August 22, 2014

1917 Ethel Mae and Lillie Mae Vitatoe Yates Die From Burns In Fireplace Accident


It’s always serendipitous how new family information comes to light in the most innocent of ways. A few days ago I received a message from “Louise” through the FindAGrave site. Louise had asked me to change a Yates grave location from Ponders cemetery in Roane, Tennessee to reflect that it actually was in the Kelsay cemetery in the same county.

As it turned out, Louise and I determined that all of the Yates family graves that she had added in Kelsay/Kelsey cemetery were my family members, so she was kind enough to transfer them to me.

So, now I’m in the process of checking each new memorial, connecting it to other family members when it’s possible, and downloading photos of headstones if they are new to me.

As I download new photos I can upload them to my Yates Family Tree on Ancestry.com , add my own photos to FindAGrave and/or to Ancestry as well.

One of the families I have been able to add information for was my great grand uncle Walter Jackson Yates and his first wife Lillie Mae and their daughter Ethel Mae. It’s quite a sad story really. Walter and Lillie (Vitatoe) had two boys James Steven and Samuel Joseph, and then the youngest was the little baby girl Ethel born 23 December 1916. I’m not sure yet of the full details of the accident, but there was a fire and little 3 month old Ethel was burned so badly that her shoelaces were completely gone. (I’m citing that because it was something my great aunt Martha Yates Scott wrote in her memoir. She was in direct contact with some of the Yates family in Tennessee at the time.) Lillie must have tried to save her and in the process she too was burned and died from her injuries.

Walter, Lillie & Ethel Mayfix

The picture of them is the only one our family has of the three of them together. What I didn’t have before, and what I have now is a photo of the homemade headstone for Lillie and Ethel. This family was the epitome of being dirt poor, but someone, maybe Walter, found a large piece of stone and it looks like he lovingly scratched his wife and baby’s names and dates as best he could.

Ethel and Lillie Yates headstone

In the “It Pays To Look Again” department, I had added Lillie and Ethel’s birth and death information, but since then more documents have become available through Ancestry, and so this death certificate for Ethel showed up in a search. I think I can read part of it, but the writing is so light I’m not sure what it really says.  I think it says “Caught in bedding ___ fire grate”.  This happened in February of the year and most likely the only source of heat was a fireplace.  Today, I found the death certificate for Lillie Mae Vitatoe Yates which helps me document names and dates. Previously, I didn’t have Lillie’s birthdate.

TennesseeDeathRecords1908-1958ForEthelYates

TennesseeDeathRecords1908-1958ForLillieMaeYates

Rest in peace Lillie and little Ethel. We have not forgotten you! redheart2

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