January Tribute – Belle Norris

Flowers at Lakewold Gardens in Lakewood, Washington - © Molly Stark

Welcome to the monthly ancestral tribute! Genealogy has become a relatively new hobby and passion in recent years. I guess when you have kids, you start to take a more active interest in your lineage and family history. I wanted to start posting something at least once a month with regard to genealogy, and I’m starting with a personal family history mystery!

belle norrisBelle Norris (1871 – 1929) had a sad past. Her father passed away before she was born. Her mother died only a few short years later. She spent an unknown period of time in the Lawrence County Illinois Alms House, homeless, without a family.

Yet, in December of 1893, she married Samuel Edward Blumer in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. They go on to have children Susie, Edward, Hazel, James, and Winona. She lived to see some of her grandchildren born, including my grandmother before she passed away at the age of 58.


Pretty cut and dry, right? But it also seems vague on the details. Unfortunately in Belle’s case, she was born after the 1870 census, her father died before her birth, and her mother died before the 1880 census, leaving me with little clues as to their identities. I only know that her father’s surname is Norris. Given that he died before she was born, and she being born the first month of 1871, he likely passed in 1870.

belle norris institution

Belle was admitted into the Lawrence County Alms House April 1st of 1877 according to the 1880 census. Her mother may not have died yet; she may have been ill. Either way, there is no other information given. Belle doesn’t appear again in records until 1893, when she marries Samuel Blumer.

belle norris marriage

What about 1890?

That’s another unfortunate situation. All but about 6,000 names are what remain of the 1890 Federal Census. The bulk of the records were destroyed in a fire and the subsequent spraying of massive amounts of water. They were eventually tossed, leaving her location in 1890 a mystery, unless I find some other document, which I highly doubt. A relative has told me that she was adopted by and lived with the Ryder family in Cape Girardeau, though I have yet to find any documents that support it. Somehow, she made it from Eastern Illinois to Southeast Missouri. I would love to know how.

Belle’s mystery is extremely unlucky. The death of her father before her birth, her birth taking place AFTER the 1870 census, the death of her mother BEFORE the 1880 census, and the destruction of the 1890 census makes her mystery one that I may never solve, although I do give it a try again every few months with a fresh pair of eyes.

Ever yours,

silver signature

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Passionate photographer, perfectionist, planner, goofy gamer, wife to a great guy, mother to two perfectly imperfect children.

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