Days 19 and 20
Frances Stanley Trembath Papers
As I finished the last of the three finding aids for the collections I worked on, I started processing another small collection. Like the others, the collection had a preliminary processing. An oversize photograph had already been removed. Other photographs were in a folder and paperwork was in two other folders. However, materials were still in original envelopes, and the paperwork was stapled and attached in groups.
The photographs I subdivided. While all of the photographs appeared to be from the same time period, only a couple had any kind of identifying information. Luckily those that did were the ones that featured Frances Stanley herself. So that was separated from the others into individual mylar sleeves. Two of those were chosen to be digitized. The others were put in a protective envelope. Included with the photographs were postcards from the bases she served with no personal writing on them. I separated them from the photographs to go into an Ephemera folder.
The paperwork was a bit more problematic. While some was stapled together or attached to a rudimentary clipboard, there was no apparent provenance to them. They were all military related from her being called up to active service in 1942 to being released from service in 1945. A whole lot of abbreviations used in the memos and orders, to the point that at first they were incomprehensible, like trying to read someone else's personal shorthand. As I organized them by date, I slowly began to make sense of them. "Reld" was "released", "lv of ab" was "leave of absence" and so on. Included in these were were a few that gave her prior work history, personal information, various temporary and permanent assignments. This allowed me to generate a pretty good detailed history of her life up to 1945.
Like many, I have grown up hearing about bureaucracy and filling things out in triplicate. And, the general rule is to get rid of duplicate materials unless a compelling reason to keep them. As I organized the paperwork, I would come across a stack of 6 pages stapled together. I removed the staple and be set to paperclip them together to discover the 6 pages were identical. Not only that, they frequently were copies of a single sheet elsewhere in the paperwork! Why she would have so many copies of generally issued orders, I have no clue. Much less why they would have been stapled together. I quickly had a stack of papers that were nothing more than duplicates several times over.
This collection came from her niece. A note from her stated that Frances was a nurse stateside during WWII, married but had no children. These papers were part of the niece's mother's effects that the niece was going through after her mother's death. Going through the paperwork, I knew Frances Stanley's date of birth and location, her schooling, that she was single during the War and even her blood type! However, there was nothing in the way of personal papers or letters or clippings. I did not know when or who she married other than the last name of Trembath. Nor, did I have a date of death.
Day 20 was spent finalizing the organizing of the collection, typing up what I knew and trying to use the computer to research a bit more, at least a date of death. This became a bit frustrating in that I could find out quite a bit of information of the family around her. Her sister's obituary was easily found online from multiple state publications, and Frances Trembath was listed as preceding her in death. I found out the niece sings in the opera, mostly in "trouser" roles. The niece's husband/partner (sites were a bit inconsistent on this point) died not too long ago. Frances Trembath's nephew and the niece's brother was one of the early developers of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games. The niece's father and Frances' brother-in-law was a minister and died only a few months after his wife. On a genealogical website, I found one of Frances' brothers' obituaries who preceded her in death and had also served in WWII. I learned a bit about the camp hospitals she worked at and why she had basic training almost two years after she was called to active service. But, nothing that pointed actually to her.
Beth Anne suggested the Social Security Death index. I had not considered this as I did not actually have a social security card number to work with as I did with Thelma Petty. But, with a year of her birth and the state, we had some information to work with... and a quick search she did unfortunately did not yield any narrowing results. Inspired and not willing to be quite ready to let it go, I gave it a try on my own. As I have noted before, the SSI Death Index is a database that you have to access through third-party sites, usually genealogical ones. They are stingy with the information they give back unless you register with a "free" trial. However, using what I knew, I did get a date of death back. Trying again through another site, I was able to specifically verify that the result did pertain to a Fraces S. Trembath with her date of birth and the state, thus with high confidence, I could list 2006 as her date of death. However, any other records such as copies of obituaries stayed denied to me as an unregistered free user. Her husband and her post-war career remain shrouded unless someone decides to interview her niece for any further information or memories she has of her aunt.