Survived by “Mrs. R. J. Cole of Philadelphia”

As many of you know, I have been intermittently obsessed with figuring out what happened to Mildred Elizabeth Hancock who eloped with my Great Uncle Lewis D. Brodhead in 1911. The last traces of them together as a couple were found in a 1922 Pottsville, Pennsylvania, directory. I speculated a divorce or desertion had occurred since Mildred was not mentioned in Lewis’s 1934 obituary.

I searched high and low online, paid the Schuylkill Historical Society to see what it could find, and asked for help from a wonderful lady at the county courthouse to see what record there may be of a divorce. She searched high and low, going above and beyond what I’d requested. When all was said and done, zippo, nada; seemingly Mildred had vanished.

What now? I’d had all my eggs in the Pottsville-divorce-record basket. That was going to tell me everything! Bloodhound that I am, I was not about to give up. Perhaps, she’d been mentioned in a parent’s or sibling’s obituary. I’d tried that route before, but now I had more info on the family, so I decided to have at it again.

Fortunately, on USGenWeb archives, parents Josias and Laura Hancock appeared in a mention of the existence of a 1928 Baltimore Sun obit for their daughter Ethel, who had eloped shortly before Mildred did. I searched Genealogy Bank, but they did not carry it. So I did some digging on her and discovered she’d divorced in 1924. Then I went online on the Baltimore Sun archives site and paid a $4 fee for her obituary (under the name “Mrs. Ethel H. Langrall”). (She’d died suddenly in Philadelphia while en route to Atlantic City.) And, there, in the last paragraph were the names of her four siblings: …Mrs. R. J. Cole of Philadelphia, and Mrs. William T. Crafton and Miss Margaret M. Hancock of Baltimore, and also a brother Charles A. Hancock... So, hooray—Mildred Hancock Brodhead had become either Mrs. R. J. Cole or Mrs. William T. Crafton. And after a brief dig, I connected Crafton to the sister named Hazel, which meant Mildred was Mrs. R. J. Cole.

I’d hoped that more/different details would emerge in other family obits. But the only one I found was Josias Hancock’s. I’d found his date of death in the Maryland State Archives online death index, and a record of his obit in the Baltimore Sun in October 1949. For the $4 archive fee, I discovered the obit was bare bones — no mention of his children, just wife Laura.

So, anyway, my hunch was right. Lewis and Mildred split up after 1922 and before Ethel’s death on 1 January 1928. Eventually, I found her and her new husband Richard J. Cole (born in Ontario, Canada) in the 1930 census. They were renting in Dallas, Texas, and he was working as an auditor; that particular census asked for age at first marriage, and both of their answers indicated they’d been married four years—circa 1926, which was when Lewis appeared by himself in the Pottsville directory. (Of course, this was not Mildred’s first marriage, but obviously she wanted everyone to think it was.) The 1940 census showed Richard and Mildred living back in Philadelphia, and he was working as a ‘treasurer’ in ‘Retail groceries.’ No children were indicated.

By 1940, which is when I lose Mildred’s trail again (but this time, I don’t mind), Lewis had been dead seven years, and for Mildred he was just a distant memory—and maybe not a very good one. Still, I can’t help but think that somewhere out there, perhaps floating around a thrift store or antique shop, there exists a photo album full of images of Lewis and Mildred enjoying some some happy times together. It’s just a shame that—for whatever reason—things did not work out.


1930, Dallas, Texas – United States Census, 1930, database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 April 2016), Mildred E Cole in entry for Richard J Cole, 1930.

Richard J Cole Head M 30 Canada
Mildred E Cole Wife F 36 Maryland


1940, Philadelphia, PA – United States Census, 1940, database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 April 2016), Mildred Cole in household of Richard J Cole, Ward 46, Philadelphia, Philadelphia City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 51-1929, sheet 1B, family 28, NARA digital publication T627 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012), roll 3747.

Richard J Cole Head M 40 Ontario Canada
Mildred Cole Wife F 46 Maryland
Categories: Brodhead, Hancock, Maryland | Tags: | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Survived by “Mrs. R. J. Cole of Philadelphia”

  1. Ever get the feeling that you should have been a detective? 🙂 –Curt


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