Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Widow Who Is Still Married?

Another dip into the genealogy pool has yielded a bit of an enigma.

My second great-grandmother, Sophia Riel, wife of Joseph Major, is listed in the 1930 US Census to be a widow.

"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X7HY-V96 : accessed 29 May 2018), Sophie Major in household of Eva Phoenuf, Champlain, Clinton, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 8, sheet 11A, line 7, family 282, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1416; FHL microfilm 2,341,151.

Well, that's strange because Joseph didn't pass away until 1935.

Plattsburgh Daily Republican
January 30, 1935

The obituaries state that Joseph passed away "at the Ogdensburg State Hospital" and "at an Ogdensburg N.Y. hospital".  This might be polite speak for the St. Lawrence State Hospital.  Growing up we knew it as a mental hospital.  A good write up of the facility can be found at the Watertown Daily Times website.

Even five years before, the 1925 New York State Census, I can't find Joseph, but I do find Sophia, living with her daughter and granddaughter.  Eva's husband, George Phaneuf, did die in 1924.

"New York State Census, 1925," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KS7G-6D6 : 8 November 2014), Sophia Majar, Champlain, A.D. 01, E.D. 01, Clinton, New York, United States; records extracted by Ancestry and images digitized by FamilySearch; citing p. 9, line 13, New York State Archives, Albany.
I don't know why Joseph Major was there, nor why his wife indicated that she was a widow.  Perhaps there was a social stigma of having one's spouse as a patient in a mental health facility.  Maybe it was easier to declare him dead than to answer repeated questions.  I just don't know.

Joseph was interred at St. Mary's Cemetery in Champlain, New York.  16 years later Sophia passed away and was buried next to him.

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