Who Drove Grandma Around the Lake in 1959?

Mrs. Luella Barnett drove Mrs. Cecil Neill around the Carthage Lake in September of 1959. That’s what the clipping “Surprise Family Get-Together” says.

A reader wondered if the driver of the car was actually Luella Barnett’s husband and not her. Perhaps he was in the car and he just wasn’t mentioned. It was a good thought as newspapers aren’t always clear and newspapers aren’t always right.

It would be possible except for one thing: he was dead. Cecil Barnett (not to be confused with his brothers-in-law Cecil Neill or Cecil Trautvetter) died in the early 1950s. Luella Barnett was a widow at the time of this party.

The other women were not. They were all married in 1959. Even if I did not know when the deceased individuals in this notice died, the marital status is suggested by the way in which couples and married women are listed. The Warsaw Bulletin during this time (and much of it’s time in print) appears to have followed the convention of listing a woman as Mrs. John Smith as long as John is alive and listing a woman as Mrs. Imasingle Barnett when John is deceased or they are divorced.

Are there occasional exceptions to this rule? Obviously. There are exceptions to every rule. However as an initial working premise, I start with assuming Mrs. Husbandname Smith is married to her living husband if she is referred to as Mrs. Husbandname Smith in a document or record. I assume that Mrs. Ladiesname Smith is widowed or divorced if she is referred to as a document or record as that fashion.

I make a note of my conclusions and include the “Mrs. Husbandname Smith” or “Mrs. Ladiesname Smith” reference as my source. This is not done so much as to evaluate the source as it is to know why I concluded her spouse was living or not in the picture on a given date.

Like most references of this type, the relationships of the individuals (if any) are not given. That’s largely because most people who had an interest in the item and were reading it likely knew what those relationships already were. Those relationships were (based upon the order in which attendees were listed):

  • uncle and aunt
  • nephew and his wife
  • grand-nephew
  • brother and his wife
  • nephew and his wife
  • brother and wife
  • husband and self
  • two sons
  • oldest son’s fiance

Mrs. Luella Barnett is not listed as among attending, but obviously she was there. Mrs. Cecil Neill (Grandma) is specifically listed and that also seems obvious.

Grandma’s other sister is noticeably absent. She was still alive at the time and in good health, living near their brother Cecil. She did not drive, but was married and does appear in attendance at other family functions.

Grandma’s birthday is not mentioned, but it was September first. The day of Grandma’s surprise party was September the 6th.

Of course, there wasn’t anyone around to call Mrs. Cecil Neill “Grandma” in 1959. It would still be a few years before that would happen. And few called her “Ida” anyway.

She was “Idee.” Always “Idee.”

But Mrs. Idee Neill looks a little strange in print.


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