52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Cousins

I first met her when I was adding the first branches and leaves to my family tree. I would learn little about her at first. None of my immediate family had seen her since the 1930’s. Their memories of her were vague and sketchy. There had been one last phone call from her 40 years ago when she asked my grandmother for help. When she was refused, her reply was, “I should have known my father’s people would not help me.” Elusive and mysterious…who was this first cousin of mine? The trail she left was winding and covered with crooked pathways.

My first cousin Betty Lou Boultinghouse Blackmore Scothern Million was found in a childhood photo with her cousins Merna Mae and Mary Lee. The girls were holding two puppies and two baby foxes. (Betty Lou’s father was the warden of a game preserve, and he had supplied the pups and kits for the girls to hold and cuddle.) At that time, Betty Lou was about 9 years old. She appeared childhood happy and connected to her cousins, but they would never meet up with her again. Her life would betray that appearance.

Merna Mae, Betty Lou, Mary Lee, Unnamed Child
With Kits and Pups: 1934

The rest of her story has been found in census records, wedding announcements, divorce decrees, obituary, phone calls, and tombstone. The next part of her life is found in the 1940 Census: her parents had divorced and remarried other spouses. Both parents stated that she was living with her mother in Wyoming and with her father in Nebraska and Colorado. Was she? Her new stepfather had taken her under his wing, but was she really alienated from her father? Later stories would tell the tale…alone gain.

At the age of 17, she dropped out of high school to marry her first husband. Together they had a son. The husband turned out to be a rake, a scoundrel, a philanderer. He deserted her and the boy, and she was left with nothing. Because she could not provide for her son, she entrusted him to her mother and stepfather. Legally, they adopted him and changed his name. She visited him when she could, but it was not often. Alone again…

At the age of 22, she married her second husband. Coming from an established family, her husband’s people were not quite accepting of her and her questionable background. To start a career, she graduated from beauty school to become a beauty operator. This marriage, too, broke apart due to tensions and family interference. Alone again…

Betty Lou wandered around Wyoming…listless and unfocused. Finally, at the age of 41, she met her last husband. He was a Navy veteran. He was stable. He was hard-working. She was happy. After 11 years of marriage, her husband passed away. Alone again…

Out on her own, Betty Lou somehow survived despite her pleas to my grandmother. From all accounts, her mother and stepfather heard little from her even though they lived in the same area of Wyoming. Her son barely knew her. She died at the age of 64…alone again, but now resting in God’s hands.

Her tombstone bears a strange inscription. “Dear Betty, Peace be with you. Jack Coffee”. Now on to the next mystery…

Note: In corresponding with Betty Lou’s son and grandson, I discovered she had told the boys little about her father, Edward Ralph Boultinghouse. Both boys only knew him as “Jack”. They did not know his birth name. When offered help in learning about him, they refused seeking any information.

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