Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Rest of the Story

Last week, I blogged about my grandmother, Mary Anne Bowman Percival. She was born in Lexington, Missouri in 1893 and died August 11, 1938 in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. Yeah, it was a long way from Lexington, Missouri.

She married John Stearns Percival on March 3, 1920. They had two sons.

In the late 1920's my grandfather, a civil engineer, took a job in Detroit. He was a supervisor on the Detroit Water Intake Tunnel project.

They were a long way from home in the 1930's during the Great Depression. Dad said things were really hard for his parents, and when in the mid 1930's things started to get better, they started to take trips again.

They were on their way to "The Soo" when my grandmother took ill. Grandpa left his two sons, ages 13 and 17 in St. Ignace and took his wife to War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. The next day he retrieved his sons, so they could see their mother before she died.

Fast forward to 1986, conversation between me and dad.

"Dad, what did your mother die from."

"She died of female trouble."

No kidding. That is what he told me. As someone who suffered from "female trouble," I thought "No one dies from female trouble while on vacation."

A simple written request and $5 to the Chippewa county Clerk's office netted me the real story. Mary died of a bowel obstruction. Not female problems.

So while it is imperative to ask your relatives all the questions they will answer, don't take everything for gospel truth. Memories are highly imperfect.

Of course, that death record wasn't without errors, either. It had her father as Frank Bowerman.

Copyright 2010, (ACK) for Gene Notes


  1. So the badges I have for the water tunnel worker were Grandpa's? Where did dad work when he was injured and lost one of the family jewels?

  2. Yes, photos of the badges? Dad was working for Healy-Gargaro Construction. He was also in the hospital for a while with the bends. They did infrastructure construction. Dad took me to the worksite once and we were looking into the big old hole and that is why I am afraid of heights. I nearly strangled him I was so scared.

  3. Sally-Your Michigan cousinJanuary 26, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    That is so sad to die on vacation. I can't imagine how hard and how long that trip home must have been. Dad never really talked about it and being so young, I never asked.

    Thanks for keeping up the family history Anne!

  4. Dad said Grampa parked them in a rental cabin, left them alone and then came back for them. Dad had kept a postcard he was sending from the Soo saying his mom was in the "hospatile" but he never finished writing it.