Thursday, October 7, 2010

Half-Orphan, William O. Henderson

Elizabeth Meinzen's estate file mentioned 4 grandchildren. All were left with only one parent at young ages.  In this post I'm going to share my search for one of them, William O. Henderson, with the hope that I can find him after 1958.

Before I write about William O., I'm going to back up to his parents and my search for them, and then on to my search for him.

William O.'s mother is Bertha Meinzen, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen. Bertha was born on October 7, 1888, in Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio.

On July 11, 1906, at the age of 17, she married William R. Henderson. From the marriage record we know that Bertha was working as a dressmaker in Steubenville.  William R.'s occupation is not named but his parents are Richard W. Henderson and Jennie Robison.  William R. was 20 at the time of their marriage.  Because he was under-age a "Marriage Consent" was required.  There is only one consent form, completed and signed by his parents.  (I was surprised that Bertha's parents did not also complete a form since she was even younger, but there was not one attached to the marriage record.)

In April, 1910, at the time of the census, William R. and Bertha were living with William R.s' father.  They had an 11-month-old son, William O.

In May, 1918, Bertha became ill with erysipelas and died several days later.  A contributing cause of her death as stated on her death certificate was carbuncle.

With his mother's death William O. became a half-orphan.  Perhaps because his father was working full-time, William O. needed to live somewhere else.  How soon he moved out of his father's home, we don't know, but by 1920 he was living with his mother's older sister, Lula, and her husband, Charles.  Also living there was his cousin, Zerelda, the half-orphan daughter of his mother's sister, Hannah.  Lula and Charles had no children of their own.  Both were good-natured and easy-going but I can only imagine the challenge of caring for a grieving 10-year-old boy and a motherless 10-year-old girl who had lived with them since she was a toddler.

Sometime between the February, 1920, census and July, 1920, when his grandmother Elizabeth Meinzen's will was filed in court, William O. moved to East Cleveland, Ohio.  Did he move with his father?  With one of his paternal relatives?  He's lost to me.

William O.'s father, William R., stayed in (or returned to) Steubenville where he and his new wife, Dora, were recorded in the 1924 Steubenville City Directory.  At the time of William R.'s death in September, 1958, he was married to Mary (McHugh) Henderson.  William O. appears in that obituary, listed as living in Brooklyn, New York.  What happened to William O. between July, 1920, and September, 1958?  I'd like to know so I can put this little family back together again.  More than that, I'd like to know when and where he died (assuming that he didn't live past 100); and if he had a wife, children, and grandchildren.

To that end I've been searching for William O. Henderson.  It's not much to go on but this is what I know about William O.
  • His parents are Bertha Meinzen and William R. Henderson
  • He was born in 1909 (possibly March, April, or May) in Steubenville, Jefferson, Ohio
  • The "O." of his middle name has been included in every reference I've found
  • He was living in East Cleveland in July, 1920
  • He was living in Brooklyn, New York, in September, 1958 (which is my most recent reference)
My searches so far have been few and limited.  I'd laid this family aside for a while.  When I recently realized that no one would know I was searching for him unless his name was on the internet, I decided to write this post.

I have not yet found him in the 1930 U.S. Census.  Did he stop using the "O." for a while?  Of course, with a name as common as William Henderson, he could be very hard to find without the "O."

There is a William O. Henderson at Rootsweb SSDI on  This is his information:
Name: William O. Henderson
Birth: 24 May 1909
Death: 22 Nov 1990
Age: 81
Last Record of Address: 11231 [zip] (Brooklyn, Kings, NY)
Last Benefit: (none specified)
Issued: New Jersey
SSN: 137-05-6762

This could be "my" William O. Henderson but I can't tell without more information.  If I can find an obituary, a death certificate, a burial record, any of those would help me learn more about this individual and help me determine if he's the man I seek.

Do you readers have any suggestions of other sources to search?

If anyone reading this is related to this particular William O. Henderson, I hope you will either leave a comment at the end of this post or use the "Contact" tab on the left side of the screen and leave me a message.  Whichever way you contact me, please tell me your name and email address.  If you do it in the comments section, it will be public; if you do it using the "contact" tab, it will be private, since that message will come directly to my email.

A note about the SSDI on rootsweb/ancestry:  Yesterday I searched for William O. Henderson and his name appeared first on the list.  Today I searched for William O. Henderson and received the message that the name matched no individuals.  Yet when I typed in the social security number that I'd copied yesterday, his name appeared.  If you don't find who you're looking for one day, try another day.  The search engine seems to have good days and bad days. 


 Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. The first thing I was going to suggest was looking in the SSDI for people with a birth date in May 1909. I would definitely order the SS-5 for this guy.

  2. There's a RAOGK volunteer in Brooklyn who will copy information on public records -
    (2nd from bottom). Perhaps you can get the information on the Wm. O. Henderson you found on the SSDI and at least confirm or disprove it's yours.

  3. I wonder if he ever went by Bill. But he probably wouldn't be listed as that in the census.

    Also it's interesting to note that Bertha died in just a few days from a skin infection. How wonderful to have modern day medicine but back then there was probably nothing they could do about it.

  4. Thank you, Kerry, Karen, and Natasha. Great suggestions. I think I'll try the RAOGK route first or perhaps at the same time as "Bill Henderson" in the 1930 census. And then perhaps order the SS-5.

    I appreciate all of your suggestions and that you took the time to comment. Thank you.

  5. I found a few articles for William O Henderson but don't believe they were for yours. William Henderson has 366 hits and some may be yours if you want to pick through them. The site is often slow!

    Go to:

    Paste this search string:
    "william henderson" and Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle

    Make sure you select boolean from the drop down window rather than all of the words.

    Hope you find something of value!

  6. Apple, thank you for searching for William O. I will look at the fultonhistory site you suggested (tried today and my computer stopped) tomorrow or Monday. Maybe, just maybe, one of the 366 will be my William O.! (I can hope.) Thanks again.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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