Friday, December 13, 2013

Mary Belle and John CARR: The Big Puzzle

Mary B. Carr-Doyle
My maternal Great-Grandmother Mary Bell Carr has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. Grandma Margaret talked about her mother often. However, she hardly knew anything about her family history. Mary was born in 1886 in Lynchburg, Virginia. She married Peter Doyle in 1903 becoming a step mother to his three young daughters from his first marriage; Hattie, Mattie and Letha. Mary Belle never talked about her past, not her parents, not her grandparents..nothing. Grandma always said she thought that it was very strange. Who doesn't talk about their family?  she always thought there was some big secret she was hiding. Mary had one brother, John Wesley Carr. Known as "Uncle Johnny". The only thing that was known is that they were from Lynchburg, Virginia. Their mother died when they were children and that they were raised by an aunt. John and Mary were very close. Uncle Johnny didn't talk about his past either. He only said that his mother told him on her death bed to take care of his little sister, Mary. I remember my grandma telling me that in her day, children were seen and not heard. As a child, you just simply did not ask questions. And she never did. She wished that she had known her grandparents. She asked me if I could find out who they were. She said that it would be great if she could just find out what their names were before she died.

As I started looking more into Grandma Mary's past. Cousin Martha, who was very close with Grandma Mary, told me all about her past. She said that Mary Belle and her brother John were the illegitimate children of their mother and the German doctor that she worked for. This doctor took advantage of their mother. The mother died when they were very young. After her death, the father wanted to take Mary and John and raise them, however the mother's family would not have it. She said that they were raised by the mother's family. Aunt Bert or Bertie..she never could remember the name exactly. According to cousin Martha, this was part of the reason why she never spoke of her family. She was too ashamed of being an Illegitimate child.

Looking for Her Parents:
I put up many posts on various message boards hoping to find a connection. Finally a cousin, who seen my post and contacted me. She was from the CARR family. Said that she found the marriage record of Mary and her husband Peter Doyle. This record listed her parents names as Nellie GOGGINS and John CARR There it was! Grandma Margaret was so excited! She had finally found the name of her grandparents.
John Wesley Carr 1884-1959
John W.Carr was born in Lynchburg, Virginia  about 1884. I'm not sure when he came to Minnesota. He first shows up in the 1920 census, where he is shown living with the Sherman Finch Family in St.Paul, MN. He worked as a Chauffeur for the family for 25 years. Mom remembers that he loved to go fishing. He married Sue Sten in about 1938-39. Sue was from Germany. I'm sure that STEN was a shortened version of her original name. After he and Sue divorced he came to live with grandma Margaret. My Mom was a little girl then, she remembers Uncle Johnny bringing her baked beans all the time because she loved them so much. John was a member of the Sterling Club in St.Paul, Mn. To my knowledge he never had any children. He always took care of his sister. He bought her a house after her husband died. Grandma said he had a lot of trouble with his legs from all the driving he did. He died in Hastings, Minnesota in 1956. John was wealthy and left most of his money to his fishing buddies. Grandma always fussed about that.When he died Grandma Mary had him brought to Iowa to be buried in Glendale Cemetery where the family was buried at.

The latest mystery. A cousin who was contacted by a Carr family member, who found adoption records in Iowa stating that that John and Mary were actually NICHOLS and were adopted by the Carr family. She said that the Carr and the Nichols family were related...Hmmm..this is strange being that they were born in Virginia. I'm Still researching this one.

Other than her marriage record. I've never found Mary in any document before 1910. She first shows up in Mahaska county Iowa in the 1910 census, living with her husband and children. As I said earlier, John doesn't show up in the census until 1920, in Minnesota. I realized that searching for my ancestors who were light enough to be taken as white. Makes it more difficult when you don't know exactly what location they were in. Throughout the census records after 1920. John was listed as white and black. Talk about confusing!

Just a few of my endless questions:
Where were Mary B. and her brother John between 1884-1900?
When did Mary come to Iowa?
Who did she go to Iowa with?
Were they really adopted?
It makes me dizzy..So many unanswered questions. Wait..There's another mystery to this story about Grandma Mary! more about that in my next blog post.

Siblings: Mary B. Carr Doyle and John Carr-photo courtesy of Shari Chandler Doyle


© 2013 Denise Muhammad


  1. Great post, lots of mysteries to solve, but one thing shines through: the love between Mary and her brother, John.

  2. Thanks Dawn. Yes they were definitely close and neither would

  3. Wow, I was blown away by this story. It was such an interesting read. You are really doing a great job documenting your discoveries. You do have some more mysteries to solve good luck with your journey.

    1. Yes, I sure do. I hope to find the answers to this mystery. Thank you Bernita.

  4. Denise sis, you have become an excellent researcher . . . KUDOS to you for all of the discoveries you have made. And yes, as you find answers, more questions will pop up in the process. Keep digging, keep documenting your findings and blogging about the experience! Excellent job indeed!

    1. Denise, I also meant to THANK YOU for following I have added your blog to my blogroll as well. Again, thanks!

    2. Thank you Liv for your encouragement! No problem.Your blog is Awesome! :)

  5. Interesting post and you do have a mystery on your hands. I love the picture of the siblings.

  6. I love your stories. They always paint a picture! Thanks for sharing.

  7. I always comment on the fb page and forget to post my comments here. I really love this story and it inspired me to do my next blog about my family secrets. Keep up the great work.

  8. Hi Denise..I just discovered your blog. My children's great-grandmother (on their father's side) was born in Buxton IA. I've been researching their genealogy for 4 years. I love the history of Buxton...sounds like you do too. Our surnames are Wilson, Smith, Southall, Selbicky. The Wilson's also came from Virginia, Fredericksville Parish, Albemarle, area. I live in Mpls, too. thank you for sharing your stories.


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