I started researching the Bowers’ Family in 1979 by interviewing my grandmother, Helen Bowers Kaiser. She told me that her mother and father were divorced when she was a small child. She said that her father’s family, the Bowers, thought they were better than her mother’s family, the Reinhardt’s, and would not acknowledge their marriage. After her mother and father divorced her father has nothing to do with his children. Her mother pointed her father out to her one time when they saw him walking down the street. Helen, my grandmother, ran up to him and told him that she was his daughter. He said, “Get away from me kid, I don’t have any children.” Another time they saw her grandmother, Alexena Bowers, in the cemetery but her grandmother did not acknowledge their presence. She said that her father was a musician and a drunk. Her mother read in the paper that her father died frozen to death in the doorway of an apartment building in Chicago. He had passed out drunk and froze to death. She said her grandmother’s maiden name was Fischer and she came from Canada. They were related to the people who built the bodies for Chevrolet cars (Fischer Body). Other than that she knew very little about her father’s family.
I next visited the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery in Ottawa Illinois and found the graves of the Bowers’ Family. I found the birth and death dates of Charles, Alexena and their five children. I also found that Alexena’s maiden name was not Fischer, but it was Frazier. My next step was to acquire the death certificate for Charles and Alexena. I found one for Alexena, but could not find one for Charles. I ordered Alexena’s death certificate from the State of Illinois. It gave Alexena’s birth date, death date, and the fact that she was born in Canada and was married to Charles. It also gave her parent’s names as David Frazier and Catherine McBean both born in Scotland. The informant was her daughter Ethelyn Bowers Vittum. I interlibrary loaned the Republican Times newspaper from Ottawa for the dates of the death of Alexena and Charles. I found both Alexena and Charles Bowers’ obituaries.
According to the newspaper, Alexena was born in Naragawayn, Canada. I could not find a Naragawayn, Canada. I wrote to a map place in Canada and was told that it was probably misspelled and the closest name to Naragawayn was Nassagaweya, Ontario, Canada. I believe they are probably right and have gone with the assumption that Alexena was born in Nassagaweya, Ontario, Canada. It is also a place where Scottish Highlanders settled, and since her parents were born in Scotland, I felt that the circumstantial evidence was good enough to make this assumption. I have been unable to find an actual birth record to date as civil records do not go back that far in Canada, and I have not checked Church records as of yet. I think that a trip to Ontario is necessary to find the missing pieces. I haven’t been able to find any information on he parents either. There are many Frazier/Frazer/Fraser in Ontario. Without knowing more about David and Catherine Frazer it is impossible to figure out which one might be them in other records.
Charles’ obituary said he was born in Ferrington, Norfolk, England. Once again I could not find a Ferrington, Norfolk, England. I belonged to a List Serv for Norfolk, England. I posted a question asking where Ferrington, Norfolk, England was at. I received many answers saying that there was no Ferrington but there is a Terrington. This would be an easy mistake for the newspaper to make. It could be a typo or they misunderstood the person giving the information. After that I started looking for Charles’ birth in Terrington, Norfolk, England. There was a problem in that there are two Terringtons. One is Terrington – St. Clement and the other one is Terrington – St John. So when looking for the Bowers’ name, I had to look in both places. At this time I did know his parents names. I hit a brick wall and I stuck there for many years.
I made many trips to Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois looking for information on Charles and Alexena. I did find Charles’ naturalization papers filed in the LaSalle County, Illinois Courthouse in Ottawa, Illinois. On his Declaration of Intent it gave the date he left England and the date he arrived in New York. With this information, I was able to locate the ship he came on to the United States, and I was able to look at the passenger list. Someone came with him who also had the last name Bowers. He was about 50 years old and it looked like his first name was Bonard. It was hard to read the microfilm. I searched all over for a Bonard and all possible spellings, but had no luck. Charles’ obituary mentioned that he had two brothers Robert and William that lived in Syracuse, New York. I did find a Robert but did not know if it was Charles’ brother. One day in 2009, I was searching on the Internet and decided to search Terrington, Norfolk, England. I found the Wisbeck and the Fenlands Website that listed baptisms, marriages, and burials of people living in Terrington-St.Clements, Norfolk, England. I searched the surname Bowers. I came across the name Bonnet Bowers who married an Eliza Linford. When I saw the name Bonnet it hit me that this was probably the name on the passenger list. I went back to the passenger list to look at the name again. It could indeed be Bonnet. I searched further and saw that a son Richard was born to Bonnet and Eliza and then a son Robert, a daughter Eliza, and Charles. Charles’ baptism was about the same time that I had for his birth in my records. Then I searched Ancestry for Bonnet Bowers and had one hit, the 1841 England Census. I looked at the record and there was Richard, Robert, and Charles living with Bonnet in 1841. The mother and sister were not listed. I did not find a William as Charles’ obituary stated. Perhaps Richard or Robert’s middle name is William. But further research showed Richard and Robert both living in Syracuse, New York. I found Bonnet living with Robert in Syracuse, New York. By looking at the census records I found that Richard and Robert were both married and Richard had several children. I was having a terrible time trying to find out when Bonnet, Richard, and Robert died. Once again on Ancestry.com I did a search for Bonnet and found someone else with a Bonnet in their family tree. They had 1794 as his birth where as I had 1796. She had Bonnet’s death date as 1871. She had Richard born in 1822 same as I did and she had Richard’s death date as 1895. Since I now had an estimated time of death, I contacted a library in Syracuse, New York and asked if they had newspapers going back to 1871 and if the obituaries were indexed. They wrote back and said they did have newspapers going back that far and yes the obituaries were indexed. I asked if they could look up Richard and Bonnet. The librarian wrote back and said she searched the NYS vital records index for Richard Bowers and located his date of death as 23 September 1895 in Syracuse. The Vital Records registration started in New York state outside of New York City in 1881 so she was unable to look up Bonnet. She was however able to locate a Burnet Bowers who died in Syracuse on 9 February 1871. The obituary further stated that Burnet Bowers funeral will take place in the house of Robert Bowers in Syracuse. Once again I think the newspaper misspelled Bonnet.
I also searched census, church records, city directories, and books for information on Charles, Alexena and their children Richard, Robert, Elizabeth, Ethelyn, and Genevieve to gather information to write this story.
It seems that some of my grandmother’s stories were correct and some false. I was able to obtain Alexena’s probate file. While reading her probate file, it is obvious that she did not acknowledge her grandchildren. There is no mention in her son, Robert’s obituary that he had children nor is there any mention in Alexena’s obituary of grandchildren. The story about her father being found dead in a doorway of an apartment building is false. According to his death certificate he died of Tuberculosis and died in the hospital. He was hospitalized about a month before his death.
I was curious about the house at 543 Chapel Street and did a search of property records to see who owned it before and after they did. In doing the search, I found that Charles owned other property as well. I found a quit claim deed that Charles’ son Robert, signed along with Robert’s wife Eva signing the property over to his mother for $1.00. Up to this point, I have been unable to find a marriage record for Robert and Eva. I was beginning to wonder if they were ever really married, and perhaps this was the reason that Robert’s parents did not acknowledging the marriage or grandchildren. But Eva would not have been required to sign the quit claim deed if they had not been married. So this is proof that they were indeed married. I have not been able to find a record of Robert and Eva’s divorce.
My son, Brian, through his photography met a man from England on the Internet and he took a picture of the church where Bonnet and Eliza were married and their children baptized. There is grave yard next to the church and he took some pictures of the Bowers’ graves. There is a grave for an Eliza Bowers, however most of the tombstone is unreadable.
Everyday more and more information is on the Internet. The LDS Family History Library in Utah is indexing their microfilm and placing it on the website. I searched the name Bonnet Bowers in June 2011. I had done this many times before and came up with nothing. However in June, I found Bonnet Bowers birth listed and his parents names are Charles Bowers and Sarah Bonnet. This made perfect sense to me since Bonnet was such an unusual name. The date of Bonnets birth was close to what I had from his obituary the location was close to where I found Bonnet married and his children’s baptism. I then sent for the microfilm to look at the actual record. I also sent for film for Bonnet and Eliza’s marriage, and film with burial records for Terrington-St. Clements, Norfolk, England and found the death date for Bonnet’s daughter Eliza and wife Eliza. As well as the death of Bonnet’s Mother, Sarah, and his Father, Charles. Also found the births and deaths of Bonnet’s brothers and sisters. There will always be more research to do. I hope to one day be able to go back further than 1757 and find descendants of Bonnet’s brother’s and sisters.
Did find brother William who was a step brother of Charles. Charles’ mothehr had been married before she married Bonnet and a child William Linford. You can read Finding Brother William from my post dated 11/24/2012.
Copyright © 2014 Gail Grunst