Dorothy Dow is the great aunt I would love to meet because nobody ever seemed to know anything about her. I have only seen a few photos of Dorothy – most of them when she was a young girl in group shots, and another when she was probably in her forties at an unidentified location.
Identified by multiple surnames in various documents, Dorothy remains a mystery in the family tree. The last location I have found for her is New York which doesn’t help in discovering anything else about this lady. Another problem in identifying her is that there was a famous Dorothy Dow during the 1940s – 1960s who was an American classical soprano. Searching newspapers in New York for Dorothy Dow yields lots of hits, but mostly for the famous Dorothy.
This is what I know about Great Aunt Dorothy.
- She was born 23 July 1904 in Saginaw, Saginaw County, Michigan, to Ed E. and Bell Dow. In the birth register, she is listed as Dorethy Daw.
- She appeared in the 1910 census with her family in Saginaw, Saginaw County, Michigan.
- Around 1914, she moved with her family to Palatka, Putnam County, Florida.
- In the 1920 census she was a sixteen-year-old living with her family in Ortega, Duval County, Florida.
- In the 1921 Jacksonville, Florida, city directory, she was listed as a pkr [packer] for Jax Cracker Wks, and resided on a houseboat at the foot of Dora Street, which is where her parents lived.
- The 1922 and 1923 Jacksonville city directories listed her as residing with E E Dow whose house was at the foot of Dora [Street].
- On 9 January 1923 she applied for a marriage license to Robert Surles in Duval County, Florida. She stated her age as 21, born in Michigan, and living at Foot of Dora Street. Robert, 26 years old, was a machinist, born in Georgia, and resided at 1918 Hill Street. Both Dorothy and Robert signed the application.
- An infant Surles, unnamed, was born premature on 11 January 1923 and died on 12 January 1923. The informant was Robert Surles who listed himself as the father, and Dorothy Dowe was listed as the mother. The name of the undertaker is illegible.
- Presently, the years of 1924-1939 are a mystery, with the possible exception of a 1930-31 Jacksonville city directory. Both Dorothy and Robert seem to have disappeared during this time. There is a Dorothy Dow listed as r[esiding at] 619 Edison Av. There is nothing else to identify if this is Dorothy Dow, daughter of Edward and Bell Dow. No occupation was listed for her. There are no other Dows listed as residing at that address. Why would she use her maiden name again? Was she separated or divorced from her husband?
- No Surles are indexed in “Florida, Divorce Index, 1927-2001” at Ancestry.com.
- A search of Jacksonville city directories for years 1924-1939 yielded no results for Surles or Searls.
- No likely Robert Surles candidate could be identified in the 1930 census indexes at Ancestry.com or Familysearch.org.
- Robert Surles died in Oveido, Seminole County, Florida, on 19 May 1936 and was buried in Americus, Sumter County, Georgia. His obituary made no mention of a wife.
- A Dorothy Ruth Dow married William John Wilson (born in Lowndes County, Georgia; age 67; engineer; no address given) in Duval County, Florida, on 6 July 1939. She stated her age as 44, and her birthplace as Saginaw, Michigan. The signature appears to be the same as on her marriage application to Robert Surles. Interestingly, there is a “Please Do Not Publish” note on the marriage application.
- In her mother Viola Bell Dow’s obituary (26 September 1941), she is listed as a living daughter – Miss Dorothy Dow – living in Jacksonville. Was she estranged from her family, and did they not know of her second marriage?
- In the 1942 Jacksonville city directory, a Dorothy Wilson (no spouse or occupation) resided at 411 W 7th St which is same address as Edward L. and Mary W. Wilson; Edward was a mechanic at Hal Lynch Motors, and had been born in Georgia. No Dorothy was living with Edward and Mary in the 1940 census. The 1942 marriage application for Dorothy Wilson to Clyde Kennedy on 24 October listed her as the daughter of Edward L. Wilson, born 26 November 1923 in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Her signature on the marriage application slants left, and is definitely not the same as Dorothy Dow on the other two marriage applications. Therefore, this Dorothy Wilson is not the same as Dorothy Dow Wilson.
- Also, in the 1942 Jacksonville city directory, John (mechanic) and his wife Dorothy are listed living at 829 E. Ashley Street.
- A search on Ancestry.com of “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995” and “Ohio and Florida, City Directories, 1902-1960” for Dorothy Dow, Dorothy Wilson, and John Wilson did not return any reasonable candidates with the exception of the 1942 result stated above.
- In the 2 April 1954 obituary of her sister, Flossie Dow Damato, she is listed as Mrs. Dorothy Dow, a living sister residing in New York, New York.
- That is the last reference I have found of Dorothy or her whereabouts.
I would so love to meet Great Aunt Dorothy who, as far as I know, never had any other children than the infant daughter she lost as a young mother. I would like to be able to tell her story for her, so I will continue to pursue the search.