The brothers stormed down to the newspaper office

I finally found evidence of a story my grandmother told me. When she told me how her grandfather Joseph Funston died, she said that the newspaper reported it as a suicide and that his sons were so incensed by this false reporting that they stormed down to the newspaper office to demand a retraction.
All of the newspaper articles I have found up until now never mentioned one way or another whether his death was an accident or suicide. Today I found a small item on the bottom of page 16 of the January 1, 1921 Night Extra issue of the Evening Public Ledger:

Article that reports the death of Joseph Funston as a suicide.
Joseph Funston, sixty years old, 2089 East Somerset street, was found dead in his room, early today. Gas was flowing from an open jet, with the door and windows tightly closed. Police say it is a case of suicide. In one of the pockets of Funston’s coat, the police found more than $50.

It’s worth noting that the death certificate differs in both the cause of death and his age:

Age: 70 years 1 month 3 days.
Cause of death: … Gas Poisoning probably accidental

We’ll never know the true story of what happened that New Year’s Eve night. Despite the response of my grandmother’s uncles it could very well have been a suicide, or perhaps after a little too much celebration he accidentally left the gas jet on. Whatever the case, I am wondering why he had $50 in his pocket, which is about $665 in today’s dollars, and more than I would expect my elderly boxmaker great-grandfather to be carrying around.

The Importance of Revisiting Sources

It pays to go back and search a source again. Some time ago, Ancestry introduced its Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records database. When it first came out, I searched it for all of my Pennsylvania and New Jersey ancestors. I found baptisms and marriages and burials. It has been a great source for my genealogy.

I think they must continue to work on the index because lately new hits have been turning up in that database. For example, I recently found the marriage of Joseph Funston to Frances Miller. I mentioned my third great-grandmother Frances “Fanny” Funston  in my January bucket post as a big mystery. I knew Joseph divorced her, but then, to me, she disappeared. I was excited to find this marriage record and to at least be able to put a tentative surname to her.

Then, I found a marriage record of a George W. Bieber and Frances Funstone in 1865. Five years before the divorce of Joseph and Frances, but stranger things have happened. I looked for George and Frances Bieber in the census to try to confirm this was my Frances, but came up empty.

And there it stood, until an unrelated Funston researcher came across my bucket list and mentioned the Bieber-Funstone marriage and an 1870 census record I had found and filed years ago:

Image of 1870 census
George & Fanny Beaver above Joseph & Sarah Funston, 1870 census

 At the time I had not noticed Frances Beaver directly above Joseph and Sarah Funston (her children). And thanks to a certain young pop star I know that the pronunciation of Bieber is similar to Beaver. So, it also pays to review sources you saved and filed years ago. Now that I was certain this was my third great-grandmother I felt energized to search GenealogyBank, another database that has been of immeasurable help to my research.

And I found this:

Image of obituary
Fanny Bieber obituary, Philadelphia Inquirer 27 Sep 1873

BIEBER — On the 24th inst., FANNY, wife of Geo. W. Bieber, and daughter of the late John and Mary Miller, in the 44th year of her age.
The relatives and friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral, from her late residence, No. 1938 Trenton avenue, on Sunday afternoon at 1 o’clock. To proceed to Palmer Street Ground.

Fanny Bieber, formerly Frances Funston(e), was the daughter of John and Mary Miller,
and thus was Frances Miller when she married Joseph Funston. It all ties together and I feel confident that I have found my previously lost ancestor.

By appearances, Fanny did not have an easy life. She was only about fifteen when she married Joseph, a man ten years her senior. She remarried in 1865 while still legally married to Joseph, for reasons unknown. I do know that Joseph joined the military in 1861 at age forty-two and served four years, leaving Fanny to raise four children, ages 5-14, alone. I still need to review his pension file to see if I can glean some more information about this time period, but I have transcribed some of it here. According to court records, Fanny did not respond to Joseph’s 1870 petition for divorce and it was therefore granted in 1871. She was married to George Bieber for eight years and was only 44 when she died in 1873.

Joseph E. Carman & Annie M. Funston Marriage 1895

thumbnail image of Carman Funston marriage affidavitState of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia County, ss.

[Per]sonally appeared Joseph Elon Carman who hereby requests the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, for the said County, to issue a License for the Marriage of himself to Annie May Funston and who being duly sworn according to law, doth depose and say:
that he was born in Phila. on the 6th day of April A.D. 1872; that he resides at no. 2521 Emlen St. Phila.; that he is by occupation bricklayer; that he is not related by blood or marriage to the person whom he desired to marry; that he has not been married before;
that Annie M. Funston whom he is about to marry, was born in Phila. on the 30th day of January A.D. 1876; that she resides at no. 2603 Hope St. Phila.; is by occupation in mill; that she has not been married before;
that he knows of no reason why the said reason may not be lawfully made.

Sworn and subscribed before me this 13th day of June 1895 (signed by Asst Clerk of Orphans’ Court)

[signed] Joseph E. Carman

thumbnail image of Joseph Funston consent to daughter's marriageConsent to the Marriage of a Child or Ward

I, Joseph Funston residing at no. 1910 Firth St. Phila. do hereby certify, that I am the father of Annie M. Funston residing at no. 2603 Hope St. Phila. who is now 19 years of age. That I have been informed of the intended marriage of my said daughter to Joseph E. Carman and hereby do consent to said marriage.

Given before me, this 13th of June A.D. 1895 (signed by Clerk of Orphans’ Court of Philadelphia County)

[signed] Joseph Funston

thumbnail image of Carman Funston marriage duplicate certificateDuplicate

I, Jno P. Bagley hereby certify that on the 19 day of June one thousand eight hundred and ninety five, at Philadelphia Joseph E. Carman and Annie M. Funston were by me united in marriage, in accordance with License issued by the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, numbered 77493.

[signed]Jno P. Bagley


Original Source Citation:
Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, marriage license no. 77493 (1895), Joseph Elon Carman & Annie May Funston; Clerk of the Orphan’s Court, City Hall, Philadelphia.