Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Genealogue Challenge #27

Jane Wyman—the first woman to be a president's ex-wife—died on Monday. When she was a young girl, she was taken in by a middle-aged couple named Fulks.

When did these foster parents die?

Extra credit if you can find a reference to her foster mother's exact place of birth.

Drew Smith

According to the Missouri State Archives, Richard D. Fulks died 25 March 1928. According to the California Death Index, Emma Reiss Fulks died 18 February 1951.

Devorah Dumes

I find the story of Jane Wyman's wandering birth years to be odd (1917, 1914, and the 1930 California census suggests her birth year was 1911 or 1912).

Her story about being adopted by the Fulks family is also a little unusual.

The man said to be her actual father, Manning J. Mayfield, was listed as a single man in the 1920 census and living with his parents.

No trace of a Gladys Christian, her purported mother, in that census in St. Joseph MO. They weren't divorced (so the official obit tells us) until 1921. Where was she?

Interestingly too, her adoptive mother Emma Fulks was once married to Dr. Maurice F. Weymann and had a daughter Elsie, old enough (if we're speculating) to be Sara Jane's actual mother.

Hmmm...Weymann, Wyman...awfully close!


You got it, Drew!

Devorah, it is a complicated story—and one with a few holes. Some sources insist that Jane's married Ernest Eugene Wyman in 1933. Did it really happen?

I'll answer the second part of the challenge myself: Her foster (or adoptive) mother, Emma (Reiss) Fulks, was said in a 1942 newspaper account to have been born in Saarbrücken, Germany.


Devorah, there is a 1920 census entry for Sarah Mayfield, born circa 1917 to Manning Mayfield, age 32, and wife Hope, age 29. This entry is not in Missouri, but in Pennsylvania.


To clarify, the 'official' Jane Wyman website says Jane's natural mother was Gladys Hope Christian, according to a birth certificate issued in MO. The Hope Mayfield listed as wife of Manning and mother of Sarah (see my earlier comment) shows both of her parents were born in MO, but herself born in NY. The census shows Sarah born in Nebraska.

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