Sara knew very little about her family so she asked me to see what I could find. I found that she had a great-grandmother named Emma who was born in 1875. The census record from 1880 and other member trees in Ancestry.com listed her parents with a different last name. I ordered her death certificate from the state, but it also showed that her parents were the same as in the census and other member trees.
After a lot of research, I finally found that Emma's mother's name was really Mathilda. Mathilda was only a teenager when she passed away about 3 weeks after Emma's birth. She was married to a 26 year old man named William. The people listed as Emma's parents were actually her grandparents.
Sara and I had so many questions. Why did the grandparents claim to be her parents? Why was Mathilda married so young? How did she die? Was it from complications from the birth? Why did William drop out of sight? Had he killed Mathilda? We came up with so many possible scenarios, none of which came close to the truth. I scoured the newspaper archives for their names and ordered the articles. We were shocked when we read what happened to this family.
Mathilda and William didn't have a "shotgun wedding" as we had suspected. They were actually married for about a year before Emma's birth. Mathilda and her two sisters all died of typhoid fever in the same month. Having lost all three of their daughters at the same time, the grandparents took Emma in as their own. We still don't know what happened to William. He may have also passed away or he may have left the area after Mathilda's death.
I can't imagine what it must have been like for these parents to lose all three of their daughters so quickly. Stories like this remind me of the ordeals that our ancestors went through and to be thankful that we live in the age that we do.