Saturday, July 11, 2015

New record found for Cecil Oscar Werst

Dear Grandfather Cecil,
Today you remain an enigma to most of your descendants who now number 22. Are you surprised at that number? Not bad for dying at age 27. As far as we know, there is no living person remaining who met you. You are so much a part of our genetic make-up but we really do not know you very well. We always thought your daughter Betty looked like you. Your grandson, Ron Pearce, plays banjo like you did. I'm named for you. Still we would like to know more about you.

Cecil Oscar Werst
b. 16 March 1900 Valley Falls, Kansas
d. 24 October 1927 Spokane, Washington
We generally feel that we have found every record that mentions you, census records, marriage record, death record... including the 1900 census where you are listed as a two month old girl living in Rock Creek Township, Jefferson County, Kansas.

Lines 55-64 Family of Louis Werst including
Cecil O, daughter, white, female, born Mar 1900.
"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 July 2015), Kansas > Jefferson > ED 78 Rock Creek Township Meriden city > image 12 of 35; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
In the 1910 census, you are living with your parents and six siblings in the Belma District of Yakima County Washington. Your father and three older brothers are working building houses, your Dad is the contractor and the others carpenters. You are among the youngest of three who are still in school.

Life changed dramatically for your family with your father's death 23 November 1916. Suddenly, school days were over and you had to support your mother and younger brother Alvin. Your older brothers were either married and supporting their own families or would soon be serving in the Army. I'm sure those were difficult days for you.

Luckily for us, they led to my sister Peg's latest find... an employment application for the Northern Pacific Railway Company in Pasco, Washington. Many thanks to for including the U. S., Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel Files, 1890-1963 records in their online collections. Their shaking leaves pointed the way. We would have never thought to look for you in these records.

You were just 18 when you filled out the application, listing your birthplace as Kansas City, Kansas and back dating your birth to March 1899.The application includes your signature and describes you as being 5' 8" in height, weighing 140 pounds with 'MB' hair presumably medium brown and blue eyes. A comment is written on the margin that you are "under draft age."

Cecil holding baby daughter Betty circa July 1926
probably Spokane, Washington
The only other document that provides a physical description is your World War I draft registration card. The signature is recognizably the same as on the employment application. However, the description lists you as stout, with light gray eyes and light brown hair. The only photograph we have that shows a nearly full torso does not give the impression you were stout but I suppose those details were subjective to the registrar.

This latest record gives us hope that there will still be other parts of your life revealed to us. Hats off to Peg and for this latest find.


1 comment:

  1. This is fascinating, a slice of history. My cousin recently researched our ancestors and there were some interesting stories. I would like to get our DNA analyzed next to learn more about our heritage.