Friday, October 18, 2013

Earl Dewy Olney (1898 - 1971?)

     This is my biggest mystery to date:  my Great Grand Uncle, Dewey.  This is the only photo I've found of him - obviously early 20th century, and I believe this is a lemon orchard in Santa Paula, CA.  You'll see why as we continue with the story.  I don't know whether I like him or not...but he's a relative who I never met, so I've got to do the research!  Here's what I've learned so far:

     Earl Dewy Olney was born in Kansas on Aug. 17, 1898 [WWI Draft Registration] to Rosey May (Randolph) Olney and Roscoe William Olney, the youngest of their six children.  Rosey died in Montgomery County, KS - probably Cherryvale, where the family was enumerated in the 1900 US Federal Census -  when Dewy was not even four years old.  It appears that the family was fractured after her death.  The younger children are all living away from their father when he and my Great Grandmother, Cora Belle, appear in the 1910 US Federal Census in Los Angeles.  His brother, Harmon, age 20, was living in Kansas as a servant; Raymond, age 18, was also in Kansas living with some Randolph relatives; their sister, Bertha, may have been living with those same relatives, but the census record doesn't give enough/correct information to be sure; and I have yet to find out what happened with Owen Thomas, the second youngest child in the family, who was 14 in 1910.  Dewey, however, I did find.  He was in Kit Carson County, Colorado living with a Norton family - a "boarder" at age 11 far from any other family.  How did this happen?  Roscoe was clearly not indigent, so why didn't the children stay with him?
     Whatever happened, it seems he kept in touch with family.  His draft registration card dated Sept. 12, 1918 gives his closest living relative as his father, Roscoe, who lived in Burbank.  Dewey himself was back in Montgomery County, KS when he registered...and he was unemployed at that time.  By 1920 he had come to California - about the time this photo was taken - and was living in a boarding house in Santa Paula, CA, listing his occupation as foreman at a fruit farm.  Other family members also worked in this agricultural industry at this time, notably my Great Grandfather and husband to Dewey's sister, Cora Belle.  Perhaps Dewey worked for the same company? I suspect he did.  Here's why:
The taller lady on the right is my grandma, Chloris Reba Bradbury, daughter of Cora Belle (Olney) Bradbury.  The other people in the photo are not identified on the back.  You'll notice that a fifth person in the picture, who clearly didn't want to be in it, who is holding the baby up.  How does all of this connect to Dewey?  Well, my grandma and her family lived on the Limoniera camp because her father, Thomas Elliott Bradbury, was a foreman.  Limoniera, as the name would suggest, is a citrus growing company - fruit!  I believe the other woman in this photo is Maura Flores (Olney?) - Dewey's first wife - and the children are Eduardo and Jose/Joseph Olney, their children.  You see, Maura and her family also worked for Limoniera.  She and Dewey may have run into each other at work...or in the camp, who knows?  What I do know is that in 1930 Maura and her children are living with her parents.  Maura is "divorced" and both of her children's surnames are Olney.  It turns out, by one of those very strange coincidences, that I grew up with Joseph Olney's grandson, and we didn't realize we were even related until I started my Dewey research!!
     You see, I had these two photos, and I was doing a very quick search of Olneys in Ventura County on, hoping to find any stray relatives I didn't realized had joined the migration to California.  That's how I came across Maura and her boys.  I wanted to know who she had been married to, who was the father of her sons??  I mean, they were Olneys! I already knew Dewey was in the area at the time and that he was of an age to marry, but I have yet to find a marriage record for these two.  So I decided to do a roundabout type of search. I plugged "Maura Flores" and "Olney" and "Ventura" into Google, and lo and behold, I found an article about the artist, Maura Flores Olney!! One of her descendants had a name I recognized from my entire school life - Buenrostro.  So, I emailed my old friend and asked if he knew anything about Maura and/or this husband she divorced.  It turns out,yes, Maura is his Great Grandmother, and his mom is doing some genealogy, too! They know very little about the Olney line even though, as my friend puts it, "we're related to all the Olneys"! OMG, right??  What did they know? It WAS Dewey!!! My hunch was right! But we're still at a dead end.  No one knows when they were married and divorced or what happened between them, it seems. Judging by the ages of the children in this photo, it must have been taken around 1924-1925.  If that is Dewey holding the baby, it would appear that they were together then, right?  Well, something changed between this photo and 1930, because we know Maura and the boys were living with her parents, still working for Limoniera.  Dewey, on the other hand, appears in a City Directory for 1928 in Santa Monica with a new wife!!
     This is by far the most scandalous bit of family history I have uncovered so far, and I'm not really sure exactly how scandalous it is - except that Maura and her boys must not have had contact with Dewey after the divorce, because the family didn't know him.  Yes, in the 1930 US Federal Census Dewey and his new wife (who, incidentally, is 11 years younger than he - just sayin') are living in her mother's house in Los Angeles City.  He's a pipe fitter for a plumbing company, presumable supporting both women.  He's also calling himself Earl - not Dewey. Hmmmm....
     But wait! There's more!!!
     When we find Dewey in the 1940 Census things have changed yet again.  Now he's back in Santa Paula, living with my Great Grandparents and their very large family, apparently divorced again, and now he's a gardener at a citrus ranch (Limoniera?).  Apparently he's been there since 1935!!!  I lose track of Maura and the boys at this time, so I don't know if they knew that Dewey was back in town or not. I also haven't been able to find a marriage or divorce record for Dewey's second wife, Verna Maines. I did find a marriage announcement for Dewey and Verna, though, on Genealogy Bank.  I don't have it in front of me now, but at least that gives an approximate date and shows that a wedding actually occurred. Also on Genealogy Bank, though not with me at present, I found an obituary for Dewey, who died Oct. 5, 1971 in Los Angeles.  The obituary mentions he was survived by his wife and daughter.  There was no name given for the daughter, but if I remember correctly, the wife's name was "Ada."  If that is correct, it is possible that he and Verna remained married because her middle name was Adaline...or this could be a third wife!  Needless to say, there is a lot that remains to be seen when it comes to Earl Dewey Olney.  He sure got around! So, I will continue my research and hope that someone sees this post and comes out of the woodwork to help his descendants in their research - especially the Flores-Olney families since he seems to have completely abandoned them early on.

**NOTE (10/21/13):  It has been pointed out to me in emails that the photo with my Grandma in it cannot be from 1924-25 as she would have been much younger at that time.  I should have thought of that! However, the woman she's with is still unidentified and may be Maura Flores Olney.  The children may, in fact, be Chloris' children, though.  Hopefully someone will come forward with more info on this image!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Cora Belle (Olney) and Thomas Elliott Bradbury

Once again, I'm blogging/fishing!  I began my Olney research very casually about a year and a half ago, so I'm not very far along yet.  However, I think this may be the branch of the tree that gets truly dramatic!

Don't get me wrong, other branches of my family are interesting, too, but they're very "average".  They work the farm, go to church, fight in wars, and make lots of babies.  You don't find them in asylums (thank goodness!) or in trouble with the law or leaving their wives.  I think the Olney branch is different...

So, in this blog I will write of the mysteries I would like to solve in hopes that some of you out there have the answers - or at least some more clues!- for me to investigate.  These lovely folks are my great grandparents.  She looks a lot like my mom (or vice versa) and I hear he used to make some good pickles...