My paternal grandmother was Anna Swovelan (born Love) Hankins. She was adopted. I knew this from the time I was a kid; it was no secret.
Grandmother was born Permelia Ann Love, daughter of Lewis M. and Mary Jane (Curtis) Love. Her mother died when she and her siblings were young. Her father was unable to raise the children alone, so he found homes for the younger ones. Edward and Florence Swovelan took in my grandmother and adopted her in 1911 when she was 17.
I knew all the details, so I thought there was a good chance I could get copies of her adoption papers. I inquired at the Clerk of the County Court in Ray County, Mo., where she was adopted. Of course, I knew it would take a court order, but I was hopeful. The clerk wisely told me that, before we went to talk to the judge, she’d look up the records.
She returned a couple of minutes later to inform me that no adoption records for my grandmother existed in the county court records. I was disappointed and confused. I was quite certain I had the details correct. She asked me if I’d checked the Office of the Recorder of Deeds. She said that in 1911, adoptions were often performed by deed of adoption. This was news to me. I went down one floor in the courthouse to the Office of the Recorder of Deeds, and looked in the grantor/grantee index of the book that covered 1911. To my amazement, there was my great-grandfather Love’s name and next to it, “Deed of Adoption.”
The deed listed three parties: L.M. Love, Edward and Florence Swovelan, and Anna Love. By an act of the state legislature in 1857, a deed of adoption became the method for adopting a child under the age of 18. That law stayed on the books until 1939. If you’re looking for an adoption in Missouri between 1857 and 1939, check the recorder of deeds office.
Putting the Horse Before the Car?
My dad died when I was 18, so I didn’t have a chance to ask him a lot of questions about family history. At a family reunion in Missouri several years ago, I got to meet one of my dad’s oldest cousins, Elaine. I recorded her as she recounted memories of her grandparents (my great-grandparents) and her aunt and uncle (my grandparents).
She told about the time my grandpa James Larew bought his first car. He’d always had a horse and wagon before. He drove the car home, and when he came to the gate to his property, he said “Whoa!” But the car kept going right through the gate. Elaine laughed as she recalled how her “Uncle Jim” never lived that down.
Jean (Larew) Hoffmann » Pleasant Prairie, Wis.
My great-grandfather’s name is Ira Allen Cline, but when I started doing genealogy, I had trouble finding records to confirm even his name. I started looking in censuses. On the 1870 census, he’s listed as Ellen and female.
On the 1880 census, he’s I.A. Cline, so I thought I was making progress. On the 1900 census, he’s recorded as Allen A. Cline. That was the end of my census search—he died in 1906.
I moved on to death records, which I couldn’t get from the state or county, so I tried those of his wife, Emma. Her husband was identified as Allen. I started looking for the children, which took some time, but I was finally able to do so—and the father for each was listed as Allen. So I looked for the cemetery on Emma’s death certificate, a small cemetery behind a church in Ralls County, Mo. I requested a photo of her headstone from an online genealogy group and was pleasantly surprised to find it was a double plot. But his inscribed name was Allen A. Cline. His obituary, which I obtained from the Ralls County Historical Society, also was for Allen.
Several years later, I heard from a cousin in Tulsa, Okla. One of the documents she shared was a letter from a great-aunt about a visit with her uncle, Ira Allen Cline. I have to admit it was very satisfying to finally find a record with this name.