Friday, March 8, 2013

The Real Aunt Jack

Ethel Jackson about 1910
Ethel Jackson, or “Aunt Jack”, was the only sibling of my great-grandfather Harry Edward Jackson. Harry lived with his family in and around Boston, Massachusetts until my great-grandmother Frances packed up their four children and moved to Chicago to live with another man. The children never saw their father again and no one in the family even knew he had died until Ethel wrote to them about six months after his death. She had evidently disposed of all Harry’s assets before informing his family. She was never heard from again and she died an old maid. 

That’s the family legend. This is the real story as it is gleaned from public records.

Ethel Camilla Jackson, daughter of John Harry Jackson and Ida Estella Whittemore, was born on 17 September 1886 in Ashland, Middlesex county, Massachusetts.[1] Her father had moved to Ashland between 1870 and 1879 where he worked as a hat blocker and then as a boot maker, probably working in the same boot shop as his future father-in-law. John and Ida were married in Ashland in 1881 and their first child Harry followed barely nine months later. It was another four years before Ethel came along, their second and last child (according to the 1900 and 1910 population schedules, Ida was the mother of two children). 

99 High Street in Malden, Mass as it
appears today. (Google Earth)
By 1900, John had moved the small family to 99 High Street in Malden, Massachusetts, abandoning his career in boot making and taking up that of “market meat cutter”.[2] We next see the family in 1910 residing at 378 Bowdoin  Street in Boston. By this time Harry had married and set up his own household. Ethel was 23, living at home with her parents, single, and attending school, presumably college but I have found no direct evidence for that assumption[3].

John died in 1915 at 333 Quincy Street in Boston[4]. In 1920, Ethel and her widowed mother Ida were lodgers at 16 Sayward Street in Boston. Ida was working as a stitcher of neckwear and Ethel, still single, was a teacher at a commercial college.[5] Ida, Ethel, and Harry’s daughter Signa made a trip out to Coronado Beach, California in June 1922 to visit Ida’s sister-in-law Annette (Aunt Nettie) Jackson. 

"Coronado Beach Ladies", June 23, 1922:
Ida, Nettie, Signa, and Ethel Jackson
Ida died in 1924[6]. By 1930, Ethel was living alone at 88 Charles Street, Boston. She was still single and still employed as a college teacher.[7] No public records have been found of Ethel for another twelve years so we switch our focus for a moment to her brother Harry.

Although Harry seems to be absent from the 1930 census, we know that he was living somewhere in Boston from 1932 to 1936. These were the years that he was filing divorce claims with the Suffolk County Probate Court. His initial claim filed in 1932 charged his wife Frances with being unfaithful in Boston “on or about the 15th day of October 1928” and of being guilty of “cruel and abusive treatment” of him.[8] Frances and their children are enumerated in the 1930 census for Chicago with Allan Wendergren, boarder[9], whom we now know to be her lover.
Ethel and brother Harry probably
late 1930s
Neither Harry nor Ethel ever saw Harry’s children again and the family believes that they made very little contact with them from that point forward. Since none of those children are alive today, we will probably never be certain if that is true. It is my belief, however, that someone was in communication with them because we are in possession of some photos of Harry with his winter home in Florida—something that he did not own before the divorce. Given the circumstances of the divorce, it is not inconceivable that Ethel would hold some resentment towards Frances and, by extension, her children.

Both Ethel and Harry are missing from the 1940 census. Harry died on 27 December 1941 in Tampa, Florida[10] where he spent his winters in his semi-retirement from the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad. Ethel was the informant on Harry’s death certificate and gave her Boston address as the same as Harry’s usual residence. She also gave his marital status as ”Married”, although the divorce had been final for nearly ten years. His body was removed to Ashland, Massachusetts on 2 January 1942 for burial in his mother’s family plot at Wildwood cemetery. Ethel waited several months before informing Harry’s children of their father’s death. The family believes she had disposed of his assets before informing them because none of the children received any of Harry’s personal possessions.[11]
Harry's winter home in Tampa, Florida
This is the last any of the grandchildren knew of Ethel—she was still single when Harry died and as far as the family knew, she never married. Imagine my surprise when, as I was searching for online records for Ethel, I found a North Carolina death record for her with the surname Bridgham and spouse Albert S. [sic] Bridgham.[12] This discovery has made it possible to find some of the rest of the story.

Albert Fayette Bridgham, son of Levi Bridgham and Fannie Morrill Bradbury, was born on 11 March 1891 in Dexter, Penobscot county, Maine.[13] He married Emily R. Malcome (or Malcomb) about 1916 and had two children: Jean A. Bridgham (born about 1918) and Frederick A. Bridgham (born about 1920)[14]. Albert was a business school teacher in the Boston area at Burdett College, which has since been closed.[15] It is possible that Ethel also taught at that school, which would explain how the two met. Emily died in 1941; Ethel and Albert were married sometime after that and they moved to North Carolina before 1961. 

Ethel died on 13 November 1961 in Salisbury, Rowan county, North Carolina at age 75, and was cremated on 15 November  in Winston-Salem, Forsyth county, North Carolina. The cause of her death was “natural causes - cause undetermined (sudden)”.[16] Her ashes are interred in the Bridgham family plot at Mount Pleasant cemetery, Dexter, Penobscot county, Maine.[17]  Albert followed Ethel in death on 29 December 1965 in Salisbury at age 74, and was cremated on 31 December in Winston-Salem. The cause of his death was “natural causes, causes undetermined, no evidence of foul play”. [18] His ashes are also interred in the Bridgham family plot at Mount Pleasant cemetery in Dexter, Maine.[19]

It is clear that more research must be done to complete Ethel’s story. It might be interesting to track down Albert’s children or grandchildren to hear what they know about her. Since none of Harry’s living descendants ever met her, it would be interesting to get to know the real Aunt Jack.

Ethel Camilla Jackson Bridgham certificate of death.

By now, my fellow Sepians are scratching their heads wondering what any of this has to do with this week's Sepia Saturday challenge—no boats, water, steamers, piers, or writing on photographs in sight. But the main thing I  noticed in the image prompt were the TREES, especially the tall one in the foreground. It immediately brought to mind the top photo of Ethel with the trees. So naturally I had to blog about her.  Nearly all of my photos in this story has a tree in it, or at least a bush. Find out how other interpreted this week's image prompt by following the links on the Sepia Saturday blog.

Thanks for dropping by.

Source Citations

[1] North Carolina State Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, death certificate 123 (1961), Ethel Camilla Jackson Bridgham; digital image,, "North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975,"( : accessed 9 Jan 2011).
[2] 1900 U.S. census, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Malden, enumeration district (ED) 831, sheet 10A, p. 154 (stamped), dwelling 178, family 225, John H. Jackson household; digital images, ( : accessed 14 Jan 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 662.
[3] 1910 U.S. census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Boston Ward 20, enumeration district (ED) 1564, sheet 13A, p. 12 (stamped), dwelling 203, family 310, John H. Jackson household; digital images, ( : accessed 24 Jul 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 622.
[4] "Massachusetts, Deaths, 1841-1915", 352, no. 8588, John H. Jackson; digital image, "Deaths Registered in the City of Boston," FamilySearch ( 26 Sep 2011); Massachusetts State Archives, Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics, State House, Boston, Massachusetts. United States.
[5] 1920 Census for Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts, Record Type: 1920U.S. Census, Location: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Fhl FilmNo: 1820737, Record Info: population schedule, Film: Micropublication Series T625, Roll 737, William G. Brown household, Boston, ED 430, SD 6, sheet 4B, dwelling 58, family 83, lines 80-85, enumerated on 9 January 1920.
[6] Town of Ashland, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, deaths recorded with the Ashland Town Clerk (1924), Ida Estelle Jackson.
[7] 1930 U.S. census, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 150, sheet 12A, p. 130 (stamped), family 3, Ethel C. Jackson; digital images, ( : accessed 7 Dec 2002); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 945.
[8] Suffolk County Probate Court: Harry Edward Jackson vs. Frances O. Jackson; Divorce Case Docket No. 11502 (1932).
[9] 1930 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago city, precinct 7, ward 46th pt, block 123, enumeration district (ED) 1699, sheet 6B, dwelling 61A, family 100A, Francis Jackson; digital images, ( : accessed 16 Jan 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 488.
[10] Florida State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate State file no. 23594, Registrar's no. 1368 (1941), Harry Edward Jackson.
[11] Interview of Harry’s granddaughters by Sherri Hessick, 2002.
[12] North Carolina State Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, death certificate 123 (1961), Ethel Camilla Jackson Bridgham; digital image,, "North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975,"( : accessed 9 Jan 2011).
[13] Maine State Archives, Albert Fayette Bridgham; digital image, Operations, Inc., Maine Birth Records, 1621-1922 ( : accessed 13 Feb 2013); "Pre 1892 Delayed Returns"; Roll #: 12.
[14] 1940 U.S. census, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Braintree, enumeration district (ED) 11-10, sheet 2A, household 29, Albet F. Bridgham household; digital images, ( : accessed 3 Aug 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T627, roll 1624.
[15] "U.S. City Directories," database, ( : accessed 5 Jul 2012), entry for Albert F. and Emily M. Bridgham; citing Lothrop's Braintree Directory (1928), p 49.
[16] North Carolina State Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, death certificate 123 (1961), Ethel Camilla Jackson Bridgham; digital image,, "North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975,"( : accessed 9 Jan 2011).
[17] Find a Grave, online index ( : accessed 15 Feb 2013), entry for Camilla J. Bridgham.
[18] North Carolina State Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, death certificate 154 (1965), Albert Fayette Bridgham; digital image,, "North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1975,"( : accessed 16 Jan 2011).
[19] Find a Grave, online index ( : accessed 15 Feb 2013), entry for Albert F. Bridgham.


  1. The original tree-hugger. Thanks for sharing your story and photos.

  2. I love how digging around in public records has turned the family legend around from a story that hints at sneakiness and greed on the part of Aunt Jack to one about a loyal sister.

  3. How often we make assumptions that make sense (died an old maid), but aren't true. I enjoyed the story and the photographs.

  4. I was so hooked by your story that I had forgotten what the prompt was. It didn't matter, You have done a lot of detective work to get this far. All it needs now is for some descendants to contact you.

  5. It's amazing what you can find online--if you're lucky.

  6. I'm with Bob -- the story is absolutely fascinating, especially to those of us who have done the same kind of research! It's amazing what you can discover with a little hard work and solid logic.
    I live about 1 hour away from Dexter, so if you want me to go there, let me know!

  7. Hi Sherrie, what a great post! You are a wonderful storyteller. That is too bad that Harry's family deserted him in such a way.

    How interesting to learn that Aunt Jack ended up married and living happily ever after (we hope).

    I hope that you do get the chance to meet her stepchildren or their children someday soon.

    Kathy M.

  8. A Treemendous Post!:) Your Family Tree Keeps Growing.You Are A Fine Cultivator !

  9. Wow, you are well on your way here, what a great amount of sleuthing!

  10. LOvely post, very informative about relatives, not too distant, but especially finding about that marriage! Sure, trees can tie almost anything together! Love the camper in Tampa especially.

  11. Clearly there was more to Aunt Jack than originally met the eye. Well done for finding out so much.

  12. You have a wonderful ability to bring family history (and Aunt Jack) to life.

  13. You have a lot of stories here. I enjoy hearing them even when they were borderline tragic or at least mysterious. Great writing and good luck on the future searchers.

  14. Hi. I stumbled across your story searching on "Bridgham". I am not descended from Albert F. Bridgham, but he was my grandfather's brother. I have a photo of Albert if you're interested.

  15. Hi. I stumbled across your story while searching for "Bridgham". I am not descended from Albert F. Bridgham; Albert is my grandfather's brother. I have a photo of Albert if you are interested.

  16. J. Bridgham, I am very much interested in seeing a photo of Albert. And if you know any stories or family legends about him, I would also love to hear about them. You have no contact info in your G+ profile and no picture. Find me in G+ and add me to your circles then contact me. Thanks.

  17. Very interesting and well written and researched.

    I also look forward to reading your A-Z posts.


  18. "All My Family Trees" has been included in the Sites To See for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

  19. Thank you Jerry. It is an honor to be included on your site. I love the variety you offer your visitors.