Tennant – Grama Mattie

My grandmother Mattie was my Maternal Grandfather’s mother. I remember visiting her in Oklahoma as a child. I never knew her maiden name. You know how children are. It never entered my head that she had any name other than Grama Mattie. Fast forward 55 years and I am now interested in genealogy and want to know everything I can about my family.

When my grandfather, Robert Aubrey Tennant passed away, his death certificate was filed listing his mother’s maiden name as Criss. I am assuming my grandmother, Martha Marie Wright Tennant, his wife of over 50 years, would have provided the information for the death certificate. She grew up in the same small area as my grandfather and would probably have known his mother for most of her life. Aubrey and Martha’s early married life was in the area and when they moved away, they returned each summer specifically to visit and help his mother with her farm. Based on that, I was comfortable in my mind with her maiden name being Criss even though I had no other documentation.

Then, I found her obituary. In the obituary her maiden name is given as Clemons! At the time of her death, her daughter and one son still lived in the area. I feel safe in assuming that one of them gave the newspaper the information for the obituary. So, you would think that would be credible evidence and, if I hadn’t seen her son’s death certificate listing her maiden name as Criss, I wouldn’t have any doubts that Clemons was her maiden name.

The obituary lists surviving family members. Frank Clemons is listed as her brother. But, to further muddy the water, the obituary lists a half-brother, Lester Tennant; a half-sister, Mrs. Delores Bogner; a step-brother, Pete Tennant; and a step-sister, Mrs. Chrilla Leonard. Why this is confusing is because all these people have familial relationship with Mattie’s late husband, William Thadios Tennant. Leonard and Delores are his step-brother and step-sister. Pete and Chrilla are his brother and sister.

Possible explanation: In 1894, several years after William Thadios Tennant’s mother passed, his father, James F. Tennant, married a widow named Ophelia Clemons from Newton County, Missouri. She did have a son named Frank by her first husband, Oscar. In order for all the relationships in the obituary to be correct, Mattie would have had to be Ophelia’s child as well.  In 1894, Mattie would have been 15 and William Thadios Tennant would have been 20, well past the age where they would have grown up together. William Thadios might not even have been living at home. It’s not impossible to imagine them falling in love when they had family get togethers and then marrying and, since they had no blood ties, it wouldn’t have been improper. Odd maybe, but not impossible.

Were Mattie and William Thadios step-siblings?  I don’t know yet. I can’t seem to find much documentation on a Mattie Clemons (or Mattie Criss). I have found a Mattie Clemons in the 1880 Federal Census who is about the same age and lived in Missouri (near where Ophelia lived in 1894) but she is the daughter of Henry and Jenny Clemons. Neither have I found an Oscar, Ophelia, or Frank Clemons anywhere so I can check for a Mattie living with any of them.

This is a mystery waiting for an answer. I will keep working on it and will post new information as I get it.

Map of OklahomaMap of Missouri

Ophelia and James F married in Newton County, MO (see map to the right) in the SW part of Missouri. By 1910, they were living in Craig County, Oklahoma (see map to the left) in the NW part of Oklahoma. Mattie and William Thadios lived in Craig County, Oklahoma most, if not all, of their married life. If you would see these two states in the larger US map you would see that these two areas are less than 40 miles apart.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is.

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