Thursday, 7 April 2011

F is for Frank's First Marriage

My grandfather's brother, Frank Bertolo, married my grandmother's sister, Lina Mattioli.  They never had children, and perhaps that is why they ended up like an extra set of grandparents for us kids.

Frank and Lena were a great pair.  They were both hard-working, with a twinkle in the eye.

Tomorrow would have been Aunty Lina's 99th birthday, but she passed away in May 1997, three years after Uncle Frank, whom we called Zio (pronounced see-oh in our family, rather than the proper Italian tzee-oh).

It was only after Aunty passed that I learned that she was Zio's second wife.  It took my by surprise, but my mom had always known it.

So who was Zio's first wife and what happened to her?  I can still only answer the first question.  I was told she was "Indian" and that she ran off with another man.

One day, looking at some Canadian naturalization records on the Canadian Library and Archives site, I saw Uncle Frank's naturalization in February 1927 with his wife Annie.   So there's her first name: Annie.

Then last year, searching the Drouin collection on Ancestry, I found Frank and Annie's marriage record.  Her maiden name was Davey.  They were married in January 1924 in Sault Ste. Marie.  The church record says Frank was 18 and Annie 15.  Their Ontario civil record of the marriage is also on Ancestry.  Despite the same marriage date, the civil record says Frank was 21 and Annie 16.  Hmm.  Uncle Frank was born September 10, 1905.  I have known that all my life, plus I've seen his Italian birth registration.  I've also found Annie's birth record.  She was born August 30, 1910.  That would have made Frank 18 and Annie just 13.

TIP:  Don't believe that all the facts, even on original records, are accurate.

In a future post, I'll tell you about the book I've been reading, Genealogical Standards of Evidence: A Guide for Family Historians by Brenda Dougall Merriman.  In short, you will often be faced with a collection of records offering contradictory facts.  The book provides guidance on assessing each record's reliability.  Some of the guidance is common sense but you know how common that is.  Think about Annie's age.  Would you put your faith in the provincial birth registration by her father or the age she or her groom gave the priest?
Having three possible birth years for Annie made it a little tough to find her in the 1910 Canadian census.  There were three girls named Annie Davey or Davie in Ontario at the time, each roughly the same age.  One lived in Toronto.  There was a Cree girl in Moose Fort, living with her Hardisty grandparents.  And one Annie was living with her parents and Dumbar grandparents near the Sault. 

TIP:  When you have people of the same name and age in the same area, see what other facts can distinguish one from the other.

You'll be hard pressed to find Annie in Plummer Township near the Sault; her surname appears to be written as Davil.  I thought Zio's Annie was the Cree girl.  But the grandparents in Plummer are the ones that match the mother's maiden name, Dunbar, listed in the church and civil marriage record as well as Annie's birth registration.  I have no idea where the story came from that Annie was "Indian."  That 1910 Census says her parents were Scottish.

TIP:  Some family stories have been embroidered over the years, but there's usually a grain of truth in them somewhere.  And you will want to find it.

So what happened to Annie?  I understood that Zio married Aunty Lina in 1932.  But they didn't marry in the Catholic Church until 1959.  I found a link to Frank and Annie on an Ancestry family tree that showed their divorce date.  I contacted the Ancestry member who posted the tree to ask the source of the divorce date.  I had searched a number of databases but never found a divorce record.  To my embarrassment, I was told that the divorce date was written at the top of the civil marriage record!

TIP:  Look at documents closely to capture all the information they hold.

Mom says Aunty Mary has Frank and Annie's divorce papers, but I haven't seen them yet. [By the way, Happy Birthday, Aunty Mary!]

Unfortunately, Annie's relative who had posted the tree knew nothing more of Annie.  Perhaps years from now, we'll find a marriage record or death record for her -- that is, assuming we can tell whether it's our Annie or the one from Toronto or Moose Fort.  Until then, Annie Davey will remain a mystery.

Whereever Annie went, whyever she went, I'd have to thank her.  Because if you knew Aunty and Zio, you know they were meant for each other.


  1. Neat story! I love discovering facts about my great aunts and uncles as much as discovering them about my great grandparents! Great tips too!

  2. i remember walking to their house.(which wasn't very far only across the street) and picking stuff from the garden. and gathering there to pick fresh green beans.. Making sausages in the basement....mmmmm... it was so much fun...Thanks for all these blogs they are very interesting and neat to know about.

  3. Thanks, marcsgirl. Those were good sausages! Remember the back room? I always liked the corner window and the bathroom. I still dream about Aunty and Zio's house every now and then.

  4. i can shed more light on this subject.. you peaked my curiousity when you told about this subject so i asked gramma.. she told me the whole story. seems annie was with more then one other man and zio caught her and asked for a divorce. when auntie and him married they were not alowed to do so in a catholic church. after they spoke to a friend within the church he wrote to rome and asked for his first marriage to be exponged so that him and auntie could have a ceremony in the catholic church and for it to be recognized which they did allow.. hope this helps!!

  5. Thanks for the research, Jess!

  6. families are a wast of time, you should see the nutters that i deal with.