Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June - a Month for Wedding Discoveries, part 2 : Love at the World's Fair

"Visitors to the 1893 World's Fair" credit C D Arnold

It was one of those things on my To-Do-List. Find out more about the possible marriage of my Great Grand Aunt Cornelia Anna Andrews. This made my To-Do-List because there was just one reference to a husband on a family tree and one listing in a census record. Her death certificate, however, listed her by her maiden name, no married name, yet indicated that she was a widow at the time of her death. So once again, trying to answer one simple question was to send me down an interesting path.

The family tree of another descendant of this same Andrews family I’m researching had listed Cornelia Anna Andrews as the “possible” wife of Ira Wasson. Sure enough, there was an Ira Wasson and a Cornelia Wasson listed in the 1900 census as residents of St Cloud, Sterns County, Minnesota.(1) The age, birthday (Sept 1856) and birthplace (Pennsylvania) agreed with what I already knew about my Cornelia. The census record also indicated that the couple had been married for 6 years (possible marriage date of 1894) and listed no children residing in the household.

I was not so successful in searching for verification of their marriage through the marriage databases available on and When all else fails, think like the middle school students I was with for many years, and just Google it. It worked! Searching for “Ira Wasson” and “Cornelia Andrews” lead me to a listing for a newspaper article in The Chicago Tribune titled “Marriage Result of World’s Fair Meeting”. Kudos to the one who wrote that headline! Unfortunately the article was available through with whom I do not have a subscription. Again, Googling “Chicago Tribune Archives” lead me to a wonderful surprise. The Tribune had recently added FREE access to their online archives so I was able to read the brief but charming article below.(2)

I couldn’t help wondering why this article was in the Tribune and on its front page. After all, Pleasant Lake is a suburb of Minneapolis, over 400 miles from Chicago. Had The Chicago Tribune taken a special interest in yet another World’s Fair related event, small though it might have been? Later, having a date and location, I found their actual marriage record in FamilySearch.(3)  Finally, enough to validate their marriage.

When I read of their connection to the 1893 World’s Fair, I immediately had visions of a period piece movie, filled with the sights and activities so vividly described by Erik Larson in his novel The Devil in the White City. And I really wanted to find a happy ending.

According to various city directories available on, I learned that Ira Wasson was still living in Stearns County, Minnesota in 1899, moving in 1900 to St Louis, Missouri where he continued to work as a music teacher for some years.

The last official document for Cornelia was her death certificate.(4) This was what had lead to the initial note on my To-Do-List. According to her death record, Cornelia was a widow who has come to Nashville from St Louis 10 days prior to her death, apparently to visit her brother Howard Andrews. Cornelia died at the Andrews family home on 9 May 1904. Her cause of death was listed as ulceration of the stomach and bowels. Had Cornelia been in poor health for some time? Had she decided to come to Nashville to be with family in her last days? Was her death an unexpected event for the family? More questions.

With Cornelia listed as a widow, I wanted to learn a little more about her late husband Ira Wasson. Imagine my surprise to find many indications that Mr. Wasson was very much alive at the time of her death and for years beyond – a FindAGrave memorial, city directory entries, later census records, even another marriage in 1903 (before Cornelia’s death). The rest of Wasson’s story I’ll leave to his descendants to pursue.

Returning to the St Louis city directories, I did not find anything to shed light on Cornelia’s life between 1899 and her death in 1904. I did not find any listing for Cornelia Wasson, Cornelia Andrews, or possible version of her name with initials. However, between 1899 and 1904, there were very few listings for any women in the St Louis directories nor was the name of a wife included with the listing for a man. Presumably there had been a divorce before Wasson’s second marriage in 1903. Perhaps those years brought the beginning of serious health issues for her. Certainly, I had another check mark on my To-Do-List, but it had not led me to the happy ending I had hoped for.

So once again, as we often find in researching our family’s history, answering one question can lead to more questions. After all, we are dealing with real people, real lives, not just names and dates on a tombstone.

(1)  1900 US Federal Census, T623 roll 792, Minnesota, Stearns, St Cloud City, p 150A, Ira Wasson [and family]; accessed on
(2)  “Marriage Result of World’s Fair Meeting”, published Chicago Tribune, 7 Aug 1894, p 1; accessed on
(3)  “Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949”, citing Stearns County, p 519, record #6521; accessed on
(4)  Tennessee, City Death Records, 1872-1923”, citing Nashville, record for Cornelia Andrews #761, dod 9 May 1904; accessed on

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