I have several brick walls in my tree that are tantalizingly close to revealing their secrets. This low hanging fruit - just out of reach - includes the identity of Mary Jane's birth mother, and the name of Thomas Stevens' "aged mother".
Add to these my Brickey brick wall.
Annie Charles Winkler - my 2nd great-grandmother - was born in June 1884 in Washington County, Arkansas. According to her obituary, she was the "daughter of Henry and Pauline Brickey Winkler". Both of her parents disappeared from her life, which has created considerable trouble in confirming their identities and tracking their paths after her birth.
I found a September 1883 marriage record for James H. Winkler (spelled Winkley) and Miss Paulina Brickey in Newton County, Missouri. This is the only record I've uncovered that links these two individuals in life.
Family stories suggest that James Henry Winkler (Jim) left Pauline to raise Annie alone. For whatever reasons, Pauline didn't take up the mantel. Annie is first documented in the 1900 US Federal Census living in Prairie Township, Washington County, Arkansas with an aunt - Matilda Wilson. Her parents are not in the household. Have they deserted her? Are they even alive? What I wouldn't give for the 1890 census!
I don't yet know Matilda Wilson's maiden name. Given her age, 73 years, it's most likely that she's an aunt to either James or Pauline. A son of Matilda's is living in the household. His surname is Phelan.
To advance my research, I next returned to Newton County, Missouri (where James H. Winkler and Pauline Brickey were married) to see if I could locate the Brickey or Winkler families.
In the 1880 census, there were no Winklers in Newton County. However, there was a widowed Elizabeth Brickey living with several children. None of them were named Pauline. I traced Elizabeth back to 1870 when she's living with Nelson A. Brickey (presumably her husband). There is a daughter in the household named Mary S. P. Brickey. In the 1860 census the name is spelled out as Samantha P. Brickey. It's the only female child with a "P" in the name. Is this Pauline?
I expanded my search to Washington County, Arkansas where Annie was born. The broadened search turned up a December 30, 1891 marriage record between J.R. Lee and "Mrs. Pauline Winkler". The Mrs. instead of Miss suggests to me that she was previously married.
Combined searches of Ancestry.com public family trees (gasp!) and FindAGrave.com pointed me to James Russell Lee who was married several times, including to Mrs. Pauline Winkler. Pauline Lee passes away in 1899 and is buried in Mars Hill Cemetery in Barry County, Missouri. I hypothesize that this is Pauline (Brickey) Winkler. If that's the case, Pauline's 1899 death would explain why Annie was living with an aunt in the 1900 census.
My search also indicated that J.R. and Pauline had a son Elmer F. Lee who was born in 1894 and passed away in 1966. An online family tree gives Elmer's mother's name as "Poleen Bricklin". Unfortunately, the connection is unsourced. However, I wonder if the name comes from Elmer's death certificate? Perhaps an informant was trying to recall his mother's maiden name and confused Pauline Brickey?
I'm hoping that an 1899 obituary or death notice was published in the local paper and can help source Mrs. Pauline Lee's origins. A copy of Elmer's death record or SSN application with his mother's maiden name could also help to substantiate my theory. Frankly, a divorce record between Pauline and James Henry would be handy, too!
Perhaps I'm close to smashing through the Brickey brick wall. Now where in tarnation is James Henry Winkler?