I've had another case of genealogical serendipity this week. I've been interrupting my main project of going through my files due to scanning some of my wife's family photos (which project I had to interrupt due to the space it's taking up on my hard drive), and thought I'd go back and check the New FamilySearch database of Montana marriages. Well, while I was there I saw a new database - Montana, County Marriages 1865-1950. Very similar to the other database, but with a key difference - this one has images!! So I went in, dug around, and found marriage records (licenses and certificates) for my Lena Beilstein to David Briscoe and Clarence Johnson, her first two husbands. I thought I'd keep digging, and see if I could find more - and I did. I now have marriage records for her marriages to James (Ed) Layfield and to Charles Roper (not Clarence, as I previously thought his name was). It turns out, both of these marriages were in the 1930s - Layfield in 1932, and Roper in 1937. I still have yet to fully analyze everything in these records, because I got sidetracked by another thought - what if I could find marriage records for her daughters? Thinking that they would list their mother by her married name, I thought it might help me pin down how long she stayed with each husband a little better.
So off I went in search of the marriages for each of her four daughters, Edna, Elsie, Grace, and Hazel. This took some doing, as each daughter was married multiple times (one daughter married four times, the others three each). To make a long story short, I eventually found 9 of the combined 13 marriages for these four sisters. (Elsie married at least once in Nevada, so I found her marriage record in a Nevada database, so I guess technically I've found 10 of the 13, but that one was just an index and gave no info other than the names of Elsie and her husband Lester Fleming). I then pulled up Excel and made a little spreadsheet, with columns for the name of the daughter being analyzed, husband in the marriage, year of the marriage, and Lena's name as given in the marriage record. I even included the four marriage records I had for Lena, just to see what I could see.
The results weren't as good as I'd hoped for, but did offer one interesting new piece of information. Of the 13 marriage records analyzed (9 from the daughters, 4 from Lena), seven gave Lena's name as Beilstein, though four of those seven only asked for the bride's mother's maiden name, not current/married name. Three more marriage records gave her name as Lena Craddock, though all of those were from 1945-1946, about 20 years after Lena and Ernie Craddock had split (which is interesting on its own). But the new piece of info I discovered was from Hazel's marriage to Arthur Krutar in 1931. It gives Lena's name as Lena White, a surname I'd not heard associated with Lena before. Lena actually had to sign the record, as Hazel was only 17 at the time, and needed a parent's signature authorizing their minor child to marry. Lena did so, and gave her name as Lena White in this signature box, as well in the section for witnesses to the marriage. The other witnesses included a John C. White, giving a possible source for Lena's name change.
The puzzle is complicated a little by the fact that my Grandma has never heard of John White, or of Lena going by Lena White; the fact that I can't find Lena in the 1930 census to confirm this John White was her husband; and the fact that Lena married Ed Layfield in 1932, and gave her name as Emily Beilstein (Emily was her middle name), and was the only time in a marriage record (hers or otherwise) where her middle name was used without her first name. So I'm still not sure how Lena became Lena White, when she stopped, or why she used her middle name for that one marriage to Ed Layfield.
Like I've said before, the more I find on Lena, the more it throws a new spin on everything I've found before. I still want to take more time to look through all these marriage records and look at the names of the witnesses, see if there are any family witnesses, and where the marriages took place, see what it gives for Lena's residence at the time. I swear, I have never seen an ancestor's life as complicated to figure out as Lena Beilstein's. But that's what makes it interesting, right?