Saturday, April 7, 2012

UPDATE 9/23/2014 - Cassidy's 8th Grade History Project

UPDATE 9/23/2014:
Below is a post that introduced kinfolk Claire Oldridge Cowan and her daughter Cassidy. Their family connection comes through Edna Steunenberg, youngest child of Governor Frank and Belle Steunenberg. Edna is Claire's great grandmother and Cassidy's great great grandmother.

Although unclear over the years and always identified as "adopted" , I have no reason not to believe the Oldridge family view that Edna is the natural daughter of Frank Steunenberg and adopted only as related to Belle Steunenberg. Edna's birth mother is unknown but one bit of speculation indicates she was a secretary to the governor. As I have said before, regardless of what one chooses to believe, adopted or blood relative, either way qualifies as family. Frank would certainly not have been the first prominent citizen to wander during those times. Just ask William Borah, Clarence Darrow or Big Bill Haywood! Seems the lesson still has not been learned today as we see prominent citizens and politicians, generally males, fall from grace quite regularly due to their indiscretions.

I have also been in contact with Laura Woods, a granddaughter of Edna's and she provided some of the photographs that follow the original blog post below. Lisa is the daughter of Margaret, Edna's youngest daughter. Lisa provided a photo of Margaret and Edna.

Original post:
I would like everyone to meet newly discovered kinfolk Cassidy Cowan and her mother Claire Oldridge Cowan. Here you see Cassidy with her entry in the REACH (Respecting our Ethnic and Cultural Heritage) program for eighth graders at the Robert Gray Middle School in Oregon. Each student did a research project and paper on a member of their family. I think you can probably guess Cassidy's choice.
Cassidy fits in the family chain as follows: as you may know, Frank and Belle Steunenberg had five children—Julian, my grandfather; Felix, who died at about 5 years of age; Frances; Frank, sometimes referred to as Frank Jr.; and Edna. Edna was Cassidy's great great grandmother.

Information from Walter Steunenberg's most recent printout of our genealogy shows Edna Jessie Steunenberg was born on 9/25/1902 in Caldwell, ID, adopted by the Steunenbergs' in November 1905 and died 1/1/1981 in Sonoma, CA. I believe the DOB should be the year 1905 and place of birth perhaps Baker City, OR. Let me know if you have other information or documentation.

From my contacts with Cassidy and Claire, and available information online, Edna married Herbert Oldridge (I did not get a date). They had five children, Francis, Joseph, Margaret, Merrill and Richard. That last one, Richard, is Claire's grandfather, his son Richard Jr. is her father, and they are Cassidy's great grandfather and grandfather respectively. My first contact with the Oldridge clan was actually a couple years ago when Richard Jr. emailed after finding my blog.

Edna and Herbert Oldridge divorced later in life, she remarried and became Edna Maves (I believe). Perhaps the just released 1940 census will give us more information in that regard.

Over the years there has been speculation surrounding Edna. In Big Trouble, there is only one very brief mention of her—"After feeding his stock, he (Frank) turned toward the house for breakfast with Belle and the children—Julian, nineteen, on Christmas vacation from the Adventists' Walla Walla College in Washington State; Frances, thirteen; Frank Junior, five; and eight-month-old Edna, an orphan the Steunenberg's had adopted that year."

"That year" was 1905 and the day on which the events above are taking place is December 30th.

The Steunenberg's, and particularly my great grandma Belle, always identified and introduced Edna as the adopted daughter, causing her to never really feel accepted as a part of the family (from a letter written by Frank Jr.). There is also a noticeable absence of photographs showing Edna. It may well be true that she was adopted although records have never been verified, may or may not exist, or are locked away in Idaho. The Oldridge family believes Edna was the natural daughter of Frank Steunenberg and her mother's identity is unknown. Brenda Steunenberg Richards (my mother) told me about this rumor too although the natural parents of Edna have never been identified and/or verified. True or not? I don't know and am not sure if it really matters.

I will explore more about Edna as time allows and hopefully come up with maybe a picture or two and birth and/or adoptions records would certainly be helpful. I guess if we feel the need to verify, we can turn to a more modern tool in our research bag—Genetic Genealogy. Personally, I don't feel that need, as Edna was family regardless, although probably not always accepted as such. It is time for the lack of acceptance to end.

Adopted, bloodline or neither, I know we have an assortment— ancestral and otherwise—official and unofficial—and each one is a member of our family. As Mr. Gump said, "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get."

Discovering and helping out a budding new family historian is always gratifying. Welcome to the Steunenberg clan (our box of chocolates) Cousin Cassidy.

9/23/2014 Update-Photos of Edna Steunenberg.
Edna Jessie Steunenberg Oldridge.  Photo provided by Alice Steunenberg Willloughby as part of an oral interview completed and recorded by my Cousin Bill Crookham. I took a still shot from the DVD.
Edna looks pretty young here. Teens perhaps? I am told Alice has many other Steunenberg photos, including of Edna. Alice is the daughter of Frank W. Steunenberg, youngest son of Gov. Frank & Belle Steunenberg. Hopefully I can get a look at them someday.

Courtesy of Laura Woods. Edna Circa 1941.  Location unknown.

Courtesy of Laura Woods
Margaret Jane Oldridge (Edna's youngest daughter born 1927 & mother of Laura Woods) with her mother Edna Steunenberg Oldridge (my guess is circa late 1940's/early 1950's?).
Photo from Laura Woods, granddaughter of Edna.
Laura told me this photo was taken on a beach somewhere off the coast of California in 1965.

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