Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday FANS: Venita Randall

I've decided to start a Friday blogging theme called Friday FANS. As most of you know, FANS stands for friends, associates, and neighbors. There have been a lot of my ancestors' FANS that I've wondering about lately. FANS can often help us figure out the origins of our ancestors, since many people traveled in groups, which were often made up of family AND friends. So, just because someone does not appear to be a family member, it does not mean that you should immediately ignore this person. Looking into the background of a neighbor may lead you to clues about your ancestor and his origins. I figured a series of blog posts on all my ancestors' FANS would help sort them all out.

First up is Venita Randall. I was actually planning on taking a different approach by starting with someone else, but she greatly piqued my interest last night. I was going through the city directories for Ponca City, Oklahoma, where my paternal grandmother lived with her parents from about 1942-1952. My great-grandparents (her parents) were Merlen Paris Mertena and Hassie Cora Proffitt. I did not find the family in 1942 at Ancestry.com  (they were probably still living in Mulhall, Logan, Oklahoma, where my grandmother was born). The next available directories were for 1946 and 1948, where I did find the family.
Polk's Ponca City Directory (Dallas: R.L. Polk & Co., 1946), 173, Merlen P. Mertena; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2013).
Polk's Ponca City Directory (Dallas: R.L. Polk & Co., 1948), 156, Merlen P. Mertena; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2013).
Nothing strange there. Both directories stated that Merlen P. and Hassie C. Mertena resided at 105 E. Fresno Ave. and he worked at Continental Oil Co. This corroborates with other sources, including my grandmother herself, who is still living.

The next available directory is for 1952. This is the year the family moved to Louisiana. I found Merlin P. Mertena still residing in Ponca City in 1952. However, Hassie was not listed as his wife, and he was listed at a different address.

Polk's Ponca City Directory (Dallas: R.L. Polk & Co., 1952), 166, Merlin P. Mertena; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2013).
He is listed as living at 312 W. Central Ave. with a wife named Venita R. Mertena. What??? My first thought was that maybe this was a mistake. I've seen plenty of mistakes with spouse's names in city directories. I also wondered whether the address was a mistake because the only address ever listed in all other sources was the one on E. Fresno.

This first thing I decided to do was check the street directory for 1952 to see who was listed at 105 E. Fresno and who was listed at 312 W. Central.

Well, Merlin Mertena was listed as the householder at 312 W. Central Ave., making it less likely there was a mistake in the name directory. So what about the other house at 105 E. Fresno?

Well, Merlen P. Mertena is listed as the householder here as well. And that little symbol after his name means that to the best of the directory company's knowledge, a member of the family owned the home.

My next step was to search the directory for all Venita's living in Ponca City in 1952 to see if she had her own entry in the name directory. She didn't have one under Mertena but perhaps she was under another surname, since I was pretty certain my great-grandfather never married her.

BINGO!

Polk's Ponca City Directory (Dallas: R.L. Polk & Co., 1952), 199, Venita Randall; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2013).
Venita Randall was listed as a fountain manager at Crown Drug residing at 312 W. Central Ave. She was listed as a roomer. There were no other Randall's with this address. Interesting.

I decided to see if I could find out more about her in previous directories. I started with 1948.

Polk's Ponca City Directory (Dallas: R.L. Polk & Co., 1948), 185, Venita Randall; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2013).
There she was again listed as a fountain manager for Crown Drug rooming at 1314 S. 4th. Again, no other Randall's at this address. I decided to take a look at the 1948 street directory to see who was listed as the householder.

In the street directory, it lists Mrs. Venita Collins as living at 1314 1/2 S. 4th. Yes, another clue! She must have been married to a man named Collins at some point. What was Randall? A second married name? Or a maiden name? In the name directory, there was no Venita Collins listed. Nor were there any other Collins located at 1314 S. 4th. There was a Carl V. and Wanda Collins listed at 1325 S. 4th. The householder at 1314 S. 4th was Gilbert M. Whitlow. According to the  name directory, he was married to Sarah M. and was an employee of Jess Whitlow Pipe Line Service.

OK, so what about 1946? I did not find a Venita Randall, but I did find a Mrs. Venita Collins.

Polk's Ponca City Directory (Dallas: R.L. Polk & Co., 1946), 65, Venita Collins; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2013).
She was living at 1314 1/2 S. 4th St. No occupation was listed, so perhaps she was recently divorced or still married. No other Collins were listed at the same address. This time Thos. E. Dwyer was listed as the householder at 1314 S. 4th in the street directory.

I then searched 1942 and did not find a Venita Collins or Venita Randall. More research needs to be done to determine her identity and relationship to the family.

There is a possibility that the family moved to 312 W. Central between 1948 and 1952 and was renting a room to her. My grandmother is still living and hopefully would remember if this were the case. However, why was the family still listed at 105 E. Fresno in the 1952 street directory if they had moved? Or, did they own the home at 312 W. Central and merely rent it out to Venita? Maybe they still lived at 105 E. Fresno.

Alas, there is also the possibility that Merlen was shacking up with Venita. Not a pretty picture, but a possibility. Venita does appear to have been a single divorced woman. My grandmother told me that her parents' marriage was a rocky one. Maybe it's a little more than coincidental that they moved to Louisiana in 1952. I always assumed that Merlen just got transferred to the Continental refinery in Louisiana, but maybe there was a reason his wife wanted him to transfer. I think a call to my grandmother is in order. She would have been about 17 in 1952. Maybe she can shed some light. Stay tuned for updates.

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