Cordelia (Delia) Vadnais

Do you ever find yourself looking for something, knowing it is somewhere, yet you are unable to locate the item?  Well Cordelia Vadnais, my great-grandaunt, one of William (Perry) Vadnais’ 3 surviving sisters, is that “something” that no matter how hard I look, I have been unable to locate certain information about her.  That is not to say that I don’t know anything about her, because I do know quite a bit, but after a certain point in time I cannot find anymore documentation of her existence.  Of course she didn’t just disappear, I think the fault is on my end in that I cannot connect her paper trail; more than likely it does exist.

Cordelia was born to Francois and Tharsile (Hus Lemoine) Vadnais on December 24, 1865 at Centerville, Anoka County, Minnesota; she was the 7th of 8 children.1

At 4 years old, Cordelia is enumerated in Centerville on the 1870 U. S. census with her 3 siblings: 11 year old Mary (Theresa), 7 year old William (my great-grandfather) and 4 month old Mathilda.2  She is enumerated again in Centerville on the 1875 Minnesota census with her parents, Francois and Tharsile, along with siblings William and Mathilda.3

1875 Minnesota census showing Francois, Tharsile, William, Cordelia and Mathilda
Cordelia at about 8 years old

On both the 1880 U. S. census and the 1885 Minnesota census Cordelia still resides with her parents on the family farm in Centerville.4,5  By 1885, at 19 years old, she is the last of the children living with her parents.

1885 Minnesota census showing Cartilas Vadais [Cordelia Vadnais] 
Even though it shows that she is 18 years old, she is actually 19 years.

By 1886 Cordelia is living in St. Paul working as a domestic for a family on Summit Hill, not far from the James J. Hill residence.6

Cordelia Vadnais, circa 1885

On November 25, 1886, at St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, Cordelia married William O’Neil.  The marriage was performed by Father J. Shanley.7

Minnesota marriage license and certificate for William O’Neil and Cordelia Vadnais

By the time the 1895 Minnesota census8 is taken, Cordelia has given birth to 3 children: Helene Tharsile (Nellie) born on September 19, 1889,9 Anna Rose (Annie) born on October 31, 189010 and Katie born sometime in 1892.11  The family resides at 494 E. 6th Street (2nd floor) in St. Paul and William is listed as a hackman (a livery driver or in more modern terms, a taxi driver or cabbie).  Furthermore we are told that William is 33 years old, born in Illinois and has been in Minnesota for 12 years.  From this information one can infer that he was born about 1862 and he came to Minnesota in 1883 when he was about 21 years old.

1895 Minnesota census showing William and Delia O’Neil and family

I questioned whether an 1898 St. Paul directory entry for a Mrs. Delia O’Neil was Cordelia until I found the listing for her husband as a hack driver at the same address.12  Based on the information given, Cordelia is supplementing the family income as a dressmaker.

1898 St. Paul Directory – Mrs. Delia O’Neil and Wm. O’Neil at 447 8th Street

The 1900 U. S. census shows a few changes in the family; Cordelia has given birth to another girl, Alvina (Vina or Winnie) born in August 1894 and their daughter Katie has passed away.  They are renters and William is working as a teamster.13

1900 U. S. census, City of St. Paul

By the time the 1905 Minnesota census is taken, Cordelia is no longer with William.  I can only assume that they had separated or were divorced.  William is enumerated with Anna Rose (Annie) and Alvina (Winnie).14  I am not sure where Nellie or Cordelia are living.

1905 Minnesota census showing William, Alvina and Anna Rose

It was not until I read the 1911 obituary for Mary Theresa Extrand, Cordelia’s sister, that I found the clue to track Cordelia a bit further in time.  The obituary read, “… Mrs. Extrand is also survived by two sisters, Mrs. A. Duprey of White Bear and Mrs. White of St. Louis.”  Mary Theresa only had 2 sisters and since Mrs. A. Duprey was Mathilda, Mrs. White had to be Cordelia.15  Cordelia had remarried and was living in St. Louis, Missouri.

I turned to the 1910 U. S. census and searched the St. Louis records.  I didn’t find her right away, but once I changed the parameters of my search, there she was with 2 of her daughters, Anna Rose and Alvina.  Oddly she is using a middle initial of “V” which could possibly stand for Vadnais.  I don’t know where her husband is or what his name is other than Mr. White.  Were they married in St. Paul, St. Louis, or elsewhere?  There are many questions I may never be able to answer.  What I do know is that Cordelia is working as a housecleaner and Anna works as a copyist at a department store.  They rent at 1421 N. 8th Street in St. Louis and Cordelia has given birth to 5 children of whom only 3 are living (Helene, Anna and Alvina).  Katie had passed away before 1900.   I cannot find any records for the 5th child so I don’t even know if the unknown child belonged to Cordelia’s first or second husband.  Furthermore she states that she has been married to Mr. White for 4 years (since about 1906).16

It is possible that Cordelia was never married to a Mr. White.  If she was in a bad marriage, she may have assumed the surname White and moved to St. Louis in order to not be found by her husband.  I searched extensively for 2 days for any record that showed Cordelia and Mr. White and I didn’t find a thing, which leads to my leaving the door open to this scenario.

1910 U. S. census, St. Louis, Missouri, showing Cordelia V. White and 2 of her daughters

I found 2 other St. Louis records for Cordelia.  She is listed in the 1909 and the 1910 St. Louis directory at 1421 and 1423 N. 8th Street (rear) and she is working as a clerk.17, 18

This is where Cordelia’s paper trail dries up.  I don’t know when she died or where she is buried.  However, I was able to find some additional information on her daughters, Anna Rose, Helene and Alvina, my first cousins twice removed.  Anna Rose moved back to St. Paul, got married to Thomas Walsh and died on February 8, 1921 at just 30 years old.19  Helene and Alvina both moved to California.  Helene married Jasper La Mia on October 8, 191420 and she passed away, at 38 years old, on October 8, 1927 from tuberculosis in Glendale, Los Angeles County, California.21  Alvina would marry 3 times: first to Van Caifa on December 30, 1914,22 then to William Pasquale Caezza on November 13, 192523 and then to James George Daily on January 23, 1937.24  Her only child Bertma, from her first marriage, was born on August 26, 1915 and died on November 20 1918.  Alvina passed away, at 79 years old, on July 25, 1975 in Whittier, Los Angeles County, California.25 

Cordelia and William didn’t have any surviving descendants to carry on their family line, so there aren’t any family members for me to contact for further information.  Up until now, I’ve been fortunate with many of our ancestors’ stories in so far as being able to find complete paper trails.  I hope that I’ll discover more about the end of Cordelia’s life and when I do, I will give you an update.   

Thanks for visiting, come back soon,

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