Family History Moment: Finding Great Aunt Cora

Contributed By Loretta Evans, Church News contributor

  • 20 November 2017

Cora M. Quaintance, the author’s “Aunt Cora.”

“Thanks to volunteers indexing census, death, and marriage records, Aunt Cora no longer has ‘no relatives.’ She is included in our family.” —Loretta Evans

It took 46 years to find my Great-Grand-Aunt Cora.

One day in 1968 I was reading the obituary of my great-grandmother Alice Arlitta Steward Luce King. It said she was survived by a brother and a sister. It struck me that I knew she had three brothers, but I did not know she had a sister.

Searching a census at that time was difficult. I had to guess where the family might have been living and then use microfilm to look at every family in the community until I found my relatives. However, in a very dim 1870 U.S. census I found Cora Steward. She was six years old. My great-grandmother had been married and was not living with the family. However, Cora’s parents and brothers convinced me I had the right family. I was thrilled. This was the first time I had found a new relative through my research.

When my mother heard the name Cora, she said she might have a picture of her. In a box of family photographs was a postcard with a woman in a big hat. On the back was written “Ray’s Aunt Cora.” My grandfather went by the name of Ray, so she would have been his mother’s sister.

The obituary of the author’s great-grandmother Alice Arlitta Steward Luce King said she was survived by a brother and a sister.

Cora M. Quaintance, the author’s “Aunt Cora.”

I had found Aunt Cora.

We were able to perform temple ordinances for Aunt Cora, but I was at a dead end. Without information on her married name, I was unable to locate any other records.

Her father had died by 1880, and I couldn’t find her living with other family members. The photograph had been taken in Grand Junction, Colorado, USA. I looked in the 1900 and 1910 census records for anyone near Grand Junction with the first name Cora who had been born in Ohio about 1864. I had no luck.

Aunt Cora’s life remained a mystery for 46 years until FamilySearch indexing. Michigan death and marriage records indexed by volunteers gave me more of Aunt Cora’s life.

One day in 2014 I looked in FamilySearch for anyone whose parents were Wesley Steward and Rebecca Avis Ellsworth—my second great-grandparents. My great-grandmother’s death record came up. In addition, I found a death record for a Cora M. Quaintance, who died in Lansing, Michigan, in 1934. Her name, birth date, and place matched what I knew about Cora Steward.

I had found Aunt Cora again.

With her married name, I was able to locate her marriage and information about her only son, Fred, who died unmarried at age 23. Apparently, Cora and her husband were divorced, because I found him with another family in the 1900 and 1910 census records. I found a brief second marriage for Cora, but apparently that didn’t last long either. She continued to use the Quaintance surname.

Aunt Cora’s obituary was not online. I contacted the public library in Lansing, Michigan, and they sent it to me. The first two lines read: “Mrs. Cora M. Quaintance, 71, died at a local hospital Saturday evening. She leaves no relatives” (Lansing State Journal, Dec 22, 1932, 6).

Thanks to volunteers indexing census, death, and marriage records, Aunt Cora no longer has “no relatives.” She is included in our family.

—Loretta Evans is a member of the Idaho Falls Boulevard Ward, Idaho Falls Central Stake.