Introducing Nellie, I mean Helen, no wait…Lottie!

Introducing Nellie, I mean Helen, no wait…Lottie!

It really bothered me yesterday that I couldn’t find anything on John C. Jones’ daughter, Nellie.  Where could she have gone to?  Was she another relative who fell off the face of the Earth?  I wasn’t about to give up so easily.

Thursday morning I went back to the San Francisco Call Newspaper Index.  In looking for Nettie Jones’ marriage to Frank L. Walther, I found Nellie Jones.  I was looking under the grooms without much luck.  I found both Nellie and Nettie under their maiden names in the index.  Silly me!

Nellie Jones married William H. Phelps in 1894, San Francisco.  Not much, but at least, I knew Nellie existed and wasn’t a figment of her parents’ imagination.  I was starting to think this was one of those rare cases where the child died but the parents still named them in records as if they were living.

I found a couple of William H. Phelps in the mortuary records and in the census, but none was married to a Nellie.  Someone was wrong!

I decided to take a whole new approach.  Instead of looking for William H. Phelps married to Nellie, I went back to the census and looking for a William Phelps who married someone with parents from Australia and New York.  Those birthplaces were distinct enough that I should be able to narrow things down.

I didn’t have any luck in the 1900 census.  But, I bingoed in 1910 in San Francisco.  I found this family:

Phelps, William H., head, 52, married 17 years (his second marriage), born in California, parents born in New York, occupation Clerk/Gas Co.

—–, Helen L., wife, 40, her first marriage, born in California, Father born in Australia, Mother born in New York

—–, Helen, daughter, 11

I went back to the 1900 census and found this:

Phelps, William H., head, 43, married 7 years, born in California, parents born in New York, occupation Iron Merchant

—–, Helen, 30, wife, 1 child, 1 living, born in California, parents born in New York

—–, Helen, daughter, 1

Though the parents’ birth place doesn’t match, I’m certain this is the same family.

Next, the 1920 Census, still in San Francisco:

Phelps, William H., head, 62, born in San Francisco, parents born in New York, occupation Clerical Clerk/Board of Public Works

—–, Lottie, wife, 49, born in San Francisco, Father born in Austalia, Mother born in New York

I finished up with the 1930 census (still in San Francisco):

Phelps, Wm, head, 70, married 34 years, born in California, parents born in New York, occupation Retired

—–, Lottie, wife, born in California, Father born in Australia, Mother born in New York

You can see that Nellie changed names and ages 😉  I suspect she started as Helen, since she gave that name to her daughter.  I’m not sure about Lottie.  Her middle initial was L.  Maybe her middle name was Lottie or play on that name.  Maybe it was just the name her husband called her.  Either way, the information stays pretty consistent except for 1900 when Nellie’s parents are both given as being born in New York.

After getting all this census information together, I went back to Halstead’s Mortuary index to see if I could find any of the Phelps family.  I located William’s record.  He died in 1941 at the age of 84 in Larkspur.  Here is the obituary given in his mortuary file:

(Newspaper unknown)

PHELPS–In Larkspur, Nov. 27, 1941, William Hall, husband of Lottie Phelps, father of Mrs. Helen McShea, brother of Minnie and Erwin C. Phelps; a native of San Francisco, aged 84 years.  A member of B.P.O.E. No 3.

I couldn’t find information on when Nellie died, but I’m not giving up.  The obituary gives me her daughter’s married name, so that’s another trail to travel down.

Working on Nellie reaffirmed my belief that you have to approach research from several different angles.  If I’d given up after not finding Nellie (Jones) Phelps by name, I would have missed all the census records!

Now I can put her to rest (you know that won’t be the end of it!)

PLEASE NOTE: Melody is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

This post contains affiliate links. When you click on these links and make a purchase, I earn a percentage of the sale which allows me to keep providing you great content for free on this website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *