Thursday, July 16, 2009

Genealogue Challenge #144

This challenge may be extremely difficult, because one of the key clues I found a few months ago—an obituary posted 2 Oct. 2001—has vanished from the web. On the other hand, you guys usually find sources I've missed. Educated guesses are welcome.

Harry Rockafellow Wilkinson was the maternal grandfather of a very famous actress. In fact, this actress might have been (indirectly) named for Harry's wife.

Who is the actress?

tami osmer glatz

if you have the url that disappeared, you can check the "way back machine" at


I tried it, but this obit was buried way back in the "deep web" and was never indexed. Thanks for the idea, though.


got me stumped for the night. I'll sleep on it.


Since educated guesses are welcomed.... Meryl Streep aka Mary Louise Gummer mn Streep


Is the mother Jane Wilkinson (b. 1909)?


No, it wasn't Jane.


[I have had one "educated guess" submitted, but I'll hold off publishing it until this evening.]


JustJ's educated guess is absolutely correct. The missing obit was for Mary W. Streep, Meryl's mother, who was born 30 July 1915, died 29 Sept. 2001. The obit gave her maiden name (Wilkinson) and place of birth (Brooklyn, N.Y.), and well as the places she grew up in New Jersey.

Mary W. Wilkinson, born in New York, aged 4 years, 6 months, was living with her parents Harry Rockafellow and Mary Agnes (Wolf) Wilkinson in Madison, New Jersey, in 1920, and lived there still in 1930. Her parents married 23 Oct. 1907 in Philadelphia (license #220053 in this collection), but were living in Brooklyn when Harry registered for the draft in Sept. 1918.


In case you're all curious how I figured it out...well....I got very very lucky in just googling on various actress names that I would consider "very famous" and it was no time at all that I saw a hint that Meryl Streep's mom had died 29 Sept 2001. That computing perfectly for an obit to run a few days later in Oct. But I couldn't find any positive proof that her mn had been Wilkinson or a copy of her obit. I only saw that middle initial of W which would have been a total assumption at that point. After finding and reading the obit of Meryl's father I was still no wiser as to her maiden name. Wanting it to Wilkinson and knowing her DOB I searched the 1920census and it was quite simple to find a Mary that fit all the requirements living with her parents Harry and Mary in New Jersey. So without proof positive but knowing in my heart it had to be her....I lobbed out my "educated guess"!


I was wondering if I had left enough hints, but you followed them just as I'd hoped you would. Nice job!

Drew Smith

Artist Mary W. Streep , mother of actress Meryl, dies at 86
Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ) - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Mary Wilkinson Streep, an artist, former art editor and mother of Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, has died. She was 86.

Mrs. Streep died Saturday at New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center, of complications from heart disease, her son Dana said.

Mrs. Streep, a former New Jersey resident, lived in Stamford with her husband of 60 years, Harry Streep Jr., who survives her.

Mrs. Streep was born in Brooklyn on July 30, 1915. She moved with her family to Madison. After high school, she worked as an art director at Bell Labs during World War II and later studied at the Arts Students League in New York City. She then worked as a commercial artist and art editor for House Furnishings, a Fairchild publication.

Her family said in a statement that her "lively, humorous line drawings were as stylish and ebullient as her conversation."

Her daughter, Meryl - Mary Louise - was born in Summit in 1951 and raised there and in Bernardsville.

Mrs. Streep was active in many volunteer organizations, including Morristown Memorial Hospital and, in Connecticut, Mystic Seaport, Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic Garden Club and Chester Village West retirement community.

Other survivors include son Harry Streep III, two brothers and 10 grandchildren.


Thanks, Drew! I knew it had to be out there somewhere!

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