Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Quest for the Ancestor Who Vanished after 1920

By Esther Eley Jones

Alma Lavenia Coon was four years and nine months old when her mother became ill, was taken to a hospital, died, and was never seen again by her family.  This story has been repeated in my family for as long as I can remember.  That was the story that my mom remembered being told about her mother, Mary Lavenia Ramsey Coon. Alma Lavenia was my mother. She was born in Brookhaven Pike County Mississippi on 02 March 1916 to Mary Lavenia Ramsey and Clifton Coon.

Mary Lavenia “Vennie” Ramsey was born in Pricedale, MS in Nov 1876 to Asa and Jane Ramsey. Asa served in the Confederate Army Eighth Mississippi Calvary Co B and the Seventeenth Regiment Mississippi Infantry Co F. Venie married first W.G. “Joe” Blunt 06 Apr 1893 in Pike County Mississippi. The Blunts were some of the earliest settlers for Pike County Mississippi.

I had very little information to go on in researching this line in my family. With the information that I had, I decided to make a trip to the courthouses in Pike County and Lincoln County Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi, and the Archives in Jackson.  I made the trip to the courthouse in McComb, Mississippi, and there I found a marriage bond of Mary Lavenia Ramsey and her first husband W. G. Blunt.  On the marriage bond was her father’s initials and Venie’s age. Things were really going well in my research of this family, considering that I had such little information to go on when I started my research.

After the trip to the courthouse, it was time to look at the census indexes and Soundex for the state of Mississippi.  This search paid off because I found Mary Lavenia on the 1880 census living with her father, mother, and sister in Beat 3 Pike County, Mississippi, and her place of birth as Mississippi.  Venie was three years old at the time of this census.  On the 1900 census, I found Mary with her first husband and son living in the same area that she was living in 1880.  Mary was twenty three years old, had been married seven years, and  was the mother of three children with only one child still living. I continued my search for information on the Ramsey family line by looking at the 1910 census for Mississippi. I found a Mary L. Coon was thirty-three years old and living in Lincoln County, Mississippi with husband Clifton, stepson, two sons, and two daughters. Two of the sons were the same age. Were they twins? I had never heard mother mention twins in her family. We had two aunts that we visited who lived in Lake Providence East Carroll Parish, Louisiana. She talked of her brothers, but never mentioned twins.

I was having some successes, but more research, and conversation with my oldest sister Ruby, would clear up the information that was a little cloudy for me.  She was ten years older than I was, had knowledge of the family history, and was able to clarify the information I had found on the 1910 census. Clifton was Venie’s second husband. The daughters and one son on the census were Venie’s by her first husband, one son was Clifton’s by his first wife, and the other son, the youngest, was Venie and Clifton’s son. Now that I had that clarified, I was ready to move on.

I set out to find who Clifton’s first wife was, and when he married. I found that information in a compiled list of marriages from the local newspapers for Lincoln County, Mississippi. He married the first time 27 June 1900. I found another record of the marriage in the HUNTING FOR BEARS computer indexed marriage records published by Nicholas Russell Murray for Lincoln County, Mississippi from 1893-1913.  Another record that I found helpful in establishing Clifton Coon and Lavenia Coon as my ancestors was the World War I Draft Registration Card, 1917-1918. Lavenia was listed as his wife on the registration card. Other valuable information on the draft registration card was Clifton’s full name and his birth date. Next, I went to the 1920 census for Lincoln County, Mississippi and looked for Venie and Clifton. I found them on the census, with all the children who were listed on the previous census for 1910, plus four more children, two sons and three daughters. My mother, Alma, was the youngest daughter and her brother, George, was the youngest child. Mother was four years and nine months old at the time the January 8, 1920 Federal Census was taken for the Ruth Precinct in Lincoln County, Mississippi. All nine children were listed on this year's census living with Venie Coon listed as the head. 

The census showed that Venie was married and not widowed. This is the last census on which Mary Lavenia Ramsey Blunt Coon is enumerated.  Her husband Clifton Coon is enumerated on the January 16, 1920 Federal Census for Beat 1, Marion County, Mississippi listed as a boarder and is widowed. I was unable to find Clifton on the 1930 census in Mississippi, but found him on the 1930 census in Oak Grove, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana with the two youngest children, one stepdaughter, step-son-in-law, and their three children. Living close by them were relatives who apparently migrated from Mississippi when they left and headed west. One of the sons married in West Carroll Parish September 27, 1930 and on his marriage license it stated that Venie Coon, his mother, was deceased. My mother, married April 29, 1932, and on her marriage license, it stated that Venie Coon, her mother, was deceased.

My search for Mary Lavenia Coon ended with the 1920 census. I requested a death certificate from the state of Mississippi and Louisiana, but there is no certificate for her death or record of death. I have looked in the surrounding counties and states, but there are no records of Mary Lavenia “Venie” Coon. Venie’s parents were buried in the Wingo Cemetery a family cemetery in Pike County, Mississippi, and there are unmarked graves in the cemetery. Could one possibly be my grandmother Venie's grave? This I will never know.

I have hit the ultimate brick wall and have exhausted every resource that is available for that area where my ancestor lived. Maybe one day there will be a story in an old newspaper, a distant relative, or a resource that is hidden somewhere, that will tear down this wall. I will continue my quest for a grandmother that I never knew, the one that became ill, was taken to the hospital, and died to never be seen again by her family. My mother lived with that story her entire life and she died at the age of seventy-eight.


1870 Federal Census Marshall Mississippi
1880 Federal Census Pike County Mississippi
1900 Federal Census Pike County Mississippi
1910 Federal Census Lincoln County Mississippi
1920 Federal Census Lincoln County Mississippi
Marriage Bond Pike County Mississippi #352
U. S Civil War Soldiers’ 1861-1865 film # M232 roll 33
Mississippi Death Index
Louisiana Death Index
Wingo Cemetery Pike County MS Record
U. S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 Mississippi District Roll 1
World War I Draft Registration Card 1917-1918 Roll 1685027
Marriage Records #103 & # 232



  1. Aunt Faye,
    There is a eight day difference in the 1920 census of notations between great grandmother's and great-grandfather's reporting on the census. She was alive, then 8 days later, he listed himself as a widower. Were they separated? Is it possible she were murdered? Even by accident?

  2. I have researched this extensively and can't find a clue or any information on Mary Lavenia Coon's death. I have looked for death records in the surrounding states. I made a trip to the Louisiana State Hospital in Alexandria and there are no records for her.I made a trip to the State Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana and there are no records for her there. Her death is one of those mysteries that may never be solved; however, I continue my search.