May Dennis Jackson

Posted Mar. 19, 2020

As I type this article, our world is surrounded with much uncertainty as we face the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). My sleepless nights are filled with many thoughts, including wondering about great-grandaunt, May Dennis Jackson. May died during the 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu).

May was my grandfather’s aunt, although he never knew her — nor ever heard of her.

I first learned about May when my grandfather took the Ancestry DNA test to help me with my genealogy research. One of his highest matches was a lady with whom he shared 382 centimorgans. Her grandmother was May Dennis, but no parents were tied to May on any family tree I viewed. Digging deeper, looking at shared matches, testing scenarios, searching for documents, etc. led me to believe that May Dennis was my grandfather’s aunt. (I ran into the same situation when researching Zula / Zulie Dennis Lankford, another aunt of my grandfather’s that he’d never heard of.)

DNA doesn’t lie, but I wanted to have documentation. May was married in Houston County, Tennessee, which is where my grandfather’s grandparents were from. That’s all I had until Sept. 8, 2019, when a cousin, Patricia Harris, sent me her mother’s Bible record listing the Dennis siblings. May and Zula were included on that list.

close-up-photograph-of-flowers-931177I can’t explain why my grandfather didn’t know two of his aunts, but I can finally connect the dots (and branches!) of the Dennis family siblings.

I don’t know much about May Dennis Jackson still, but I wanted to tell what I do know about her. She was only about 33 years old, a mom, and living through such uncertain times. I wrote the short article below about what I know of her life.

It’s been more than 100 years since you passed away, Aunt May, but I want you to know you’re not forgotten. This article is in memory of you.


dennis-bible
Click to enlarge. This Bible belonged to May’s niece, Lucille.

May Dennis was born around 1885 [1910 census] in Stewart County or Houston County, Tennessee to Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hilliard Dennis and Edward Whitfield “Whit” Dennis. [DNA testing; Family Bible]

May had at least five siblings: Edward, Florence, Add, Lonnie and Zula.

May’s mother, Lizzie, died around or after 1897, when May would have been about 12.

On Nov. 15, 1905, May married widower Andrew Jackson in Houston County, Tennessee. He had two children from his first marriage to Nora Wyatt: Harry and Etta.

Sometime after their marriage, the Jackson family moved to Missouri. By 1910, the family had settled in New Madrid County, Missouri. Andrew and May appear on that year’s census with five children: Harry, Etta, Rosa, Bertha and Pearl.

Andrew and May had at least five children together: Rosa, Bertha, Pearl, Goldie and Jack. [Goldie and Jack listed Andrew and May as their biological parents on their Michigan marriage records.]

The Jacksons were hit hard by the 1918-1919 Spanish flu epidemic. It’s likely the family had moved to Kennett, Dunklin County, Missouri by this time, because that is where some of their children later lived, including Goldie Jackson on the 1920 census.

Both May and Andrew passed away either in 1918 or 1919 due to the Spanish flu pandemic. [The source of this information is May’s granddaughter, who was told by May’s daughter. No records exists, but many of the pandemic deaths were not documented.] Some of their children may have passed away as well, although records indicate Harry, Etta, Bertha, Goldie and Jack survived. The children were not kept together after their parents’ passing. Goldie lived with a foster family, the Youngs, in 1920, but her siblings were not with her.

May would have only been about 33 years old when she passed away. Her burial place is unknown. It’s possible she could be buried in a mass grave due to the pandemic.

If you have anything else to add about May or her family, please get in touch with me at downhomegenealogy@gmail.com.

Sources:
1910 Census – the only census May appears on
DNA testing, comparing May’s nephew with her granddaughter, along with other descendants
Family Bible owned by Lucille Dennis Mears, daughter of Add Dennis, credit to Patricia Harris
Tennessee, Marriage Records, 1780-2002
Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952
May’s granddaughter, name removed for privacy, Mar. 30, 2018

Suggested reading:
Ten Myths About the 1918 Flu Pandemic by Smithsonian Magazine
The 1918 Influenza in Missouri: Centennial Remembrance of the Crisis by the Missouri State Medical Association
Spanish flu: The deadliest pandemic in history

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