Elsie Isabel Willis was born in Chicago 21 Jun 1891, the only known child of Irish immigrants Thomas J. and Mary (Shevlin) Willis. As of the 1900 census she lived on 23rd Street with her parents, her grandmother Anne Shevlin, and a boarder. Thomas worked as a Railroad Conductor.
Mary (Shevlin) Willis died in 1905. Afterwards Thomas and his daughter moved to the Englewood neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago. Thomas’ widowed sister Catherine (Willis) Mulloy and her daughters Catherine and Josephine immigrated in 1906 and were part of Thomas’ household at the 1910 census. (Catherine’s late husband was Peter Mulloy, a shopkeeper in Ballinrobe, County Mayo.)
Elsie married George Frederick Tockstein 27 Nov 1913 at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Englewood. They had two children, George Willis in 1915 and Leslie Frederick in 1917. When her husband registered for the World War I draft in June of 1917, he was employed as an inspector for Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company, and was supporting his wife and two children.
But by the 1920 census George lived with a Barbara Thielman, apparently as husband and wife though they did not marry until the following year. Her brother John Thielman resided there as well, and Elsie and their young sons did not.
So where were Elsie and the children? I thought she might have died but could find no death record nor obituary. Nor could I find any notices of divorce proceedings in the newspapers, nor a remarriage for her. For years I had no record pertaining to Elsie’s life after the birth of her second son in 1917. However researching the two Tockstein sons recently led me to new records, and I now know that Elsie lived to be 85, dying in Bay County, Michigan in 1977!
Though I have not been able to find him in 1920, I long ago found her firstborn George living with his Tockstein grandparents in Chicago in 1930, so I knew that he at least survived that long. The other day I found his 1996 obituary which lists his survivors, including his brother Leslie Tockstein and a half brother surnamed Hammond. If George and Leslie had a half brother with a different last name, it seemed likely that Elsie had a second marriage to a Hammond, and then had at least one more child.
Searching for the Cook County, Illinois marriage of an Elsie Tockstein on Familysearch.org does not yield results, which is probably why I never found it before, but searching for a Hammond who married an Elsie brings up the marriage of Archibald W. Hammond to Elsie Tockstien [sic] 17 Apr 1926. This couple remained in Chicago until 1930, but by 1940 had relocated to Bay City, Michigan where they lived out the rest of their lives.
I have now also found Elsie in 1920–she was mistakenly indexed as Elsie Lockstein on Ancestry.com and to be fair the T does look like an L. She was boarding with a Peterson family and had two year old Leslie with her. She worked as a waitress in a department store, maybe the café at Marshall Fields? Whatever went wrong with her first marriage, I am glad she was able to start over though I am guessing the years on either side of 1920 were difficult.