Married or Not?

Elias Borresen, our great-grandfather, had a brother Andrew (Andreas) who homesteaded a farm in South Beaver Creek beginning in May 1885. (I found the document.) They had four children – Josephine, Ole, Amelia, and Anna – all first cousins to our grandfather Emil. It was interesting to learn that, of the four, only Amelia both married and had children.

Well, “married” was the question – even for our Aunt Clara whose family history was remarkable in its detail. According to her, Amelia had a son out-of-wedlock in 1899 – Adolph, by name. Along the way of my research, however, I kept finding hints that perhaps she was married. In the 1900 census, for example, she and her son have the surname Mitchell. However, I couldn’t find the marriage record.

Only within the last two weeks did I find irrefutable evidence that she had indeed married. From the State Historical Society of Wisconsin I received a copy of her marriage record. On July 9, 1898, in La Crosse, she was married to Harry Mitchell, the son of Henry and Lucy Mitchell. Amelia is listed as born in Ettrick in Trempealeau County to Andrew (Andreas) and Mary (Maria) Borreson. I am convinced I have the right people.

Nevertheless, finding this record raises other questions. How did Amelia meet this Harry Mitchell who had a Minneapolis residence in the marriage information? He was a cigar maker, according to the record: did he travel as part of his business, maybe as a salesman?

The next question is: why did he leave Amelia? By the time of the 1900 U. S. Census (June 16), Harry is no longer around. Amelia and her one-year-old son Adolf, with Mitchell as their surname, are living with her parents at their South Beaver Creek home.

So where was Harry Mitchell in 1900? Searching the 1900 census again, I think I found him living with his parents in Farmer City, DeWitt County, Illinois.  The item that seems a definite clue is that he’s listed as married two years, but no wife appears on the census form with him. For me, this separates him from the crowd of Harry and Henry Mitchells that come up on an Ancestry.com search.

In the end, yes, Amelia had married Adolph’s father, but learning that has raised only more questions about this relationship. (If I were a creative novelist, this would probably get my imagination working overtime!)

Some years later, Amelia was divorced (details unknown to me) and then in 1912 married James Thomas Bryant in Winona, Minnesota (“Ole” Bryant in Clara’s history). Ole and Amelia had twins and that family line continues today.

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22 Responses to Married or Not?

  1. Glenn Borreson says:

    Shirley raises a very good question about Amelia: “Is there a possibility that Harry Mitchell married Amelia because they had a one night (or a few) stands and she got pregnant and he did the right thing and married her? As a traveling salesman, they are constantly on the go – and that after a few years, they divorced – no love there?” I have wondered about that myself. Harry and Amelia married in July, and son Adolf was born the following April 14. So, perhaps. Of course, this was a time when having a child out-of-wedlock had come to be viewed quite harshly in many communities, so perhaps it was better to be married, if in name only. What a change this was from Norway, where one or two hundred years earlier, such marital circumstances were not unusual among the cotter folk of the land.

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