Zerelda seemed much older than my mother though not quite so old as the aunts. I never understood how she fit into the family. She wasn't an aunt or a great-aunt but no one explained her relationship to me.
It wasn't until I began researching our family that I learned more about her. I received vague and unclear information from a distant cousin when he quickly and haphazardly named my grandfather's siblings and their children. Then I spoke with my aunt to see what she remembered. Bit by bit I was able to place Zerelda and learn about her life.
Zerelda's mother and my grandfather were siblings. Her parents were John and Hannah Meinzen Hendricks. Zerelda was born on May 27, 1909. Her older sister, Edna, had been born in January, 1908. Another sister, Anna, came along in August, 1910. Stair-step children if ever there were, each born less than a year and a half of her older sister. Within two weeks of Anna's birth, Hannah was dead, leaving three motherless little girls. Edna was 2 1/2; Zerelda, 13 months; and Anna, 2 weeks. It seems that the girls' father, John, was either not prepared, not able, or did not wish to take care of the girls. Edna moved to the home of her maternal grandmother and/or an aunt and Zerelda moved to the home of another aunt. Baby Anna went to the home of her paternal grandmother. (Anna died the March after her birth.)
In 1920, Zerelda was living with her Aunt Lula and Uncle Charlie -- Charles and Lula Sticker, a couple without children of their own. Also living with them was Zerelda's cousin, William O. Henderson, son of Bertha Meinzen Henderson who had passed away in 1918. Zerelda and William O. were about the same age.
In the 1924 Steubenville city directory Zerelda was listed as a student living still with Aunt Lula at 618 Brady Avenue in Steubenville. She would have been about 15. I've been unable to locate information about her life between that time and her marriage to Leonard Fair on May 10, 1937. Leonard and Zerelda were both 28 when they married.
In May, 1939, Zerelda gave birth to a baby boy whom they named Charles E. He was either stillborn or died soon after his birth. Five years later, in June, 1942, Leonard met with an above-ground coal mine accident and was killed. I can understand how Zerelda must have relied on her aunts during the difficult times in her life. It was kind of them to include her during their travels to visit my grandfather. There must have been a close bond between them but especially between Zerelda and Aunt Lula.
Zerelda died at the age of 88 on August 15, 1997. She's buried in Union Cemetery, Steubenville, Ohio.
A few interesting side notes:
- Zerelda's given names were Elizabeth Zerelda. But everyone I know called her Zerelda.
- Jesse James's mother's name was Zerelda.
- Zerelda is a derivative of the German name Serhilde which means "armored warrior maiden." Did her parents sense how challenging Zerelda's life might be when they chose the name or did they just like the sound of it?
When I think of Zerelda as I knew her it's hard to believe that she was only 6 years older than my mother. Perhaps the challenges in her life weighed her down and aged her more quickly. No matter her age, I'm grateful to know our relationship and to have learned about her.
This post was written to participate in the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge created and hosted by Alona Tester of Genealogy & History News. Thanks, Alona.