“Hello Daughter, I’m Your Father”

Marshall Cortis young man
Ruth Martha Andrews was born October 12, 1912. She never knew who her father was – always a missing piece in her life. Even if you don’t have a relationship with your birth parents, most children want to know who they are. Well, now we know – Marshall Frederick Cortis. The last blog was about how DNA was used to locate this missing piece of the family. A recent show on the ABC News 20/20 “Buried Secrets”, featuring CeCe Moore as the genealogist, detailed a similar process in locating the birth parents of two babies who had been abandoned. DNA is opening doors that could never have been imagined 20 years ago.

What I have pieced together about Marshall’s life has largely been through public records. He might still have a daughter living. If so, she would be 89 years old. I have not been able to find records of her beyond a mention in her sister-in-law’s 2011 obituary. The other relatives that I have connected with were not able to tell me  what the man was like, and none had met him or knew him.

Marshall Frederick Cortis was born April 16, 1889 in Hingham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts and was named John Marshall Remington. He was the second son of Bernard Collan Remington and Margaret L. Deveau. His older brother, George, was born two years earlier and only lived for two months.

His father’s family had deep roots in Plymouth County, stretching back to the original passengers on the Mayflower. There were also more recent immigrants from Ireland. His mother was an immigrant from Digby, Nova Scotia.

Fourteen months later, in June 1890, Marshall welcomed another brother to his family – Bernard Charles Remington. Things must have been difficult between his parents because they separated and his father married Estelle May Wood on March 26, 1894 in Boston. According to Bernard’s marriage application, this was his first marriage. On November 29, 1894, Margaret “Remington” married Thomas Powers in Malden, Massachusetts. On February 5, 1897, a daughter was born to Margaret and Thomas – Gertrude Theresa Powers.

However, months before either of these marriages occurred, Bernard and Margaret had given their oldest living son up for adoption. On January 2, 1894, Marshall was adopted by Fred O. Cortis and his wife Ella. His name was changed to Marshall Frederick Cortis. I do not know if the Remington’s knew the Cortis family, or if this adoption occurred through an agency. Marshall was not quite five years old when his parents approved his adoption. His younger brother stayed with Margaret, and was raised by his mother and step-father.

Marshall moved to Oxford, Massachusetts with a new family to start his new life. In 1900, when he was 11 years old, he was still living in Oxford. There was also an 8 year old girl, the daughter of Fred and Ella, living with them. By 1910, Marshall was living in Worcester and was a piano maker. On February 11, 1911, when he was 21, he married Ella Victoria Ross. Ella was the daughter of Gustaf and Louisa Ross. Ella was born in Worcester on October 10, 1883. Both her parents were born in Sweden. Ella was 27 when she married, and this was her first marriage. Seven months later, on September 17, 1911, their first child was born – a daughter that they named Evelyn.

Early in 1912, Marshall was involved with Blanche Louise Andrews, resulting in the birth of Ruth nine months later. It is unlikely that Marshall was aware that he fathered another child.

Marshall and Ella had eight children together, all born in Worcester. They are

  1. Evelyn L. was born September 17, 1911. She was 79 years old when she died on March 14, 1991 in New York City, and was unmarried.
  2. Chester Marshall was born February 9, 1913. He married Catherine Frances Fogarty in 1935. Chester was 64 years old when he died in Queens, New York City in December 1977, seven months after his wife’s death in May 1977.
  3. Freeman R was born on January 31, 1915 and died in 1916.
  4. Bertha Margaret was born November 10, 1916. In 1930, when she was 14, she was a boarder in the home of Sadie Adams in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, along with her younger siblings Norman and Lillyan. Her mother had died and she and her siblings were probably in foster care. In 1958 she was working as an elevator operator. Bertha was 72 years old when she died on October 17, 1989. She never married.
  5. Edward was born in 1918 and died in 1919.
  6. Norman Elliot was born May 13, 1920. By 1930 he was in foster care. Norman served in the Army during World War II. He married Barbara Frances Weeden, and he died in Florida on February 20, 2000. He was 79 years old. His wife died in 2011.
  7. Howard was born in 1922 and died the same year.
  8. Lillyan Gertrude was born March 4, 1923. She was in foster care in 1930. She married Bernard Thebodo. Lillyan died on May 25, 2011 in Millbury Health Center, Worcester. She was 91 years old.

Cortis kids 19240003Ella was 40 years old when she died on March 7, 1923 from pneumonia, following the birth of her daughter.

In 1924, Marshall married Lucy May Carleton. This was Lucy’s second marriage. She married (1) Christian Charles Brennenan. Together they had four children, born between 1915 and 1919. The children stayed with their father when this marriage was dissolved and Christian remarried.

Marshall and Lucy had five children:

  1. Carleton Emerson was born May 6, 1926 in Providence, Rhode Island. He served in the Navy during World War II. Following his service, he returned to Worcester where he was an employee of the Chain Belt Company. He was married to Lucy A. (last name not known). Carleton was 79 years old when he died on July 5, 2005.
  2. Donald Myles was born February 26, 1927 in Worcester. He served in the Navy during World War II. Upon his return from the War he moved back with his parents for several years. In 1958 he was working as a salesman at Denholm & McKay Company in Worcester. In 1961 he was a beautician at David’s House of Beauty. Donald was 64 years old when he died on November 3, 1991 in Sun City, Riverside County, California. I did not find a record of marriage for him.
  3. Barbara A was born about 1929 in Worcester. She married Luther G. Avirett, and in 2011 they were living in Bradenton, Florida. She and her husband might still be living. I could not find a record of them beyond 2011 when mentioned in a sister-in-law’s obituary.
  4.  Leroy Hebert was born April 24, 1930 in Worcester. By 1992 he was living in Phoenix, Arizona where he died on September 28, 1998. He was 68 years old. I do not know if he ever married.
  5. Carol Virginia was born November 12, 1933 in Worcester. She married Edmond J. Robidioux. Edmond served in the Navy during World War II, and died in 1983. Carol was 67 years old when she died March 29, 2001 in Worcester.

I have not tried to identify the grandchildren of Marshall. Many are still living. This can be a project of Marshall’s descendants.

Marshall had a number of jobs. In his early years, he was a woodworker and made pianos. In 1917, he was a tool room foreman at the Norton Company, and in 1920, he was working as a machinist. In 1927 he was working as a shipping clerk, and he did this for several years. I don’t know how he fared during the depression, and he might have lost his position as a shipping clerk when so many others lost their jobs and manufacturing was struggling. By 1939, he was a landscape gardener. In 1940 he was a salesman, and again in 1941 he was working as a gardener. By 1942 he was working as a salesman at the Worcester Rod and Gun Club. He then became a sales clerk for Iver Johnson Sporting Goods, where he worked for 10 years until his retirement in 1955.

Marshall registered for the draft in 1917, and again in 1942. The draft cards give us a little more information on what he looked like. He was 5’5”, and in 1942 weighed 157 pounds. He had light brown hair. The 1917 draft card said he had grey eyes, and the 1942 card said he had blue eyes.

Marshall completed one year of high school. It was not unusual for young men and women to leave school early during this time period in New England in order to go to work.

Lucy and Marshall stayed together until separated by death. Marshall died from a heart attack on February 29, 1956. He was 66 years old. He is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Leicester, Massachusetts in a lot owned by the Carleton family. His wife, Lucy, died February 20, 1991 at the age of 96. I have a copy of Marshall’s obituary, but do not know which paper it was published. It was probably a Worcester newspaper.

1956 February 29
Marshall F. Cortis, Sportsman, Dies.

Marshall F. (Curt) Cortis, 66, of 2 Kings St. who retired a year ago after 10 years as a sales clerk for Iver Johnson Sporting Goods Co., died Wednesday in City Hospital.
Before joining Iver Johnson’s, he worked for Worcester Rod and Gun Club. He was widely known in the Worcester area as a sportsman.

He was born in Hingham, son of Fred O. and Ella S. Cortis, and had lived in Worcester 45 years. He leaves his wife, Mrs. Lucy May (Carleton) Cortis, six sons, Chester M. of Jamaica, L.I., NY, Norman E. of Oxford and Carleton E., Donald M. and Leroy H. all of Worcester; five daughters, Evelyn L. of New York City and Bertha M, Lillian G. wife of Bernard Thibodeau, Barbara A., wife of Luther G. Avirett, and Carol V. wife of Edmond J. Robideaux, all of Worcester; a brother Bernard C. Remington of Malden, and 12 grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Friday at 11 am in the Athy Memorial Home, 4 King Street. Rev. C. Fraser Kierstead, pastor of First Church, Old South Congregational, will officiate. Calling hours at the funeral home will be 2 to 5 and 7 to 10 pm today.

Although we know a lot more about Marshall Cortis, we still don’t know what the man was like. What kind of relationship did he have with his children from his first wife, who no longer lived with him after Ella died? Why didn’t they come to live with him after he remarried? Did the children from his first marriage have any type of relationship with the children from the second marriage? Did he feel like his birth parents had abandoned him? Did he have a relationship with his birth mother and birth father, as well as his brother? Lots of questions, and we will probably never know the answers.

Ruth Andrews grew up as an only child. I wonder how she would feel to know that she had so many half siblings.

The next post will be on the birth parents of Marshall Cortis – Bernard Collan Remington and Margaret L. Deveau.

Until then…..

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