Monday, April 9, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maiden Aunt

This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks for 2018. The prompt for the week of April 2, 2018, is Maiden Aunt. I've already written about a few of my maiden aunts, so for this prompt I chose my maternal grandfather's sister, Helen Redles. 

I don't know much about Helen, except what I've read in the letters she wrote my grandfather, William. He relied on her a lot (and on his sister Isabelle) to take care of his business while he was overseas. 

Letter from Helen Redles to my mother after I was born

At one point, William and Helen had a rift over some possessions he'd left in Philadelphia while he was stationed elsewhere (he was a Marine). He accused her of taking his things and also some items their mother had promised him. I don't know what the outcome of all of this was. It's been a while since I read their letters, but I do remember that she pleaded innocent on both counts. 

The youngest of three, Helen Redles was born in Philadelphia on April 7, 1877, to Isabella Liming and George Albert Redles. She was the youngest sister of my maternal grandfather, William Liming Redles. Their other sister was Isabelle Redles. 

Helen Redles. No date on the photo.

Helen graduated from a girls’ high school in 1895; she’s listed among those of the class who were “especially distinguished” in a Philadelphia Inquirer article dated June 13, 1895. I’ve been told that Aunt Helen was an artist. In 1896, she graduated from the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, receiving a certificate in industrial drawing (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6 June 1896).

Helen fell deeply in love with a minister in the early 1910s who turned out to be a rogue. Her brother William had heard some talk about the man, and so he had interfered for the sake of his sister. And then Helen discovered that the man was also a two-timer. The relationship ended (from a paper Helen wrote that was sent to me by my Redles cousin). I can imagine her broken heart.

In the summer of 1912, Helen's mother Isabella fell ill and had to be hospitalized. During this same time, her father George Albert became sick and wasn't expected to live for much longer. Helen bounced between the hospital and her father's sick bed, "exhausted with grief and anxiety" (from Helen's paper). Her father died in November 1912, and her mother died four years later in 1916.

I’ve not been able to find Helen in the 1920 or 1930 census records. Some of the letters she wrote to my grandfather in the 1920s are from various places: Leavenworth, Kansas; Palmyra, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Several letters from 1930 and 1931 are from Palmyra, New Jersey.

Both of Helen’s siblings died in 1932: Isabelle on June 19th and William on August 29th. Now she was alone as far as immediate family. I wonder how that made her feel? Although, she did have nieces and nephews.

In a November 12, 1936, article in the Trenton Evening Times, Helen is listed as a faculty member at the annual convention of the New Jersey teachers association. In 1937, she signed a teaching contract with the Pemberton, New Jersey, Board of Education for a salary of $1,200 to be paid over ten months (a digital copy was sent to me by my Redles cousin). I believe she taught art. An article on the front page of the April 24, 1937, Trenton Evening Times, notes that Helen supervised a student art exhibit in the main hall of Pemberton High School for a parents/teachers meeting. In a January 12, 1940, article in the Trenton Evening Times, Helen is listed as the supervising teacher for art in the Make Up Day program at Pemberton High School.

According to the 1940 U.S. census for Burlington County, Pemberton, New Jersey, Helen was a lodger at the home of Jenny Woodington and had lived at the same address at least since 1935. Helen was still employed as a school teacher in 1940. By 1952, Helen was living in Chico, California; she's listed in the city directory for that city. It seems like my cousin told me she lived with them in California.

Helen died on May 5, 1962, at the age of 85. She’s buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Orland, California. I find it interesting that her death notice (transcribed on her findagrave memorial) only mentions her sister Isabelle’s children and says there are no other living relatives. Her brother William’s children, my mother Leona and her sister Catherine, were also Helen’s only living relatives! Well, besides all of the grand nieces and grand nephews.

I wish I could have seen some of Aunt Helen's art!


"High School Girls Receive Diplomas." Philadelphia Inquirer. June 13, 1895. Electronic copy,, accessed April 4, 2018.

"Groezingers Will Act as Hosts to Teachers,” Trenton Evening Times, November 12, 1936, page 27. Electronic copy,, accessed April 4, 2018.

"Pemberton Pupils Hosts to Parents." Trenton Evening Times, April 24, 1937, page 1.

"Pemberton High Opens Club Slate."  Trenton Evening Times, January 12, 1940, page 17. Electronic copy,, accessed April 4, 2018.

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