The Princess, the Divorcee’ and the Queen

Adele Jennings Roller Gaskin was my maternal Grand Aunt, my Grandpa Lee’s only, older sister, and Walter and Elnora Jennings’ middle child, a princess.

Adele was five years older than my Grandpa. I am positive she was mommy’s little helper. I am more confident that she continued to nurture her baby brother when their mother passed in Youngstown, Ohio, 1908.

Eleven years later, Adele married Benjamin Frank Roller. The newlyweds lived with Frank’s family. If you are to choose your spouse based upon looks, Adele did very well. The problem is other women found Frank attractive too. All three wives after my aunt thought so! Notably, the second wife who became the mother of his oldest child nine months before his wedding to Aunt Adele. Thus, their marriage did not last long.

James, Maud, Lorenzo, Rufus, Frank, Ernest and Odel Roller. The census taker incorrectly spelled her name and relationship status to the head of household.
Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Frank Roller November 29th, 1919 Mahoning County, Ohio.

Three years later, Adele lived alone on the same street as her Aunt Mollie and Uncle Jordan Freeman in Columbus, Ohio. In 1927 she finalized her divorce to Frank and relocates to Pennsylvania. Aunt Adele, the divorcee’ is living her best life in the city of Love, Philadelphia. She rented a home and sublet to two people.

Adell Jennings looking fashionable and confident.

Aunt Adele visited her brothers in Ohio. She gave her favorite nieces money and gifts. Aunt Dell had a favorite niece per brother, per city. She was being a Queen, lavishing her gifts as she pleased. Aunt Dell critiqued her brothers’ households, handed out chores to her subjects (nieces and nephews), her pet niece she entertained during her entire visit.

On some visits, she only made an appearance to chat on the porch with her favorite niece to bequeath her with a monetary gift.

Later in life, Adele found love again in a younger man. Being the Queen that she was she had her own home, she earned her own money and showered herself with jewelry, fine perfumes and furs. She needed an escort, a companion. When Adell dated Donald L. Gaskin, he was nine years her junior, estranged from his wife.

Adele experienced heart failure at the age of 58 inside the home she shared with Donald due to a chronic heart condition, which is hereditary. The Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital pronounced her dead on arrival on January 12th, 1961 at 6:45 pm in Darby, PA. She died the same way as her father, Walter. Her brother, Frank would pass 11 years after her in 1972 and her baby brother, my Grandpa Lee in 1976.

If you’re my Jennings-Freeman cousin reading this entry, please be advise of our family’s heart history and take heed.

In closing, I say when people know better, they do better. Aunt Adele didn’t know how to show affection equally. Alternatively, I could describe her actions as there were too many nieces and nephews. There were nearly ten of them. Aunt Dell focused on one child per family to share her presence and presents.

After all, she was the princess, who became a divorcee’ that ruled her world like a Queen.

Elnora Freeman Jennings

My mother introduced me to my maternal Great-grandmother Elnora Freeman Jennings in 1976. It was a 1908 Memorial portrait, a casket photograph. As creepy as a photo of a dead person sounds, I am glad my Great-grandfather Walter Lee Jennings agreed to have the picture made of his wife. She was pretty. My mom looks like her. Matter of fact, their hair was styled the same that day in Afros. Grandma Nora was a head of her time, a “Naturalista.”

Memorial Portraits were common back in the day, but Grandma Elnora’s is the only one I saw in my family to have one made. I think her husband decided to have the picture made so their children would remember their mother. When she passed their children were young. Frank was turning seven, Adele was five years old, and Arthur, who went by his middle name Lee was only 18 months.

The Youngstown Vindicator Newspaper issue November 11th, 1908 reads “Mrs. Jennings dead.” The death announcement included her cause of death, Typhoid Fever.

The cause of death surprised me. The story I heard was that she died on an operating table.

I am familiar with Typhoid Fever disease. In third grade, I gave an oral report on Typhoid Mary, a New York Cook, Mary Mallon infected 51 people from 1907 – 1915. Three people died as a result. There was an epidemic in Philadelphia in 1906. Elnora gave birth to Frank in that city in 1901. Maybe my Great-grandparents lived Philly for a few years.

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid Fever is contracted through contaminated food or water. During this time, people did not use or prepare food with the healthy practices that we use today. We wash fruits and vegetables before eating, and do not eat food at room temperature. The disease is related to Salmonella poisoning. In 1914 an Army doctor developed a Typhoid vaccine that became available for the general public six years after Elnora’s death.

Before becoming a mother and a wife, Elnora was the seventh child of Henry and Hannah Freeman in Halifax County, Virginia. Her mother Hannah Palmer Young died in 1892. Elnora was eight years old. Her father remarried. The 1900 census record shows Henry with his new bride, Rebecca Hamlet, daughter, Elnora, twin daughters Martha and Mary, and stepson Aron Hamlet. Elnora’s six older siblings no longer lived at home.

Even though my mom looks like her, my mom is not her namesake. Her sister is. I learned that a namesake doesn’t share the exact spelling of the honorary person’s name. I ran into research challenges online. My aunt spells her name E-l-e-a-n-o-r like former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. When I typed Elnora’s name like my aunt spells her name, a birth registry for Nora appeared on I thought to dismiss the hint, but I read the entire entry. I recognized Great-grandpa’s name and my Grandpa’s name included on the 1907 Ohio Birth Registry. Then I accepted the document as proof of Elnora’s existence.

The next document I found for Elnora is when she married her husband on March 5th, 1901. Her marriage registration does not list her parents, only Walter’s. I wonder if her father approved of her choice. Their oldest son, Frank was born nine months later on December 25th. Grand Uncle Frank’s birth registry shows his name a Noel. I guess Elnora felt the Noel fit due to the holiday. Uncle Frank didn’t keep Noel as his first name. Records show Uncle Frank using the letter N as his middle initial. The N is not for Noel, but Nora.

Abstracted marriage registry Halifax County, VA 1901 Family History Center

The birth registry included Elnora’s birth place as Virginia. This detail also confirmed that this entry was my family. Grandpa Lee would share stories about growing up in Virginia. After Elnora passed Walter Lee’s parents Orange and Mary Jennings raised Uncle Frank, Aunt Adele and Grandpa Lee on their Halifax County farm. Walter Lee remained in Youngstown working the steel mills.

The steel mills is what bought Elnora and Walter Lee to Youngstown, Ohio. The Youngstown city directories give three different addresses for the young family from 1906 through 1908. In 1906 they lived at 478 Andrews Avenue. The second address in 1907 was on 1401 West Federal Avenue. Then in 1908 they resided at 1856 West Federal Avenue, her last home.

Walter Lee remarried in 1912 to a Canadian woman of African descent named Margaret Cobb. Family members I interviewed shared that her nickname was “Mags.” She gave birth to my Grandfather’s youngest brother, Uncle Roy in 1916.

I mention Grandpa Walter Lee’s second marriage because many relatives believe that’s his only marriage. They never heard the name, Elnora, their direct ancestor. Without her, many of us would not be here.

Elnora Freeman Jennings Never Forgotten Never Forget

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Finding Obituaries

There are online services that have historical newspapers databases. Some are free and some have a fee. I always try free first when searching for obituaries.

I several documents told Elnora’s story. My Amazon Affiliate program has the tools to stay organized!

Special Thanks to the Ohio Genealogy Society and Stacey Adger for their time in locating the news articles and burial records.