Forgotten Children: Carrie McCann (1898-1913)

Mom always loved to list off the names of all of her aunts and uncles on her father’s side of the family. She knew their names and ages and spouses and all of her first cousins. But there was one name that was never mentioned. In fact, I don’t know if she knew of her grandmother’s oldest daughter, Carrie McCann.

Josephine Smith (1879-1958) was born to George Smith (1836-1921?), a German immigrant, and Elizabeth Peacock (1844-1935). Elizabeth Peacock was a CSA widow with three children when she married George Smith, a carpenter.

Their youngest daughter, Josephine, was a dark, petite woman who always dressed stylishly. Although the family was nearly destitute at times, Josephine took care with her clothing – items that she tailored herself.

Josephine married John Wheeler McCann (1876-1947) in Copiah County Mississippi in 1898. They had one daughter, Carrie McCann. The marriage experienced difficulties early on. In the 1900 U.S. Census, Josephine and Carrie were living in the George Smith household in Wesson Mississippi. By December 1901, the couple had divorced. John McCann’s 2nd marriage was recorded in the same Copiah courthouse where he obtained his first marriage license barely three years earlier.

Although frowned upon, a Mississippi divorce decree was easier to obtain in 1900 than 2022. The law permitted “no fault” divorce in addition to divorce for reasons of abandonment and adultery. Later, the growth of religious revivalism and Christian nationalism prompted legislators to enact restrictions on the practice.

Josephine moved to Lincoln County with her parents. She met Thomas Duncan Berry (1878-1929) who was either working as a farm laborer or possibly in the timber industry. Thomas “T.D.” had grown up in a family that moved frequently. They lived in a number of places in south Mississippi. T.D. may have known Josephine in Copiah County. One of his brothers was born in Wesson township (same community where the Smiths lived). T.D. and Josephine Smith married March 23, 1903.

There is no indication that Carrie had contact with the McCann family after the move. She is listed in census records as either living with her Smith grandparents or her mother and stepfather. The first daughter born to T.D. and Josephine was Ethel Vivian “Viv”. The happy couple recorded this event with a photo in 1905. Six year old Carrie was not included in the family portrait.

Thomas Duncan Berry (1878-1929), Josephine Smith (1880-1958), and Ethel Vivian Berry (1904-1976)

The Berry family lived in an unincorporated area of Lincoln County known as “Bogue Chitto” about halfway between Brookhaven and McComb. In the 1910 census, the family lived on Topisaw Drive. George and Elizabeth Smith appear in the same census at a nearby address.  Note: There are two communities in Mississippi named Bogue Chitto. The other is located in Neshoba County on land belonging to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. 

During the years in Bogue Chitto, five children were born into the family: Ethel Vivian Berry (1904-1976), Nellie Bertress “Bert” Berry (1906-2005), Donis “Don” Berry (1908-2012), Harold Berry (1912-2004), Roy Berry (1913-2012). There is no census record for Carrie after 1910. She seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.

1910 Census. Thomas Duncan Berry family.

Despite advances in technology, there are still many public records that only exist on paper or microfiche. The Church of Latter Day Saints have digitized millions of records but there are billions more that remain. Their online library FamilySearch offers free access to the full catalog of digital records.

LDS researchers have an ongoing project to scan and index public records. But even their resources are limited. In situations where individual archival records cannot be digitized, researchers will catalog the master index for that resource but genealogists must visit the library in person to locate the document and request a copy. Until recently, Mississippi death certificates were registered only at the county level. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History was able to capture these county records on microfiche but no funding currently exists to convert fiche to electronic media. I found Carrie in the master index for the Statewide Index for Mississippi Death Records (1912-1943). She was fifteen years old when she died.

Statewide Index for Mississippi Death Records 1912-1924 H-Q

Name: Carrie McCann
County: Lincoln County Mississippi
Race: White
Certificate Number: 999
Year of Death: 1913

The family moved to McComb, Mississippi shortly after Carrie’s death. Two more children were added to the family: Joseph and Demple. The 1920 census lists Berry’s occupation as machinist. They lived in McComb for roughly ten years before moving to West Monroe, Louisiana. Thomas Duncan Berry was killed in a truck accident in 1929.

There are a number of questions about Carrie: My mother was Josephine’s granddaughter. Josephine lived with her youngest son’s family for the last 18 years of her life. Mom shared a bedroom with her grandmother. She was raised hearing stories about the childhood antics of all of the aunts and uncles. But Carrie was never mentioned. It was as if Josephine’s oldest daughter was erased from the family.

I guess I will plan to trip to MDAH to locate her death certificate. This post will be updated when I obtain a copy of that document.