In April of this last year I did a four part series on my quest to search for my great grandfather, Gustave Bebensee (“Quest of a Genea-Holic”). If you have not read those post you may find them interesting. For those new to my blog I will give you a quick run-down of the story thus far. Gustave Bebensee was last heard from in 1906, when he sent my grandfather money to emigrate from Hamburg, Germany. Grandpa's father was to meet him in Chicago where they would then travel to Nebraska to my great aunt Emma Haacks home. However, he never arrived in Chicago and my 16 year old grandfather had to find his own way. Gustave Bebensee's last know location was in San Francisco. It was assumed for 108 years that he must have perished in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, as he was never heard from again. I'm beginning to wonder how accurate the information that has been passed down all these years is. I have searched through the Langely's San Francisco City Directories for the years 1899-1908 and thus far have found nothing. Now that does not mean that he wasn't there, but only that I haven't located an address for him. As my quest continues it makes less and less sense.
Gustave's youngest daughter spent years trying to locate him or to get confirmation that he had perished, with no success. In the late '90s I took over the search. I sent a request for a death certificate to California, but they had no record of him. I spent hours pouring over records on line, searching through historical sites that included records of the 1906 Earthquake, as well as hotel records, etc. that are available. But, I had no success. Through Ancestry.com I did locate a 1910 census report that indicated that a Gustave Bebensee and his second wife, Jennette, were living in Los Angeles, California. Because the information on this report seemed to match the information I had, I believed this was definitely my great grandfather. This became the only record I could find on him until this last year when new information appeared on “Family Search”. A death certificate indicated that Gustave had died in Seattle, Washington in 1914. The additional details provided on the certificate then led me to the mortuary and finally to Lake View Cemetery in Seattle. A very kind volunteer through Find-A-Grave traveled to the cemetery and took photo's of where Gustave is buried.
I then contacted the Seattle Library through the “ask-a-librarian program” to see if an obituary could be located for his death in December, 1914. Fortunately one was located and through the obituary I learned that he had been a Freemason and that Alki Lodge #152 had paid for and made all the arrangements for his funeral. The Alki Lodge is still in existence today. A very generous man by the name of Richard Syson began a search for a record of his enrollment. Unfortunately the search through old records turned up nothing. Mr. Syson indicated to me that my great-grandfather was probably a sojourner, meaning that he belonged to another lodge. He said he would try to continue the search. I felt that the hunt for him was probably at a dead end at this point. I was happy to have what information I did have, and had resigned myself to the fact that I probably would never find anything more.
I had really hoped that on one of these documents that his 2nd wife's maiden name would appear, but it did not. The only additional clue I have is that she after he died she stayed with a family in the Seattle area by the name of C. R. Austin prior to his funeral. I don't know if these people were friends or possibly family, but at this point the clue has not led me down any new paths.
Then in December, out of the blue, I received an email from Richard Syson. My heart skipped a beat when I saw his name on the email. I hesitated to open it, assuming that it was just a follow up to let me know that he was unable to locate any additional information, but still hoping that he had found something. I couldn't read fast enough and my eyes blurred as he
explained that he had..........
explained that he had..........
To be continued.