Lillian’s Family History

I met Lillian at the assisted living facility where my mom is. Lillian was curious about her husband’s family and I was curious about Lillian’s so I said that I would look into both.

Lillian’s Husband – Willis Leslie Thomas (1931-2008)

I found this photo of Willis on-line:

Here is Willis in the 1940 Census living in Somerville with a large family:

The family was living at 104 Broadway:

I believe that Lillian said that Willis was one of 13. There were eight at the time of the 1940 Census. According to Willis’ obituary there were his surviving siblings as of 2008:

4 sisters, Amy Mulligan of Somerville, Eva Goss of Malden, Hazel Salvato of Somerville and Gale Ludy of MO; 2 brothers, Harvey Thomas of Hillsdale, MI and Frank Thomas of SC

That means that there could have been 6 siblings that had passed away as of 2008. Here are the family members that I could find:

Here is some more information from Willis’ obituary:

ONSET — Willis L. Thomas, 76, of Onset, died June 21, 2008, at home. He was the husband of Lillian B. (Kempton) Thomas. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on May 25, 2008. He was the son of the late Elmer and Cora (Farra) Thomas.

He was born in Somerville and lived in Dracut before moving to Onset in 1977.

Mr. Thomas was the former owner of Cape Cod Charlie’s, one of the most popular bait and tackle shops in the Upper Cape.

He was an Arts & Crafts Teacher at the Waltham Boys & Girls Club and Assistant Director at Camp Mitten in Brewster.

Mr. Thomas was a skilled artist of painting, carving and drawing. He was a highly skilled veteran of fishing and hunting. He will be greatly missed by all those who participated in his life.

Elmer Smith Thomas (1896-1967)

Willis’ parents were Elmer and Cora May Farrar. Elmer was born in Boston at Island Street:

Elmer’s father was a foreman from Maine his mother was from Boston. In 1900, the family was living at 6 Reading Street:

Reading Street was just around the corner from Island Street. Here is Elmer in 1917:

Elmer was a leather belt maker living at 19 Leonard Street in Dorchester. Elmer had blue eyes and light hair:

Elmer’s dad died in 1906 at the age of 81. However, he was 71 when his son Elmer was born. In 1940, Elmer was listed as a shoe salesman.

Willis’ Grandfather William B Thomas (1825-1906)

Here is William’s death record:

Here is the record of William’s third marriage:

His wife was thirty years younger than he was. Here is Elmer with his sister Margaret and mother Annie in the 1920 Census:

Elmer and Margaret were probably supporting their mother Annie. Annie’s father was born in Scotland and her mother was born in Massachusetts

Willis’ Mother – Cora May Farrar (1903-1989)

Willis’ mother Cora was born in Townsend, MA:

According to her birth record, Cora’s father James was from Troy, NH and worked in a livery stable. Cora’s mother Mary was from Townsend. Here is Cora living in Townsend in 1910:

Cora’s mother was listed as the proprietor of a hotel. The boarders are shown above. Cora’s mother Mary is shown as married, but I don’t know where her father was at the time of the Census. He does show up in the 1920 Census as a hotel keeper.

Willis’ Great-Grandfather Benjamin

Willis’ great-grandfather is shown below living in Belmont, Maine as a farmer in 1850:

Willis’ grandfather William had moved to Boston by this time. Belmont is near Belfast, Maine.

Here is Benjamin’s grave marker:

He was listed as a Deacon:

Willis’ grandfather William was missed on the website above. Here are some more of the ancestors of Deacon Benjamin Thomas:

If I have my connections right, Willis’ Thomas line goes back to David Thomas born 1620 in Wales. David made his way to Salem where he married, then he moved to Middleborough.

Lillian Father Frank Kempton – A Man of Mystery

Lillian’s father Frank Kempton was from Canada. In 1940, Frank was at Tewksbury Hospital:

Frank was listed as 74. He likely died that same year. Here are Frank’s daughters living with Franks wife Catherine in 1940:

They were Catherine or Kathryn, Ida and Lillian.

Ida Jane and Lillian Bess were born in Ayer, so I assume that Frank lived in Ayer at that time also.

Getting the Right Frank Kempton

There was more than one Frank Kempton in the Boston area, so it is important to get the right one. I don’t think this is the right Frank living in Roxbury:

This Frank was married in 1920 and the proprietor of a furniture company, but was also born in Canada about 1865.

This is more likely Lillian’s Frank in 1920:

This Frank was a single machinist living in Boston. His birthplace said unknown, but then someone wrote in NS for Nova Scotia. Here is a transcription of the 1925 Boston Directory:

Here the machinist Frank is Frank E Kempton. The 1916 Boston Directory only shows Frank E Kempton:

Here is Frank E in 1937 still in Boston:

That means that either Lillian’s father was living away from the family in Boston or that there were three Frank Kempton’s. I could find out more about Frank, but that would entail a trip to Boston to look up records. So until we find out more about Frank Kempton, he shall remain a man of mystery. Lillian did say that he served in the military.

Lillian’s Mother Catherine or Kate Bess

I’ll switch to Lillian’s mother Catherine. She was born in Ishpeming, Michigan in 1897. Here is Ishpeming:

Kate Bess was born in 1897. Here is Kate’s birth record showing her parents:

Kate’s father was a miner.

In 1910, Kate was at the Homme’s Orphanage in Wittenburg, Wisconsin:

Kate’s father had died and Kate was at the orphanage with two of her brothers. Here is what it looked like:

This orphanage was built by the Reverend Homme who was originally from Norway like Kate’s mother Ida:

Kate’s Trip from Montreal to England to Boston

Mary Smith and Kate Bess travelled from Montreal and arrived in Liverpool on 7 December 1932:

They were the only two aliens listed on the ship. This is because they were from the USA. Here is the destination they had listed:

Kate showed up in the Boston area in 1932 still travelling with Mary Smith:

This ship sailed from Liverpool. Perhaps Kate’s US address was listed as the same as Mary Smith’s, so perhaps Kate worked for or with Mary? The address is 28 Russell Street, Atlantic. There is a 28 Russell Street in Charlestown, but this would be a guess.

Kate’s daughter Ida Jane Kempton was born in 1934, so a good guess for Kate’s marriage would be 1933. Here is a listing for Kathryn about 1954:

Kate died in 1975 in Pinehurst, MA.

Kate or Kathryn’s Father William Bess 1863-1898

Kate likely never remembered her father as she was born in 1897 and her father died in 1898. William was only 35 when he died of typhoid fever.

According to this record, William was born in England as were his parents Richard Bess and Elizabeth Paul. William married on 12 September 1891 in Marquette:

William’s wife was listed as Ida Holsen but was probably Ida Olsen or Olson.

Kate’s Mom – Ida Olson from Norway

Here is a short timeline for Ida:

This shows her birth, marriage, the birth of her three sons and a daughter and then the death of her husband when Ida was only 27.

Here is the last mention of Ida Bess in the Ishpeming Directory of 1899:

On 16 December 1900, about two years after William died, Ida remarried another miner – James Moyle:


I’ve been able to get Lillian’s ancestry back a few years. On her husband Willis’ side I got back to the 1600’s in Wales. On the other sides, not so far. Willis is balanced off by Lilian’s dad Frank Kempton who I have very little information on. Lillian’s mom Kate had some travel in her life that Lillian didn’t know about. Kate sailed from Montreal to Liverpool and the next year to Massachusetts where she settled. Kate’s family benefited by the generosity of a man named Reverend Hommes who built an orphanage and helped out not only orphans but many others.




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