I did that… Saturday morning I woke up and grabbed myself I big cup of coffee and I opened my laptop and I started researching. I wanted to know when my great grandaunt’s 1st husband died, because I had nothing on him except a few photographs and his name was W.D. “Woody” Cook
Let me introduce you to Woody Cook, or at least what I knew of him. My grandma before she passed away showed me this photograph of her uncle. She said she was a little girl when he passed away so she only has a few memories of him. She said he was funny, always made her aunt Rena laugh and everyone else around him. And he would talk about being in the circus as a young man, but she couldn’t remember what he did something to do with taking care of the horses. And she remembered the scare on his face, but could not remember what happened to him.
That was the extent of what I knew about Woody Cook. And it was so hard to find him! I found a William D. Cook years ago, and I accepted him as Woody. 3 wives and 4 children in the same area that my great aunt lived in for a time. But Saturday I got to looking at the information on him and with his birthdate of 1813 he would’ve been 75 years old when my great aunt was born… nope that wasn’t him. So I deleted everything I had about him and started over. Looking for W. D. Cook. and Rena Cook, I knew that Aunt Rena came over from Canada in 1905 and that she was born in 1888 with the full name Lurena M. Tyrrell.
I narrowed my search to 1920 Census in Michigan. I found a Rena Cook born about 1889 in Canada married to a Woodason Cook born about 1875 in Pennsylvania. They were living in Detroit, Michigan on Brush Street, he was working as a Street Car Conductor and she was a Waitress in a Restaurant. It seemed likely but I wasn’t going to assume anything again… so I saved it to my Shoebox on Ancestry and kept on searching. Next I found Rena Cook in the 1905 US City Directories living in Kalamazoo, Michigan and working as a Stripper. Still no real proof that this was my Rena…. Nothing else, no other documents popped up.
I dug out my photos I had of Lurena “Rena” and tried to look for clues. The following photo I got from my grandma. This photo is in a little folder with handwriting that says “To Dear Papa From your loving son and daughter Woody and Rena Cook” I looked a little closer to the photo, took it out of the sleeve, nothing else written on the photo. As I put it back into the sleeve, I noticed the studio mark on the sleeve. Imrie Studio on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit. So maybe the 1920 Census was them….
Focusing on Woodason Cook, I found a marriage record of Woodason Duane Cook to a Mary Lorena Richard in London, Middlesex, Ontario, Canada, married on 24th of June 1918. At first I was going to ignore this, but FamilySearch.org had an image so I decided to look at the image. The image is kind of hard to read, but it was transcribed and it showed Mary Lorena Richard’s parents as James Tyrrell and Sarah Colbeck – my 2nd great grandparents!!! YAY!! (Also this rules out the 1905 US City Directory of Rena Cook in Kalamazoo working as a stripper, because she wasn’t a Cook until 1918)
According to this document, Lurena (known as MARY LORENA) was a widow and Woodason Duane Cook was a bachelor living in Detroit. They listed their religious denomination as Baptist for him and White Brothern of ? for her. Their witnesses were Ada A Williamson of Chelsey and Mable L. Bingham of London. J. Williamson of Chesley and a Methodist minister was the clergy that married them. It also states both their parents names, W. Alexander Cook and Millie Turnour for Woodason and James Tyrrell and Sarah Colbeck for Mary Lorena. His occupation was “Soldier”.
This answered one question of the 1920 Census, but left me with more questions.
- Was Mary her real first name? I had always saw her name as Lurena M. Tyrrell
- When did Lurena start going by Lurena? (Canadian Census of 1891 & 1901 have her listed as Lurena)
- Who was this other husband who was by the last name Richard? and when did he die?
- When did she come to America? 1930 US Census has her coming in 1905
I found a Detroit, Michigan, US, Border Crossing, Crew and Passenger List for 8th of Oct 1918 arriving in Detroit, Michigan for Lurena Cook. No other information found on the card.
Back to the photo of Woody and Rena from above, I can determine that the photography studio Imrie Studios did business out of their Gratiot Avenue location from 1916-1918, so this photo was most likely taken in 1918 the year they got married, probably after October when Rena came over.
I found the following articles on Ancestry.com about Wooda Cook Jr.
This was quite exciting to me and confirmed my grandmother’s story of him belonging to the Circus. But it looks like both his parents were well known Circus performers. But the name got me, Wooda, it just didn’t match anything I had. Then I dug out another photo I had of Rena & Woody….
This was the first photo I received of Rena & Woody… I flipped it over and what do I see… written in ink are the words….
Aunt Rena & Uncle Wooda
It made the connection I was looking for, these documents proved to me that this was the Woody I was looking for. This sent me down the rabbit hole of genealogy that kept going all night long. I found him with his mother and 3 silbings in 1880 in Fayette City, Pennsylvania he was 6 years old. I haven’t been able to find him in 1900 or 1910 yet. I found his death certificate and his FindAGrave memorial. I found his baptism record from the New York, U.S., Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records that give his birth date as 11th of May 1874 in Fayette City, Pennsylvania and his baptism date as 3rd of Feb 1879 at Saint Peters Chapel in New York City. His parents are Alexander Woodason Cook and Carlotta Cook. Under the date of his baptism was the word Quinquagesima (I linked the Wikipedia page) but in short it’s the Sunday before Lent.
I found so much more on Lurena M. Tyrrell and Woodason D. Cook… but that will have to be for another day.
Thanks for reading, Sherry