Elizabeth Mae Klish, A Vintage Vignette

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Elizabeth Mae Klish
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
March 18, 2010

There is a beautifully inscribed tombstone with the name E. Mae Klish in the old section of the Madison City Cemetery. It has dates November 10, 1882 and July 3, 1908. The name Klish is unusual for this area, so I decided to research it in local records.

Census records can be checked for free with computers, microfilm, and books at the main library in Huntsville. Mae was born after the 1880 census, and we have no 1890 census records. She died before the 1910 census, and Mae was not found in the 1900 census of Madison County, -- nor was any other Klish, even with phonetic spellings like “Clish”. I therefore checked the Madison County marriage index at the library’s probate court archive (can also be done on-line at http://www.co.madison.al.us/mcrc/) in case a marriage changed the surname. There were no Klish marriages recorded in Madison County during the period of Mae’s lifetime.

The next approach was examining land records to see if a Klish family purchased real estate here. This is easily done at the Probate Court Records Room on the third floor of the courthouse by checking the deed book indexes. Dora and Albert Klish had land dealings in Madison from 1904 until 1914, when the last of their property was sold. Knowing the Klish residence timeframe here, I then checked the 1910 census. There they were, with no children in their household. Albert was 51, a farmer owning his land and house, born in Germany of German-born parents. Dora was 48, born in Ohio of Ohio-born parents. They were shown as being married for 13 years, meaning that their marriage occurred in 1897. It was recorded that this was Albert’s second marriage. Since they were the only Klish family in the area during Mae’s lifetime, I knew it was likely that she was their daughter, not a daughter-in-law.

The 1920 and 1930 censuses showed that Albert and Dora were in Ohio. They were also found in Ohio in the 1900 census. Dora was shown as born in September 1861 and having given birth to four children, all of whom were living in 1900. Their household listing had the children as Otto (14), John (13), Samuel (8), and Eliza (17, born November 1882). Albert reported in that census that he had come to America in 1863. His birth was given as July 1848, but it really had to be 1858 to fit all other census data about him. A number of Ancestry.com postings give “Eliza” as Elizabeth May Klish, but none of them noted her death date or her residence in Alabama.

The Ancestry postings reveal that Albert first married Nancy Spacht in Ohio, but in the 1880 census she is listed as Mary. They had a daughter named Clara, born in 1879, with all of them under the surname “McClish”. Nancy died in 1896, a year before Albert married Dora. These dates indicate that the Albert’s four children listed in the 1900 census were actually born to Nancy, not Dora. Through Nancy’s posted ancestry, she may be related to General George Armstrong Custer of “Custer’s Last Stand”. Other famous relatives per Ancestry.com include four U. S. Presidents, four U. S. “First Ladies”, six great movie actors, and many authors.

Madison County tax records, available for review on the third floor of the library, show that the Klish family came to Alabama in 1905 and that they left in 1911. Their tax records for each year are very detailed, listing the number and value of clocks, watches, gold chains, dogs, horses, cattle, wagons, sewing machines, and other property, including real estate. Thirty-seven acres of the Klish land was purchased in 1911 by T. J. Riddle and James H. Landers, Jr., with three acres bought by F. M. Trotman. The 1914 Klish land transaction involved notarized papers sent from Ohio to finalize the legalities. The Klish land was north of Mill Road, east of Landers Road, and south of Brown’s Ferry Road. Albert and Dora both died in Ohio in the Spring of 1940, but from about five hours of locally-done research much of their ancestry and life story can be told today.

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