"In this great future you can't forget your past" ~No Woman, No Cry, Bob Marley

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Leva Jane

“Are you related to Leva/Levy Jane who married a Nicholas (Carter?) I just found a Record [sic] for her divorce from her first husband!” This was a message that was patiently waiting for on Friday, 22 November 2013 in my Face Book “in-box”; it was from a wonderful research friend/mentor in Illinois.

Okay, Leva/Levy/Levia/Alevia/Lena Jane CLARK was my third great grandmother on my maternal grandfather’s side. The last time I’d done anything with Leva was just over three years ago (three years and 16 days ago to be exact), when I compiled some information I had about her to share with a cousin I’d met at a genealogy conference. Why? Well, to be honest, I felt a little intimidated by the very common surname, and what I thought was not enough information to grab ahold of anything certain with which to move forward. Despite this, over the past couple of years, I would wonder how I could go about finding and figuring out what I need to find and figure out. I was unable to travel to Illinois, where most of the events for Leva took place, at least the ones on which I needed information, and to that point, I’d exhausted what was online for her. I did with Leva as I’ve done with some other Ancestors—set them aside, and revisit them from time to time; only with Leva, I hadn’t revisited with her as often as some others. Well, I must say that there is some nudging, and it is time.
The friend who sent the message was doing some work for an on-going project of his involving African-heritage residents of Braidwood, Will County, Illinois. While going through documents, the name of my Ancestor stood out, in large part because of her connection with my DONALDSON family and her marriages to miners. I enthusiastically let him know that yes, yes Leva was indeed one of my people and shared in his excitement at finding the divorce record—now I’d have a first name for this first of three husbands, finally! Now, I knew that the marriage ended through divorce, not death; what else would I learn? Well, this genealogy blessing emailed me, as he called it, “the good stuff” and put the paper copies in the mail. Oh was the “good stuff” good!! Okay, Leva’s first husband was one Taylor BURCH—and according to the paperwork, and the witnesses (no names of witnesses provided—shucky darn!) who testified on Leva’s behalf—he was an abusive individual who had deserted his wife and was unfit to be a parent and have any part of the child’s upbringing or education---Whoa nelly, the child? Yes, a child, and the child, whom I’d not known about before, was named in the paperwork—Antwoine—wow!! Okay, so I am reveling in this new bit of information, and trying to figure out what happened to this child because this child does not appear in the 1880 census with Leva and her second husband, Shelton JONES and their daughter, Louisa. I combed as many online databases as possible searching for any death information, nothing surfaced, so I am guessing I really need to try to get to Illinois this summer. As I am taking all of this in, I get another message from my friend, who shared that among the birth certificates he has copied so far was one for baby Antowine, daughter of Leva and her first husband; he emailed it to me. Oh. My. Gosh!! Okay, time to share what I know of Leva.

According to two of Leva’s marriage records, and the birth certificate of her daughter, Antowine, Leva was born in Manchester, Clay County, Kentucky about 1857, though her ages in census enumerations place the year of birth at various other years. According to these documents, and information provided by her third husband for her death certificate, her father was George CLARK and her mother was Nancy CLARK (unsure if Clark was also her maiden surname as well as her married name).

Leva married three times. First to Taylor William or William Taylor (the divorce record has his name as Taylor, the baby’s birth certificate as William) BURCH/BIRCH. The date and location is unknown, but the divorce was finalized on 13 January 1879 in Will County, Illinois. Her second marriage was to Shelton JONES of Charlottesville, Virginia; the marriage occurred on 27 February 1879 (Yep, you read that correctly, she married him a month and 14 days after her divorce from Taylor/William) and took place in Will County, Illinois. I am not certain if this marriage ended in divorce or with the passing of Shelton, however, what I do know is that by 1883, she was married to Carter NICHOLAS of Saltsville, Virginia. This third marriage took place in Joliet, Will County, Illinois on 18 July 1883.

Marriage records for Leva Jane's second and third marriages--received courtesy of T. Pinnick


According to the 1900 census (Leva and family was living in Roslyn, Kittitas County, Washington at the time), Leva had given birth to ten children, of which, six were living. Who were the other four children? Well, the divorce record accounted for one of those four. The six living were:
Louisa, born in May of 1879 (she was raised as a Nicholas, however, she was the daughter of Shelton Jones and she was my second great grandmother), Bertie, born March of 1886, Nettie,  born in March of 1888; Mary born in June of 1894; Stella born in March of 1897, and Albert born in June of 1899 [all birth months and years according to information listed in the census enumeration]. Okay, Antowine BURCH was born in May of 1878, according to her birth certificate. I am curious about the other children—In looking at the birth years of Leva’s children, I am guessing that at least one child was born between Louisa and Bertie. I am also wondering if one or two of the children were born between Nettie and Mary. I shall, I hope, find out.
Birth certificate for Antowine BIRCH/BURCH
Received courtesy of T. Pinnick

According to the Washington State Death Certificates housed both on FamilySearch.org, and through the Washington State Digital Archives, Leva transitioned from this life to the next on 12 October 1922 at the age of 65 in Roslyn, Kittitas County, Washington. I still have to order this record.

Ah, as is one of the things I love about genealogy and family history, every answer tends to bring with it at least three questions, and it seems, Leva Jane is ready for some of her questions to be answered, and I, I am ready to learn.


  1. You got me thinking on the ones I need to go and check on. Hope you get some replys too!

  2. Hi, True~

    Pull 'em off the shelf and dust 'em off--smile. I am now being bombarded with folks I need to revisit :) ! There are two in particular that I've been working on trying to learn more about. I'll sketch them out and see if there is anything "obvious" I've missed--in the mean time.....Thank you, I'll update when I learn more about Leva.

  3. Leva Jane is revealing herself, glad you found documents helpful to your research.

  4. Hi, LindaRe~

    Oh boy, isn't she?! I'm excited. Thank you so much.


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