My mother never knew her father. She was the product of a very "brief" relationship that took place when my 16 year old grandmother was visiting her grandparents in Evansville, Indiana from Washington state. I am assuming that she met my grandfather (a C&EI Railroad Employee) while she was taking the train to Indiana.

Here are the "Facts" that she had given us before she died:

This man's name was private (but I have first name, middle initial and surname), he was 21 years old (in 1948) and he worked for C&EI as a brakeman and/or Fireman (She has said both in different accounts). He worked at the Evansville roundhouse. She would visit him at work during the weeks/month that she was staying at her Grandparents.

She goes back to Washington and discovers she's pregnant. She writes a letter to the sheriff in Evansville (why, I have no idea) asking him to "pass it on" to the father to let him know shes expecting. She never gets a reply. She writes the sheriff again to tell the father that she had a girl. Again, no response.

That's all we have been told. My mother was born in November of 48, so that means that my grandmother was in Evansville during Feb-Mar of 48 where she met this guy. I have looked at Evansville city directories, C&EI Employee magazines from the early fifties, census records, contacted the C&EI Historical society, poured over the Browning Genealogy site - you name it and I am getting nowhere.

The ONLY person of the right name (According to C&EI Historical society) that worked for C&EI (As a brakeman interestingly enough) did live in Evansville - BUT he would have been 55+ years old - I mean that's quite the age difference from a 16 year old girl.

Why would she have lied about his age? Embarrassment I guess?

I have made contact with the grandchildren of this person and while they admit that the family was pretty messed up they are doubtful that this was the man who fathered my mother. The only other lead I got out of that is that this family were related to two other families in the area - one of whom shared the same forename as my grandfather who fit the age (would have been 21 in 1948) and was a "rounder" with the women as they called him. He also worked as a brakeman for C&EI in evansville - problem is, in the 1948 city directory his occupation is "driver" with no company listed, and doesnt show up at C&EI until 1951.

The main questions I have are:

  • Could he have just completely lied about his name and gotten away with it? I'm assuming he would have had a name badge at work and coworkers calling him by his real name so that's doubtful. I have thought about the possibility that my grandmother was making a bunch of stuff up but really, and I mean this nicely, she just wasn't bright enough to be so elaborate and have such detail about the whole thing. So all I have for possibilities at this point are:

1) It WAS the 55 year old - but the age gap

2) It was the 21 year old (b 1927 d 2007) - but not sure he was even at C&EI in 48 and then there's the whole completely different name thing

3) It was some other person of the same name who fits her exact description and he died/disappeared/moved away shortly thereafter?

Oh and just for fun - My grandmother spelled the surname with an "E" at the end but the family I found don't. But I've gotten nowhere with that either.

  • 3
    I'm afraid my money is on making things up -- as I suspect my mother did when asked about her eldest daughter's father. Or rather, not making it up but knitting together details of two or more individuals she knew at the time -- so your grandmother might have 'borrowed' information about the 55-year old to construct a story that disguised the truth but sounded truthful, confident (back then) that nobody would ever be able to discover otherwise.
    – user104
    May 12, 2013 at 17:39
  • ColeValleyGirl - That could certainly be the case as she was so young and had a pretty rough life so I wouldn't at all be shocked if that were the case. Thanks for commenting!
    – user772
    May 13, 2013 at 12:10
  • 6
    Bear in mind that the 1948 city directory was most likely compiled in 1947.
    – cleaverkin
    May 15, 2013 at 16:39
  • 3
    Anything's possible, but I doubt the 55-year-old is the right person. You, not us, are in the best position to judge whether your grandmother was fudging facts in this area. I'd guess the guy was a 18-22 year-old. Probably the name is more-or-less right, although may be mangled up in some way. One thing that stands out: why was the sheriff used for contact? If it was not to "apply pressure" (which a parent rather than the girl would be more likely to do), why go through him? Maybe the guy had landed in jail, and that was the ony way to contact him. Maybe county court records would help.
    – RobertShaw
    May 16, 2013 at 2:32
  • 1
    Check the city directory to see who the sheriff was. Many have 'about the city' sections with info on local government. Also, James Sponholz's page at freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~sponholz/… has a downloadable guide to research resources last updated Nov 2013. Perhaps you know about resources he doesn't have; he welcomes tips from readers.
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 6, 2013 at 2:55

2 Answers 2


Alright, I believe I can offer you a different insight than those above have provided you... C&EI Railroad likely had several stations. Railroads often operated with bunkhouses at each station. He could have been working in Evansville, but not an official resident as he was only staying in the bunkhouse. I am led to believe this because your grandmother visited him at work. If your grandmother didn't say they went to his house, I am guessing your mother was conceived in the bunkhouse... The next bit of information I am able to give you is from personal experience as I come from a family of railroaders. Your next step is to look at records from towns in which C&EI Railroad had stations, passed through or operated nearby. In many cases those who worked on trains would hop on as the train passed by their house (my grandfather did this up until about 1998 when he retired). Other times, they would drive a few hours to a station and stay in the bunkhouse between shifts (my great grandfather did this). Another thing you might try is finding out if they kept bunkhouse records at the Evansville station. In present time, railroaders are required to sign into bunkhouses when they stay over night. You may not be granted access to these records... They may be on display in a local museum (some of the bunkhouse records are on display at my local museum)... They may not have even kept bunkhouse records (or they may be quite incomplete). It was probably not the 21 year old because there is a HUGE difference between a driver and a brakeman/fireman on a railroad. Drivers were usually educated. Brakemen/firemen did the dirty work. White collar vs. blue collar... Why would a guy say he was less than he was? If anything a guy would try to elevate himself! I would trust the legal document on that one and steer myself away from thinking it is him. Another thing you might want to check out is younger boys. A lot of times boys would lie about their age. Maybe he was 16-18 instead of 21 like he told your grandmother. If that is the case, maybe his father or brother worked for the railway. I would try matching up census records of families with similar last names and look for a male teen with the same name. Also, watch for alterations of names. For example, William is often abbreviated as WM, Bill, Will, etc. One last tip: brakemen/firemen did not usually wear name badges. They weren't viewed as important enough AND the badges would have gotten in the way while they were working. At most, they probably had a pocket watch with their name engraved inside. I know the information I've provided is very random, but at this point I'd bet anything could help lead you in the right direction. Best of luck!

  • Thank you SO MUCH for posting all of that helpful information in regards to a railroader's life back then, its very helpful and gives me some new avenues to look at! :)
    – user772
    May 21, 2013 at 20:17
  • Awe, you're much too kind- you're welcome. If you require more assistance or someone to bounce ideas off of, please do let me know. :)
    – Shayna
    May 21, 2013 at 20:36

Have you tried looking reversing the first name and initial? Several times, I've seen records where people use their given and middle names interchangeably or preferentially in different contexts. (Personally, I think the 55-year old candidate is unlikely, but DNA testing might verify close cousinship with his other descendants).

  • I haven't really extensively looked into reversing the initials, I think I will go back and start there as I really have nothing else to go on. :)
    – user772
    May 13, 2013 at 12:11

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