One of the branches that had grown cold was that of Dovie Nance Ardis, one of my great-grandfather’s younger sisters. I knew her birthdate (Jan. 7, 1902), that she married and had three children and lived in Dale County, Ala. Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even have a death date for her.
Last year, by happenstance, I found the gravesite of one of her sons, Obie. Then a few weeks ago, I came across an obituary for her daughter, Lola Bell Ardis Alexander (1923-2012). I started reading it and discovered information that truly intrigued me:
- I have a host of relatives in Salt Lake City
- Dovie Nance Ardis later became Dovie McKissick and spent her final days in Iowa. Waterloo, Iowa to be exact.
Iowa was one of the absolute last places that I expected the branches of my family tree to touch. I knew that several of my relatives left Alabama for Midwestern states, but to my knowledge it was Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Iowa was never mentioned. (Apparently Waterloo, Iowa became a destination for black railroad workers after white employees went on strike in the the early 1900s. The Illinois Central Railroad recruited black men from Southern states as strikebreakers. )
I did some more digging and this is what I was able to put together:
By the 1950s, the newly named Dovie McKissick was living in Dothan, Ala., with her husband, Charlie. According to city directories, the McKissicks lived in Dothan until Charlie’s death in 1963, which ruled out my theory that Dovie had followed her husband to Iowa. Nevertheless, sometime between 1963 and 1972, Dovie moved to Waterloo, Iowa.
Then I thought maybe she followed her daughter Lola there. According to the obituary, Lola Bell Alexander had been a “longtime resident” of Waterloo, Iowa. She and her husband had moved there from Minnesota, but it’s not clear when.
Right now, I’m researching what I can about Dovie and Lola’s spouses– Charlie McKissick and Peter Alexander– to see what else I can find out about the paths their lives took, and how and why they ended up in Iowa.