Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Musically-Gifted Divorcee Died After Surgery

There is this writing exercise known as the Six word memoir in which the author provides a biography in 6 words. If I had to write one for Lillian Krantzel, the niece of my great-great grandmother, Sabina Krantzel-Prince, Musically-Gifted Divorcee Died After Surgery pretty much sums it up. However, to reduce someone's existence to a mere 6 words is really meant to just spark one's interest in the whole story.

Discovered Death Certificate Leads to Life

With genealogy research, if you're doing it right, you are moving back through time; documenting back one generation at a time from you to your parents to your grandparents, etc. That was certainly the case with Lillian. My discovery of her came while searching for the last name "Krantzel" in the NYC death index. First I found her death certificate. Then I looked into her life.

From her death certificate I learned that Lillian was born on August 22, 1888; the daughter of Frank Krantzel and Katherine Huth-Krantzel. I soon discovered she was their only child they had.

A Life Cut Way Too Short.  

Lillian died at the age of 32 on January 26, 1921 from complications after a surgery. The certificate was so illegible, though, that I couldn't tell if it specified the type of surgery.

Another detail which sparked my curiosity was the marital status listed on her death certificate; divorced. Divorce, of course occurred back then but it was not nearly as prevalent as it is today.

I then began to comb the NYC marriage index in the hope of finding out about her marriage. No luck. And so notes from Lillian's death certificate sat in my records for years.

Divorced Female Who Left No Heirs

It was through a random, broad search of the surname "Krantzel" in New England Historic Genealogical Society's online databases that I discovered Lillian's marriage. In 1912 at the age of 24 she married an actor in Boston by the name of Charles Docen. Lillian's occupation on that record is listed as actress.

However, in the 1915 NY State Census, Lillian is listed as single and living with her parents in New York City. There Lillian's occupation is listed as pianist. In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, just months before her death, Lillian is again listed as single living with her parents in Manhattan. On that last census her occupation is listed as organist employed at a movie house.

It makes me wonder how long Lillian was married to Charles Docen and just what it was that lead to there divorce. I can only imagine that it must have been something profound for her to return to using her maiden name.

Many Musicians Share Beautiful Resting Place

Last year I was able to visit Kensico Cemetery where Lillian is buried with her parents. It is a lovely cemetery; the final resting place of many famous people; a bevy of musically talent surrounds her including jazz-great Tommy Dorsey, composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Florenz Ziegfeld of the famed Ziegfeld Follies. 

Sadly, though, like so many of my relatives, Lillian's grave is unmarked. In fact, a gravedigger had to take us to the grave because she is in one of the oldest sections of the cemetery and it is not laid out like the rest of the sections. He too seemed a little sad to find there was no headstone on the plot.

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