Monday, January 28, 2013

Nelle Marie Foley - My Great Grandmother

Nell was born in 1906 in Chicago and died in August 29, 1966 in San Diego. 6 days after I was born. According to my mother, and passed down from her mother, Patricia, Nell was married to Al Capone bookie, Maximillian Von Wille and Max was murdered by Capone's hit men. Nell and Max divorced after Nell gave birth to Patricia, my grandmother. Nell remarried James Wilson and raised my grandmother.

A few years ago I got a couple of emails from a man who was researching James Wilson. I am going to copy/paste them here to go back on. Mr. Rotenstein, the man who emailed me didn't believe my story of Nell being married to Max and then James Wilson. He doesn't think since she "integrated so well into upper middle class society" that such a scandalous past could exist. He kept insisting the James Wilson is my grandmother Patricia's father. I can assure you Mr. Rotenstein, he isn't. Nelle Foley was married to Max Von Wille and he is Patricia's father. My Great Grandfather.

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From: David Rotenstein
To: tbreese823@comcast.net
Sent: Fri, 31 Jul 2009 13:54:50 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Nell M. Wilson

I am a Washington-area historian working on a history of 1930s suburban developers and I think the person you posted a query about, Nell M. Wilson (1906-1966) was the wife of developer James Wilson. If so, I am looking for biographical information on James and Nell. I have very little personal information about the Wilsons and am giving a paper on their work at an academic conference in November. Please do not hesitate to write for additional information.

Regards,

David Rotenstein


_______________________________________
David S. Rotenstein, Ph.D.
david.rotenstein@earthlink.net
http://www.historian4hire.net
http://www.linkedin.com/in/dsrotenstein
10308 Edgewood Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20901
(240) 461-7835

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From: tbreese823@comcast.net
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 2009 17:29:39 +0000 (UTC)
To: David Rotenstein
Subject: Re: Nell M. Wilson
Hi and thank you for your email. I don't have much info on the Wilsons. Nell is my great grandmother and her previous husband, Max Wille is my great grandfather. She had a daughter, Patricia with Max that James raised (Patricia is my grandmother). Now that you have told me about James, I have a little more to go off for research. Thank you. I wish I could find more on Nell, was told she was a writer of some sort.
Tanya
By the way, we are now in the Roanoke area.

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BTW, it was Nelle's mother, Margaret Foley, who wrote for a couple of Chicago papers. She apparently followed her daughter to Miami and then Maryland. Nelle I think was the marketing genius behind James's real estate developments. One of her best may have been conceiving the DC World's Fair home in 1939, which is the focus of my research. For a while in the late 30s they lived 2 blocks from where we live.

David

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Hi Tanya,

Based on the information I got last week I was able to construct a partial lineage for Margaret Foley-Nelle Foley Wilson (pasted below). I'm not sure where you got the Wille information but Nelle M. Foley Wilson -- she signed her name Nelle in legal documents -- so far has no legal connection to a Wille. I was able to locate a Chicago Tribune newspaper article that reported Max Wille Sr.'s wife, Theresa, filed for divorce because he threw their live cat into the stove (in 1925). Nelle Wilson integrated well into upper-middle-class society in Silver Spring and was frequently in the newspaper -- a scandalous divorce and remarriage does not appear likely. Also, the 1930 census shows that the marriage to James Wilson occurred in c. 1927, just before Patricia's birth. Unless there is some documentation to show that Nelle was married briefly to two people in the late 1920s, the divorce information you reported in your posts is suspicious.

David

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Hi Tanya,

Based on the information I got last week I was able to construct a partial lineage for Margaret Foley-Nelle Foley Wilson (pasted below). I'm not sure where you got the Wille information but Nelle M. Foley Wilson -- she signed her name Nelle in legal documents -- so far has no legal connection to a Wille. I was able to locate a Chicago Tribune newspaper article that reported Max Wille Sr.'s wife, Theresa, filed for divorce because he threw their live cat into the stove (in 1925). Nelle Wilson integrated well into upper-middle-class society in Silver Spring and was frequently in the newspaper -- a scandalous divorce and remarriage does not appear likely. Also, the 1930 census shows that the marriage to James Wilson occurred in c. 1927, just before Patricia's birth. Unless there is some documentation to show that Nelle was married briefly to two people in the late 1920s, the divorce information you reported in your posts is suspicious.

David

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Hi David, thank you for that info. I don't have much time, running the boys to football practice but wanted to comment on this. The info I received was from my mother, Valerie Dembrosky Houle. She told me that her mother, Patricia's father, Maximillian Von Wille was a bookie for Al Capone and when Patricia was born, he threw Nell out the window because Patricia was a girl. Although that sounds strangley like the cat story you just told me. I'll be in touch tomorrow! T
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Thanks for the additional details. I'm continuing to work on my paper this week. I just entered this into my database -- it's a 1939 photo of Nelle M. Wilson (attached).

David
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If you look at the 1930 census (Miami), it indicates that the marriage
between Nelle and James occurred in c. 1927, a few months before Patricia
was born. Again, falling back on the legal documents, absent something that
confirms that Nelle was married to two men simultaneously, I find it a
little difficult to rely on family narratives as the definitive answer. Do
you have a copy of Nelle's death certificate -- not something transcribed by
a genealogist, but the actual 1966 document? The same is true for the Wille
divorce papers. Another direction to go is to get the Chicago divorce
documents showing the dissolution of Theresa and Max Wille's marriage (c.
1925). I went to the Montgomery Co., MD, clerk's office and register of
wills. There was no will nor any estate left by Margaret Foley in 1943 so
that's a dead end.

The Willes went to Illinois (in 1887 and lived in Chicago after 1888) via
New Jersey. Surviving newspaper accounts suggest that the family was
involved in real estate and as house painters/decorators. The Max Wille
(Sr.) who was born in Germany was born in 1856; his son, Max Jr., was born
in Illinois in 1905 -- he would have been the Wille to marry someone of
Nelle's age in the 1920s.

I think you wrote in one of your posts that Patricia is still alive and
living in California. Do you have contact information for her that you can
forward?

David
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Hi Tanya,

I'm at the Library of Congress today and just wanted to give you some additional information I found this morning. Margaret Foley, Nelle's mother, who died in 1943 in Silver Spring was married to Thomas Phelan Foley, son of Tom and Mary Foley. He was died May 9, 1923, in Chicago. According to his obit, his daughter Nelle was still unmarried. He also had one niece living in Jersey City, NJ (Mrs. C.B. Cordner).

Were you able to reconcile any of the discrepancies we swapped notes about last weekend?

David
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Yes, if you can email scans that would be great.In two weeks I'm going up to New York to use the1939 World's Fair records and they have some correspondence and other materials from James and Nelle Wilson.

David


-----Original Message-----
From: tbreese823@comcast.net
Sent: Aug 14, 2009 1:12 PM
To: David Rotenstein
Subject: Re: Thomas Foley

Hi and thank you for that! No, actually I have been swamped all week and haven't had a chance to do a thing BUT I did locate Max's death cert and I did have one for Nelle, I had forgotten that I ordered it. I had started on this couple about a year or so ago but my research was stopped as we were preparing to move to Virginia and I just haven't been able to dive back in. Unfortunately, when you take a break from it like that, you forget what you were researching. If you would like, I can scan a copy of Max's death cert and Nelles, maybe something will pop up for you? Thanks for the info on Thomas!
Tanya

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This must be the story he was working on:
A House Brought The 1939 World's Fair to Silver Spring (mentions of the Wilsons)

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Nelle Marie Foley Wille Wilson - My Great Grandmother
I just realized Nelle's middle name is Marie. I was born Michelle Marie Houle (Dembrosky) (adopted and my name was then changed to Tanya Annette Greer) anyways, I will have to ask my mother if my middle name is after Nelle's. I know that she named me Michelle because she was a teenager while pregnant with me and The Beatles Michelle, My Belle was a song she used to sing to me while pregnant :)





3 comments:

Birdman said...

Wow! No wonder she just lived 60 years... she had to pile a lot into it. Quite a story.

Buttons said...

Man Tanya this is why I love genealogy There is so much misinformation out there but the stories fascinate me. It is nice when you know the real story.
I had a Great G.G.Uncle who's address was listed residence as the a Canadian Pen apparently he was a good horse thief:) I love it, my Grandmother was embarrassed. I have no idea why this came in my blog reader but I surely did enjoy the story. Good luck figuring it out. B

Katrin said...

Such a wonderful story! Love it.