Finding My Secret Great Aunt Bessie, Whose Life Ended Because of an Illegal Abortion
In the winter of 1910, a young woman named Bessie Watkins left her small Ohio town for the big city of Cleveland. She told her family that a new job was waiting for her, and she took the train north. They would never see her again. In fact, her descendants would never even hear of her until a century later.
Bessie Watkins was my great aunt. My brother discovered her while doing genealogical research, combing through birth and death certificates, employment and census records. This mysterious relative intrigued me. Why was her name never mentioned in our family? What were the circumstances of her death? Why did she move to Cleveland alone shortly before the end of her life? I went there to see where she had lived and died, and to learn more about her.