The Michael Nevins Mystery: Part 1

All we knew about Michael Nevins was that he was the father of my great-grandmother. His name was found in a family Bible as such but there is nothing else to tell us about him. The only other facts we had to go by was that my grandma’s mother was named Elizabeth Nevins and born on February 23, 1906 in Methuen, Massachusetts. Her mother, Ellen Taylor was from England and by 1910 she had a new relationship- she had married a Peter Beeley, also an English immigrant, and together they would have nine children together and be known as “Ma” and “Pa” Beeley.

Peter, Ellen Beeley and Ellen's daughter Elizabeth Nevins in 1910

Peter, Ellen Beeley and Ellen’s daughter Elizabeth Nevins in 1910

For years the children assumed their older sister, Elizabeth was their full blood sister. They had no idea about any Michael Nevins and still today some of the Beeleys have a different idea about who Elizabeth’s father is. One of the Beeley brothers remembers a young man coming around their house and asking him, “Is Elizabeth your sister?” To which the Beeley brother replied, “Yes.” “Well she’s my sister, too.” Something was obviously mysterious about it all and when the family did understand that Elizabeth was their half-sister, the question still remained- what happened to her father? The answer my grandmother always knew to be true and that I always heard growing up in my questions about our family was that “Ma Beeley” had married Michael Nevins and sometime after they had daughter Elizabeth, they divorced. Everyone had “heard” or assumed he went on to have another family, but never knew what happened to him. Divorce was obviously not as common at the turn of the 20th century and rarely was it because of a mutual agreement or irreconcilable differences- more likely it was because of adultery, abuse, desertion or mental illness. It wasn’t until 1969 could you file for a “no-fault” divorce in the US. It seemed rather scandalous to me up until now. Now it was just a mystery.

A few weeks ago my grandpa (he’s the one who drew me into this addictive hobby when I was in grade school) had some papers to  give me from the Beeley cousins and from his research. There were family trees of the Beeleys and one of a possible Nevins link. Mismatched census records and question marks showed me there was no evidence to support it was accurate. There seemed to be a few Michael Nevins floating around the Methuen/Lawrence, Mass. area in the early 1900s from census records, but to find out which Michael was “our” Michael, we needed more proof. Grandpa did, however, come across a birth record for Elizabeth Nevins. This matched my grandma’s mother’s birth info to a T.

Cropped Birth Record of Elizabeth Nevins 1906

Cropped Birth Record of Elizabeth Nevins 1906

Then I started digging a bit more on And I found a death certificate. For Michael Nevins. If you know anything about genealogy research you know that a death certificate can be a gold mine of information. I couldn’t believe what I saw! This discovery would rock my grandparents view on what my grandma’s family told her about her biological grandfather. I wanted to call them up right away I was so excited- but it was midnight and I didn’t know if they’d still be up or not!

Michael Nevins Death Cert 1908

Michael Nevins Death Cert 1908

They didn’t get divorced- he died 2 years after the birth of their daughter- at the age of 28 from Tuberculosis! But why say you were a divorcee? Why not just say you were a widow and remarried? Over 100 years have passed and I don’t think these questions will ever be answered. My next step was to find out more about Michael’s family and where he came from.


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