Hilda’s Son?

I sent away for Hilda Carlson’s death certificate and bless the hearts of the folks at the Vital Records Department in Lincoln, Nebraska; not only did I not have the exact date of death, turns out I didn’t even have the year right. And yet, they still found Hilda’s death certificate.

First off, we find out that she was living at 3873 Dewey Ave. Miraculously, the building hasn’t been a victim of the ever-expanding Med Center campus and is still standing. It appears to be a UNMC rental property so I guess students live there. The building contains two, three-bedroom apartments with two baths and one half bath. It was built in 1930. What does a single woman need with all that space?

I can’t get a good look at the back of the apartment in Google Maps but I can see enough that I’m pretty sure the back porch is where the photo of her sitting on a stoop with flowers was taken. The windows have since been replaced but the placement and the brickwork around them is the same.

3873 Dewey Ave. Omaha, Nebraska. Hilda’s last residence. Image taken from Google Maps.

The death certificate lists “usual occupation” as “housekeeper” and under “kind of business” someone has lined through the typewriting and penciled in “private family”. However, you can still make out the name of the family: L. B. Stinger. I tried searching for the Stingers with no luck but then I searched the Omaha City Directory for “3873 Dewey” and, voila, living there is Louis B. Steiniger, owner, with two occupants. And a phone. That, apparently, was important information back in 1953, the last city directory I was able to search by address before Hilda’s death in 1955.

So it looks like Hilda was a live-in maid.

An interesting side-note about Louis B. Steiniger: on his 1918 World War I draft registration card, his occupation is listed as manager at the Grip Bow Tie Company, 311 S. 13th St. Omaha (since torn down). In the 1930 Census he’s living in Chicago and working as a “treasurer” at a neck wear factory.

What’s interesting about all this is that there is a 1925 bow tie patent assigned to the Grip Bow Tie Company, with L.B. Steiniger et al as inventors.

L. B. Steiniger, Hilda Carlson’s last employer, was listed as inventor of US patent 1526253 A, an improvement in bow ties.

William and Merl Reese, co-inventors on the patent, were father and son owners of the Grip Bow Tie Company. William was quite a colorful character before falling to his death in an elevator shaft at the factory in 1930, which by then had moved to 205 S. 10th St. (also torn down – do they ever NOT tear anything down in Omaha?). 

Getting back to Hilda, next on her death certificate we find out that she died of lobar pneumonia and that the interval between onset and death was two weeks. The body was removed to Chicago. If she’s buried there, I haven’t yet been able to find her grave.

Finally, the piece de resistance: listed as informant on the death certificate was Roy C. Carlson of 5416 Christiana, Chicago. My grandmother, Hilda’s sister, had said that no one knew that Hilda had a son until he showed up for her funeral and that he lived in Chicago.

I believe that Roy is Hilda’s son.

From the death certificate of Hilda Ingrid Carlson.

So far I haven’t had much luck finding Roy but there are two tantalizing bits of information. In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census is a four-year-old boy named Roy Carlson boarding with Gerald and Rachel Stratton at 2812 Manderson St. in Omaha. It says Roy’s mother was born in Sweden and his father’s place of birth is first listed as “unknown” but then crossed out and replaced with “U.S.” Also living there are Rachel’s parents, Henry and Lena Wulf.

Who takes in a four-year-old boarder?

Ten years later in the 1940 Census is a fourteen-year-old boarder named Roy Carlson living in the same general neighborhood. (This is also the same general neighborhood as Wirt Street where Signe later lived, see my post on 1802 Wirt). This time he’s lodging with a 63-year-old widow named Emma Tempany at 4529 Charles St. in Omaha. My guess is that these two Roy Carlsons are the same and very likely Hilda’s son. She arrived in the U.S. in 1920 at the age of 23 so it’s entirely possible she could have given birth to a son in 1926. If you are an unwed mother in 1926 and you don’t want your family to know, I can imagine sending the child to live with others, especially if you are a live-in maid. What family is going to want their servant’s out-of-wedlock baby living with them? Also bolstering this argument is the fact that Roy’s mother is listed as being from Sweden, which she was of course, and there seems to be some confusion about his father, understandable if the father isn’t in the picture.

An interesting side-note about Emma: her father-in-law was John Tempany, a veterinarian for the U.S. Army with the 7th Cavalry under Custer and for several decades with the famous all-black “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 9th Cavalry.

There is a book about John Tempany, the father-in-law of Emma Tempany, who took in 14-year-old Roy Carlson.

If this is indeed Hilda’s son, Roy would have been about 29 when his mother died. Hopefully his family will see this blog post some day and reach out to us. We’d love to hear from them!

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