with the 1930 census, as is the data about Mary Jane, who by now was twenty-three years old and working as a bookkeeper for a wholesale paint factory.

Unlike previous censuses, in which there is (usually) no way to know who told the census taker what about who, the 1940 census enumerators indicated their informants by marking them with a circled “x.”7 In the Campbell family’s case, the informant was the wife, Mary H Campbell, which is going to be important later.

So. We’ve traced William E. Campbell across forty years and five census records, which, for all the consistent data they’ve provided, have also created a host of questions surrounding several inconsistencies:

  1. Was William Campbell’s mother from England? Or was she from New York, or Pennsylvania?
  2. Was Fannie Campbell actually William’s biological mother?
  3. Did Fannie have ten children, two of whom survived, or six children, all of whom survived?
  4. When exactly was William E. Campbell born? (The smaller fluctuations in his age from census to census might be resolved by comparing his birth month to the official census date, but other shifts are too large to be tidied up that way.)
  5. Did Fannie Campbell die before 1920, or did she just move out?
  6. Are Eveleyin and Mary Campbell the same person?
  7. What were James and Fannie Campbell each up to before they got married in their thirties?

As you’ll quickly see with the Campbells and their extended relations in Part Two: The William E. Campbell Vital Records, the more questions you answer, the more questions you have. If ever there was a case of genealogical research question whack-a-mole, it’s this family. Luckily, they lived in Cleveland, a city that is nothing short of a goldmine, records-wise, both in in terms of quantity of records kept as well as their availability.

Since I’ve broken with the common geneablogging practice of announcing it in the lede, at this point you’re probably wondering how exactly I fit into this picture. “Eveleyin,” whose name was actually spelled Evelyn, was my great-great grandmother, and if it isn’t obvious at this point, William E. Campbell was not my great-great grandfather. But William and I are related in other ways (yes, ways, plural), and I don’t just mean that he was “the husband of my great-great grandmother.”

Stay tuned, because this plot twists like Chubby Checker. Part Two.


1. 1900 U.S. Census, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, population schedule, Cleveland City, Ward 23, p. 271 (stamped) ED 114, sheet 6-A, dwelling 66, household 111, James Campbell; database with images, “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3SW-NWCD-9 : accessed 9 March 2018) , Ohio > Cuyahoga > ED 114 Precinct C Cleveland City Ward 23 > image 11 of 46; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1256; cropped and enhanced with contrast adjustment.
2. Marian L. Smith, “Women and Naturalization, ca. 1802-1940,” Prologue Magazine Volume 30, No. 2, Summer 1998; online edition, National Archives (http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/summer/women-and-naturalization-1.html : accessed 9 March 2018).
3. 1910 U.S. Census, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, population schedule, Cleveland City, Ward 19, p. 172 (stamped), ED 293, sheet 26-B, dwelling 14, household 21, William Campbell; database with images, “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RJX-GQ6 : accessed 9 march 2018), Ohio > Cuyahoga > Cleveland Ward 19 > ED 293 > image 52 of 54; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1173.
4. 1920 U.S. Census, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, population schedule, Cleveland City, Ward 16, p. 53 (stamped), ED 334, sheet 35-B, dwelling 585, household 845, William E. Campbell; database with images, “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRX3-778 : accessed 9 March 2018), Ohio > Cuyahoga > Cleveland Ward 16 > ED 334 > image 70 of 112; citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1368.
5. 1930 U.S. Census, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, population schedule, Bedford Village, Ward C.C. 40, p. 97 (stamped), ED 18-540, sheet 8-B, dwelling 193, household 213, William E. Campbell; database with images, “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RCQ-JRL : accessed 9 March 2018), Ohio > Cuyahoga > Bedford > ED 540 > image 16 of 42; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1761.
6. 1940 U.S. Census, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, population schedule, Bedford City, Ward B, p. 87 (stamped), ED 18-5, dwelling 1, Wm E Campbell; database with images, “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9M1-9STN : accessed 9 March 2018), Ohio > Cuyahoga > Bedford City, Bedford City, Tract BD-2 > 18-5 Bedford City (Tract BD-2 – part) bounded by (N) Columbus, city limits; (E) city limits; (S) Solon Rd; (W) Worthfield Rd > image 1 of 22; citing NARA digital publication T627.
7. U.S. Bureau of the Census, “Instructions to Enumerators; Population and Agriculture 1940,” p. 42, image copy, Census.gov (https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/1940instructions.pdf : accessed 9 March 2018).