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Brick Walls

DNA Project


Michael S. Cole, M.D.

Brick Walls in Research

    William John COLE, my grandfather, is quite an enigma.

    By my investigation it certainly appears that most, if not all, that he claimed to be and to have done prior to marrying my grandmother was just a concocted tale. How he managed to remain consistent in the tale for 26 years (1933-1959) is a mystery. Based upon the information presented at this Web site, it will surely seem to most that he was dishonorable. However, if he were a liar and scoundrel as the evidence suggests, I'm at a loss to understand his honorable character which was apparent to everyone in the community of my birth.

    As you know, one can often predict the cowardly thing that a man without integrity will likely do when faced with a difficult challenge. If William COLE were a dishonorable man, I would predict that he would have divorced my grandmother who had no job, no money, and little education, when she left him behind in California in 1934, just 4 months after getting married. In actuality, he gave up a good job and moved to the Ozarks of rural Arkansas where he had no opportunities to get rich or famous, and where he lived without indoor plumbing or electricity. During the 25 years (1934-1959) that he lived in the Rock Springs community, he was never known to have done anything immoral or illegal. He didn't smoke or chew tobacco, he didn't drink alcohol, he didn't gamble, he didn't chase women, and he wasn't arrested. It's my impression that he tried to make his (and later my) community a better place to live. When an insurance company overpaid, he didn't do the predicted dishonorable thing and pocket the money, but instead insisted on returning the excess. His appointment as an elder and trustee in the Presbyterian Church is an indicator to me that his peers considered him worthy of this position of honor.

    We speak of "brick walls" in genealogy when we have investigated everything we can think of, yet are no closer to knowing the truth and can't take our genealogy farther into the past for a particular line of ascent. Following are examples of the brick walls I have encountered in trying to recreate the real biography of my grandfather before 1933. My original purpose in posting this information to the Web was to hopefully find someone who could help us fill in what really occurred in the life of William John COLE prior to 1933. Since we've located several COLEMAN and TUMA cousins since July 2000, much of his hidden life has been revealed. Research is ongoing. As his grandson, I am still interested in learning all that I can about him.

    How can an honorable man paint a picture of an honorable past which is nothing but fantasy? If he is disreputable about his past, how does he then live as a man with honor? It is an enigma which I would like to resolve.

The following letter is a good illustration of one of the many dead ends I ran into in my early attempts to build upon the information left by William COLE as I attempted to discover my genealogical roots in Nebraska. The letter is in reference to the alleged newspaper articles of 1885 and 1886, which I have reproduced

Daily except Sunday • Established 1868 • Telephone (area 402) 721-5000

Fremont, Nebraska 68025
23 July 1976

Mr. Michael S. Cole
Route 6, Box 226
Harrison, AR 72601

Dear Mr. Cole:

A considerable amount of time spent on microfilm of old Tribunes fails to turn up anything which will be of help to you.

The Weekly Tribune was not published on the dates given you by "Daniel F. Stennard." It was published on Wednesdays and the dates given do not fall on that day.

Nearby editions were checked but no such articles found.

The 1913 date, March 29, did check out, but there was no mention of Mr. Cole in the editorial columns.

The reference book, "History of Dodge and Washington Counties and Their People," lists county officers through the years, but does not mention a Cole as having held county office. For 1883 and 1885 terms, it lists G. H. Forney as county clerk. For 1887, it lists O. H. P. Snavely.

A story in the Weekly Tribune on January 13, 1886, three days previous to the railroad crossing accident "Daniel F. Stennard" said took the life of the County Clerk, a story appears which says, "In the clerk's office, there is no change, Mr. Forney being chosen for a second term ..."

You do not give the date of Mr. Stennard's correspondence, but I presume it must have been long before your grandfather's speech in St. Louis in 1952. I have been with the Tribune only since 1948. I do not recall the name. I checked what directories we have, between 1916 and 1938, and do not find him listed. There may have been a Tribune Publishing Co., but for years it was published by Hammond Printing Co. and later Walker Newspapers Inc. Fremont Printing Co. printed the Tribune briefly around the late 30s and early 40s.

Unless more specifics can be provided, the search here seems to be at a dead end.


Russell W. Weber

Every point that I have tried to verify on the pedigree left by my grandfather is incorrect. The Thomas COLE of the sixth generation is said to be the famous landscape artist of New York. Biography of this Thomas from other sources does not list Charlotte LANE as his wife, nor did he have a son named William. There was never a William L. COLE elected to the United States Congress. Harry COLE was not a county clerk of Dodge County, Nebraska. Kathryn WOEPPLE could not have attended Creighton College, because only men were admitted at that time. There was never a Stanley T. COLE serving as city attorney of Marrietta, Ohio, according to officials in that city. The Library of Congress could not find a book The History of My Time, by William L. COLE, though my grandfather wrote as if he had seen an actual copy. I must assume that nothing before 1934 in this "family tree" is true, though I cannot understand why it was written.

    In 1984 I hired a professional who searched unsuccessfully for the arrival in the U.S. after 1847 of John TUMA (and John THUMA) in indices, repositories, and compiled records of Passenger and Immigration Lists Index; Federal Archives card file index of arrivees; State Department Lists of Passenger Arrivals, now filed in Manhattan; Consulate Generals Office of Czechoslovakia; Immigration and Naturalization Service; U.S. Customs House; and compiled lists of passenger arrivals which had been put into book form.

    We unsuccessfully searched for a record of marriage for John and Katie THUMA or TUMA between 1869 and 1879 in Colfax County, Nebraska. (We now know that they were married in 1874 in Omaha and their marriage is recorded in Douglas Co., NE, Marriage Book 5, p. 405.)

    George FORNEY, age 34, Clerk [of the] District Court, and his wife Josephine, age 32, with their 4 children, ages 2 weeks to 11 years, appeared on the census of 9 June 1880 at Fremont, Dodge County, Nebraska, p. 446D, #162.

    There is no marriage record in Omaha, Nebraska, for Harry COLE in 1883. Neither Harry COLE nor Alvord SORENSEN was ever a county clerk in Dodge County.

    I received a letter in 1975 from Bernard SCHAFERSMAN, an attorney in Fremont, Nebraska. He graciously searched the available Dodge County records in the County Clerk's office back to 1857, but found nothing on Harry or William John COLE.

    The 1880 Soundex of Nebraska has no entry for W., W. J., William, William J., or William John TUMA or THUMA.

    There were no COLEs appearing on the census of 1885 at Fremont, Dodge County, Nebraska.

    Microfilm records of the Spanish-American War at the U.S. National Archives in Washington, DC, contain no servicemen with the surname of TUMA or THUMA.

    A local genealogist and the county judge of Valley County, Nebraska, were unable to verify the marriage of William TUMA or William COLE to Inez PARKHURST (or any other Inez) around 1900. Looking for the marriage in a nearby county, in 1989 letters were sent to the county judges in Nebraska and the probate judges in Kansas in every surrounding county and all counties adjacent to the counties which border Valley County. I received responses that no such marriage record was found in any of these 22 counties: Antelope, Blaine, Boone, Buffalo, Clay, Custer, Dawson, Garfield, Greeley, Hall, Hamilton, Howard, Loup, Merrick, Nance, Platte, and Sherman Counties in Nebraska; Jewell, Phillips, Republic, and Smith Counties in Kansas. Wheeler County, Nebraska, reported the records prior to 1917 were destroyed by fire when the courthouse burned. (We now know that William J. TUMA and Inez PARKHURST were married in 1900 in York and their marriage is recorded in York Co., NE, Marriage Book E, p. 686.)

    Lots of TUMAs appear on the Soundex of Nebraska in 1900. No one from the family of John & Katie THUMA, who were listed in 1880 Colfax County, Nebraska, could be identified on the 1900 Nebraska Soundex. No one from John & Katie's family appear on the 1900 Soundex of Colorado. (We now know that Katie TUMA and her sons, William and Joe, appeared on the census of 1900 in Valley Co., NE. John TUMA was on the census of Douglas Co., NE, in 1900.)

    The only PARKHURSTs in 1900 Valley County, Nebraska, were in Yale Twp., p. 113B on the census. The family consisted of Benjamin PARKHURST, born in Dec 1853 in Illinois; married for 39 years to Alice, born Aug 1853 in Ohio; 3 children born in Illinois between 1869 and 1879; and Benjamin's brother, James PARKHURST, born Sep 1840 in Illinois.

    The Soundex for 1900 California, Colorado, and Arkansas contain no William, William J., William John, or W. J. COLE of the proper age to be my grandfather.

    The government did a soundex (index) for only 21 states during the 1910 census. Unfortunately, the Soundex was not generated for Nebraska or Colorado that year. The 1910 California Soundex contained no entries that would match the family of William J., Inez, or Elsie TUMA or COLE. (We now know that the family of William & Inez COLEMAN appears on the census of 1910 at Fillmore Co., NE.)

    A list of Nebraska legislators does not list William John COLE nor William John COLEMAN nor William John TUMA. He is also not among the list of candidates for election in Geneva, Nebraska, which appeared in the newspapers in 1912.

    The 1920 Soundex of Colorado contains no William, William J., Inez, or Elsie THUMA or TUMA or COLE, nor any similar first or surnames. The 1920 Soundex of California contains no William John COLE or William John TUMA (all variations). (We now know that the family of William & Inez COLEMAN appears on the census of 1920 at Bonneville Co., Idaho.)

    The Colorado Department of Health was unable to locate a death certificate for Elsie (COLE) O'DONNELL between 1929 and 1939. (We now know that Elsie died in 1959 in Bremerton, Washington.)

    No TUMA appears in the city directories or phone books of 1928, 1931, 1933, and 1934 for Pomona and Claremont, California. There were no COLEs listed in Claremont during those years, and no match for William John COLE was found in Pomona. (We now know that "Wm J. COLE" appears in the city directories of Los Angeles, California, in 1924, 1926, and 1927.)

    A copy of the remarks by David LARKIN introducing William before he spoke in 1952 are pertinent to genealogical research. I have had no success in verifying any of the statements made by Mr. LARKIN. Besides what I have already mentioned that has been disproven, the city clerk of Idaho Falls, Idaho, could find no record for me of William COLE having served as city councilman or mayor.

    During his 1952 speech, William claimed to quote excerpts regarding himself from the book, The Fighting Liberal, by Senator George W. NORRIS. I have searched this book and could find no reference to William COLE or William TUMA (or THUMA) nor to the specific incidents about him which he depicted in the speech in St. Louis.

    In 1981 William COLE's name could not be found in the records of the Hospital for Crippled Adults in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was a patient in 1940. (This is of little, if any, significance since old patient records are often destroyed after a certain number of years.)

    Between 1975 and 2000 we corresponded with several TUMA families in Nebraska and elsewhere, but could not make any connection. We knew of no related TUMA or PARKHURST before 4 July 2000. We still have not located any related O'DONNELL.

    Until 4 July 2000, I hadn't found a shred of documentation to prove any facts about William's existence on the planet Earth for the first twenty-seven years of the 20th century. We weren't certain about any connection to the TUMA census records from 1880 and 1900 until we could close the gap between William COLE and William TUMA. Discovering that he was William COLEMAN for most of those years provided the clues to continue to develop this genealogy. With the gracious help of various cousins and some professional genealogists after 2000, considerable progress has been made on my TUMA family tree.

Of course, we can't stop working on genealogy until we discover how every person on earth is related to every other person on earth.

If you are a male with the TUMA surname, you can participate in our TUMA Surname Project with FamilyTreeDNA testing.
This will help us extend the family tree and help us find more cousins.

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