Friday, January 18, 2019

She'll Always Be Zerelda to Me

Did Hannah and John choose their second daughter's name because they wanted her to have an uncommon, unusual, memorable name instead of one of the popular names of 1906:  Mary, Helen, Margaret, Ruth, or Anna?  Or did they love the name Zerelda so much they couldn't resist using it?  Of course, it's possible it was a family name on John's side.  Now matter how or why they chose it, you have to admit it's not a name one hears or sees often, even in old records. 

If Zerelda's parents had access to a names dictionary (as I did) they may have learned that the name means "armored warrior maiden;" that spelling variations included Zerilda, Serelda, and Serilda; and that the name may have been a variation of the German Serhilde.  They might also have learned that by some twist of fate, the outlaw Jesse James's mother and wife both bore the name Zerelda. 

Zerelda is standing second from right.
Aunt Lula is beside Zerelda in the dark dress.
When I was a child Zerelda came to visit with the aunts, my paternal grandfather's sisters, all of whom were widows except one.  No one ever explained exactly how she was related.  I didn't know if she was an aunt, a cousin, or some other relation, or whether she was no relation at all.  By the time I knew her she was middle-aged and seemed timid or shy. 

It wasn't until I began researching my grandfather's family that I learned about Zerelda.  Her mother, Hannah Meinzen, married John Hendricks in 1907, when she was 32 and had three children in quick succession.
  • Edna, born January, 1908
  • Zerelda, born May, 1909, and 
  • Anna, born August, 1910.  

If she had been alive today, Hannah, nearly 33 when Edna was born, would have been approaching the high-risk age for pregnancy.  She died less than two weeks after Anna was born from what the doctor recorded on her death certificate as "peritonitis due to frequent child bearing" with a contributory cause as "embolism."  Her daughters went to live with relatives.

Zerelda lived with her Aunt Lula and Uncle Charlie Sticker.  Despite being motherless it was probably a happy home:  Lula and Charlie both had a fine sense of humor.  In 1937, when she was 28, Zerelda married Leonard Fair, and two years later had a baby they named Charles.  He was either stillborn or died soon after birth.  Sadly, Leonard was killed in an accident at a coal mine in 1942. 

Zerelda's status then mirrored those of the widowed aunts.  I don't know if she returned to live with Aunt Lula and Uncle Charlie or maintained her own home.  Whatever the situation, she continued to travel with them to visit my grandparents and the Mineral Ridge relatives.

Zerelda's marriage record gives her name as "Elizabeth Zerelda."  Her 1997 obituary gives her name as "Elizabeth Z."  No matter what thesources say, I'll always remember her as Zerelda.

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2019 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic for the week was "Most Unusual Name."  I think Zerelda fits.  It is the most unusual name among my ancestors and deceased relatives.

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  1. Fascinating research - I'd never heard that name before, although I am in the UK, so perhaps it's a solely American name?

    1. Thank you, Caroline. I don't know if it's a solely American name or not but it's so uncommon, it's unlikely very many people have heard it.

  2. A touching tribute. I enjoyed meeting Zerelda.

  3. It is not a name I have heard before. I enjoyed this interesting account of her.

    1. Thank you, Carol. This is the only time I've ever heard Zerelda used as a name, Carol. It seems a very unusual one to me.

  4. Lovely story of Zerelda. Somehow I doubt Hannah was inspired by Jesse James, but that's an interesting tidbit to hold onto if I'm ever on Jeopardy. Your "Z" name reminded me I could have written about my most unusual "Z" - Zibiah Saloma Davis.

    1. LOL. I doubt Hannah was inspired by Jesse James, too. Oh, yes, Zibiah Saloma are two names I have never heard before. Perhaps "Unusual Name" will come around again next year, or maybe there will be another prompt this year that you can tell us about her.

  5. That’s definitely not a name I’ve heard before. And yet, there you have Jesse James with two women named Zerelda in his life. What are the chances? Interesting read.

  6. Count me among the many who have never seen Zerelda in their family tree or elsewhere, for that matter. Sad about the early deaths of Zerelda's son and husband. Happy that Zerelda was welcomed as family in so many households!


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