Lizzie Williams’ life has always been surrounded in obscurity. As a genealogist, I always seek the truth. Strange anecdotes about her life have been passed down such as the notion she ran off with a priest after her first marriage. Such stories seem like an attempt by the Freemans to estrange her from any role in the family. But what I do know now is that she married four times. The more I learn about Lizzie’s life, the more I find myself thinking about what she was like and what exactly motivated her decisions.
Fig 1. Photo of Wallace Ephraim Freeman and Lizzie Williams.
In 2009, I received a copy of the divorce file from the Superior Court in Lincoln County, Washington, which gave some insight into the tumultuous relationship between Lizzie and my great, great grandfather Wallace Freeman. Lizzie married Wallace as a young spinster, 18 years old, experiencing young womanhood in the waning era of America’s frontier. Life in the impoverished pioneer settlement of Harrington, Washington was not for the faint of heart. What was it about Wallace that made Lizzie admire and want to marry him? Wallace was a farmer of no particular stature in the community. About 15 or 16 years older than Lizzie, one could imagine he assured to bring some stability in her life. However, any promises held together by the bonds of matrimony would soon dissolve. Around 1897, Lizzie was raising a newborn son that was my great-grandfather and her third child. Wallace looked north to the prosperous mining town of Rossland, British Columbia. It was here supposedly in Rossland that Wallace took the three children and left her to go to California. Almost overnight, her support and stability was pulled like a rug from underneath her. The discovery of this was heartbreaking. Lizzie must have suffered a lot of grief as a young mother, having been estranged from her three children. The young bride waited for eleven years in hopes that her family would return, but to no avail and then in 1908 she filed for divorce at the Superior Court in Lincoln County, Washington. Wallace never appeared in court and his account or perspective of the relationship will never be known.
Fig 2. “Summons and Complaint of Lizzie Freeman,” 4 Nov 1908, in divorce papers of Lizzie Freeman vs. W.E. Freeman, Court Docket No. 4997, Superior Court of the State of Washington, County of Lincoln.
As eye opening as my previous research had been, the trail went cold after Lizzie’s divorce to Wallace. I wanted to know what happened to Lizzie in the end. Breaking through the brickwall to find Lizzie’s story was persuaded by the laws of the domino effect. Each clue led to another and subsequently fell into place. I found myself in the past few weeks saying, “A-ha,” quite often as I located bits of evidence.
Things we want come when we least expect. I was simply doing some cataloging of family papers and began entering data on the files for my great-grandfather James Wallace Freeman. Several postcards survive in the family papers, including a photo postcard of Jim Freeman sent from his address at “24 W Archer, Tulsa, Oklahoma” to “Mrs. Elizabeth Shields, Kellogg, Idaho.” It then hit me that I needed to investigate who this person actually was.
Fig 3. Postcard from Jim Freeman to Elizabeth Shields.
It did not take long. The first reference to Elizabeth Shields came in the 1916 Directory for Kootenai, Bonner, and Shoshone County, Idaho. Elizabeth was at 114 Gold Av. in Kellogg with husband John H. Shields.
It got even better when I located the marriage record. The Western States Marriage Index from BYU Idaho provided the reference I was looking. A search of the database for John H. Shields found an entry for the marriage of John Harvey Shields and Elizabeth Booth, 21 Aug 1915 in Wallace, Shoshone Co. The fact that the bride’s name was not Elizabeth Freeman was a real surprise, but when I accessed the original marriage license and certificate on familysearch.org, my gut feeling told me I had a match.
Fig 4. Entry for John Harvey Shields and Elizabeth Booth, Register of Shoshone County Marriages. Accessed via “Idaho County Marriages, 1864-1950,” FamilySearch.
What proved to be a pleasant surprise in Shoshone County, Idaho’s marriage books is that the certificate, license, and affidavit were all on one page. In addition, I found the marriage’s entry in the register for Shoshone County, which included different details about Lizzie’s identity.
Fig 5. Licenses, Certificate, and Affidavit for Marriage of John Harvey Shields and Elizabeth Booth, 21 Aug 1915. Accessed via “Idaho County Marriages, 1864-1950,” Familysearch.
Information about Elizabeth Booth from marriage sources:
- Married John Harvey Shields, 21 Aug 1915 in Wallace, Shoshone Co., Idaho.
- Elizabeth Booth was a resident of Spokane, Washington.
- She was born in
- She was
- Clerk does not state her exact age. Rather, the clerk enters in “Of Legal Age”, denoting she was at least 18 years old. A calculation of her age based on her birth would conclude she was 43 years old at the time of her marriage to John H. Shields.
I wanted to know a little bit more about Mr. Shields. How did they know each other when they were living in different states? The long distance relationship I suspected was not so much true, because Spokane is located in the easterly part of Washington State; it was only 70 miles from Kellogg, Idaho. According to his WWI Draft Registration Card, John Harvey Shields was born in Grove Springs, Missouri on Jan 16 1888. His address is “Blackbear, Idaho” and he worked as a miner for the Hecla Mining Company in Burke, Idaho.
The Shields family does not appear again for more than a decade. In 1927, Lizzie’s first husband Wallace died of heart failure in Laton, Kings County, California. Her youngest son Jim had been overseas and by this time, moved to New York City. What I found next was John Harvey Shields and Elizabeth Shields in the 1930 Census, revealing that Lizzie’s marriage had yet again dissolved. John Harvey Shields was a laundry truck driver living at 686 San Juan [?] in Los Angeles. He was a boarder in the house of Susie Clandino and gave his marriage status as “divorced.”
Fig 6. John Harvey Shields, 1930 U.S. Census, Los Angeles Assembly District 57, Los Angeles County, California. Accessed via “United States Census, 1930”, FamilySearch.
Elizabeth Shields was a nurse in the nearby suburb of Glendale, California at 1125A Harrard Street. In her household were her parents, John and Annie Williams, and their description led me to conclude without a doubt that I had identified Elizabeth Shields as my great, great-grandmother. She on the other hand listed herself as a widow in the 1930 Census. I thought it was interesting how each answered the question differently. Lizzie might have felt it necessary to suppress the memory of her rocky marriages and somehow attempt to remove the stigma.
Fig 7. Elizabeth Shields, 1930 U.S. Census, Glendale, Los Angeles County, California. Accessed via “United States Census, 1930”, FamilySearch.
But what keeps my head scratching is how Lizzie took the last name Booth for a time when she was living in Spokane. Did she marry a man named Booth or change her name as a reaction to social pressures? Researching my great, great grandmother’s life has been challenging and rewarding. I hope that this case study will serve in giving researchers hope and some guidance for breaking down the brickwalls presented by female ancestors, especially women who had multiple marriages throughout their life.
 “Summons and Complaint of Lizzie Freeman,” 4 Nov 1908, in divorce papers of Lizzie Freeman vs. W.E. Freeman, Court Docket No. 4997, Superior Court of the State of Washington, County of Lincoln; photocopy in possession of author; “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,” 13 Apr 1909, in divorce papers of Lizzie Freeman vs. W.E. Freeman, Court Docket No. 4997, document 11.
 “Order of Default,” 9 Feb 1909, in divorce papers of Lizzie Freeman vs. W.E. Freeman, Court Docket No. 4997, document 6.
 R.L Polk & Co.’s Shoshone County Directory, 1916-1917 (Spokane, Washington: R.L. Polk & Co., 1916), 496. Accessed via “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” database with images, Ancestry.
 BYU Idaho, “Western States Marriage Index,” database, (http://abish.byui.edu/specialCollections/westernStates/search.cfm: accessed 16 Oct 2015), entry for John Harvey Shields and Elizabeth Booth, 21 Aug 1915; citing Shoshone County Marriages, vol. 7: 65.
 “Idaho, County Marriages, 1864-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F3Y8-NX6 : accessed 16 October 2015), certificate image, John Harvey Shields and Elizabeth Booth, 21 Aug 1915; citing “Shoshone, Idaho, county courthouses, Idaho; FHL microfilm 1,548,799.”; “Idaho County Marriage, 1864-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F3YZ-J2Y : accessed 16 October 2015), John Harvey Shields and Elizabeth Booth, 21 Aug 1913; citing “Shoshone, Idaho, County Courthouses, Idaho; FHL microfilm 1,548,797.”
 “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8QD-MN8 : accessed 16 October 2015), card for John Harvey Shields, serial no. 72[?], Local Draft Board, Blackbear, Shoshone County, Idaho.
 Wallace E Freeman, certificate no. 1583, (dated 31 March 1927, died 28 March 1927), California State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, copy in possession of author.
 1930 U.S. census, Los Angeles County, California, population schedule, Los Angeles Assembly District 57, enumeration district (ED) 19-153, sheet 18-A, household 686, Susie Clandino, accessed via “United States Census, 1930,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XCVW-836 : accessed 15 January 2016); citing NARA Publication T626, roll 139.
 1930 U.S. Census, Los Angeles county, California, population schedule, Glendale, enumeration district (ED) 985, sheet 1-B, household 20, Elizabeth Shields accessed via “United States Census, 1930”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCFP-KCT : accessed 15 January 2016); citing NARA digital publication T626, roll 127.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Jake Fletcher. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.
Jake Fletcher, “Who is Elizabeth Shields?”, Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 16 Jan 2015.