The Family Mystery
One of the greatest family mysteries surrounds my adopted Grandmother Shirley. It was always clear that she may be an unreliable narrator of her own story which makes it hard to do research on her family. She has been known to fudge her age. There is a story that her family had a connection to the triangle waist factory fire in NY. The location of her birth is somewhere in Poland, Ukraine, or Russia depending on where the borders were when she was born and died. There is a possibility that the mother or father is from France and the other spouse is from Poland. The family story is that she and her family went through Ellis Island and that my grandmother Shirley, nicknamed Billie, nearly did not get in for she had some signs of illness. Shirley had brothers, Charles and Max and sisters, Edith and Rose.
Another family story is that her family had diamond earrings and two of the sisters including my grandmother got an earring, while her other sister got money instead. Her sisters, Edith and Rose. My grandmother made the earring into a ring, and during the depression, living in Skid Row in Los Angeles, she used to hock and buy it back from a pawn shop to pay rent while she was a waitress and single mother. That ring was my engagement ring.
Another family story is that Shirley or "Billie" went cross country to Los Angeles in the 20s to become a movie star and ended up becoming a single mother instead.
So, the mystery has been my adopted mother's father. My mom and I actively tried to find a Mack A. Carr. The only marriage record between a Mack Carr and Shirley Silver I could find was July 6th, 1929 in Dallas, Texas, but there is nothing in family lore that says that Shirley was ever in Texas. There is a Social Security claim for a Mack A. Carr with a spouse Shirley Silver and Colette Arlyne Carr. There is a marriage record in December 27, 1937 where she is Shirley Carr. Mack has been a dead end for over 29 years. Any other tidbits I remember is that Mack was from somewhere in the Midwest, but also was called a cajun. My mother has some Scottish and Irish from her father. He just disappeared.
Then, just recently, I came across an article about a Joseph L. Carr who was born sometime in 1870 who owned the Montrose Theater from 1924 to 1930. His wife Shirley M. Carr worked at the theater. Joseph was 60 years old on July 18, 1930 when he pinned a suicide note on himself and drank poison.
The 1929 crash was not good for Mr. Carr, who thought he was a failure. He wrote everything goes to Shirley his wife. There is no record I can find between a Joseph L. Carr and a Shirley. So were they really married or just putting on a rouse? Would a suicide be enough to change the name of the father? Would that explain how there is no record of a Mack A. Carr anywhere and how we cannot find a father anywhere. If I could prove her father is indeed Joseph L. Carr, the story would have an ending.
I found Shirley and my adopted mother in a city directory in 1934 living in Skid Row at 826 East 7th Street in Los Angeles.
It doesn't help that my grandmother, Shirley's family is one of the countless families named Silver or Silverstien or Silverstein who came from Poland/Ukraine/Russia in the beginning of the 20th Century as Jewish gypsies who have some members who are Catholic.
So this has been a frustrating line of ancestry for sure.
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Denise is a family historian and fourth generation Californian.