13 January 2016

Workday Wednesday: Tracing the housekeeper

After my great grandmother (Mary Kilpatrick Still) died from complications of childbirth, my great grandfather Pierson George Still brought on a housekeeper to help take care of my grandfather and his brother. That housekeeper was Edith L Maltby.

I obviously never knew Edith Maltby but every once in awhile my Uncle Jim (James Franklin Still) and my grandfather (Lloyd Pierson Still) spoke of her – always fondly. So who was she? And what happened to her?

I first found out about her in the the 1920 Census. It lists my great grandfather and the two boys as well as Edith L. Maltby. She was 33 then. The 1920 Census notes she was born in Pennsylvania and both her parents were born in England. If she were 33, that would put her birth about 1887.

Ten years later, now 47, she is still the housekeeper. My uncle, being the elder of the two boys, is no longer at home. My grandfather is though. He would have been 15. The census also notes that Edith was born in England, as were her parents. It lists her immigration as 1913, although she is still an alien.

Having only that minimal information to start with, I went to Ancestry.com and typed in the parameters I knew: her name, approximate birth year, born in England, lived in East Marlborough here in Chester County.

Death certificate for Edith Maltby
The first result found was a death certificate for an Edith L Maltby. She is a white female, age 76, born 4 July 1871 in England. So far, so good!  According to the death certificate, she died 27 December 1947 at Coatesville Hospital in Valley Township, Chester County. Her usual residence was Downingtown, Chester County and her usual occupation was a house servant!

There is no social security number listed. She was still single. Her father was Walter W Maltby and her mother was Selenia Smith. Both were born in England. The informant was a Mark Shaw of Downingtown. It does not confirm if he is her employer or not.

She was buried on 1 January 1948 in the Northwood Cemetery, Downingtown. The funeral home was N. Lelaus Wilson (it looks like) in Downingtown. The saddest section of the death certificate is the cause of death. She was pronounced dead on 27 December 1947 at 9 a.m. She had been attended (in other words – at the hospital) from 25 December until her death. The immediate cause of death was pneumonia, which she had for eight days. She also suffered from malnutrition.

Find A Grave shows she is buried at Northwood Cemetery in Downingtown. She is buried with her sister, Zillah Maltby Pritchard, and her sister’s family. She was not however a member of the affiliated Messiah Lutheran Church.

I always wondered what happened to her after she left my family. To be fair, I say left but I have no clue – and probably no way of ever confirming – who initiated her leaving. I just always assumed (yes, I said it!) that my grandfather was finally old enough that a housekeeper was no longer needed.

The 1940 Census may have filled in the gap between 1930 (when she is still with my family) and 1947 (when she has died). The age does not fit but everything else does. She lists her age as 58, when she should be 68. In 1935 she had been living in Downingtown, which would fit if she stayed with her sister in between jobs. Her occupation was listed as housekeeper for the Deveraux School.

I still wonder how she came to be with my family? How did my great grandfather find her? Was she referred by someone? 

A Boarder Crossing list shows 35 year old Edith L Maltby, a domestic, left Toronto for Downingtown, PA, where her sister Zillah Maltby Pritchard resided. She lists her brother Charles Maltby as someone from where she came in England. She arrived in Buffalo, New York in December 1913 on the White Star Dominion.

I may never know how she came to be with the family.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 790

Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

U.S., Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1956 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Workday Wednesday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

By Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, © 2016
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.