Updated: Feb 3, 2019
When I first became interested in family history, my grandfather, Robert Leonard was already gone. I asked my grandmother what she knew about his parents and she said she couldn't remember his father's name, but that he had taken off and married a woman named "Valentine". She didn't know if that was her first name or her last name but she remembers Robert's mother, Rose, mentioning the name. She said he returned to visit his son, but Rose wouldn't allow it. She hushed everyone when he knocked at the door and pretended no one was home. She must have been pretty mad at him!
No one remembered his name, though. The only clue we had was "Valentine". This was about the year 2000, when the internet was just starting to fill up with knowledge from the past, so I did a search for the two words I knew, Leonard and Valentine. The results were numerous and I couldn't find any matches anywhere. I searched every website I could find, with no luck. I had to backtrack, starting with what I knew.
My grandfather lived in Marathon, Cortland County, New York, so I visited the town clerk's office to find his birth record and I got lucky. Here is a copy:
Imagine my excitement to learn his father's name? Albert J. Leonard. He was a farmer. But were they married? That was my next question. To my disappointment, the book of marriage records was destroyed by fire when somebody borrowed it years ago. So where did Albert go? I called my grandmother and told her I found his name. She said, "I told you his name was Albert".
I went back to the internet with my newfound knowledge. Adding the name Albert to my search, produced a hit for a cemetery index. It was for Rose Cemetery in Rose, New York. It was the record of Albert J. Leonard and his wife...Valentine. Could this be him?
My father confirmed he heard his grandfather lived in Clyde, which is about seven miles from Rose, so I decided to take a road trip to see what I could find out. I found the grave and snapped some photos. You can see them here.
After my visit to the cemetery, I went down to the town clerk's office to see if I could get a copy of his death certificate, but was only able to get a copy of his burial permit:
I then went to city hall and found a copy of Albert's will and found that he had included my grandfather in it. My father confirms he remembers Valentine coming to their house to give his father a car.
When I learned that Albert had a son named Richard, I contacted every Richard Leonard in central New York I could find a phone number for. After many calls, I finally reached a woman named Betty, whose husband, Richard Leonard, was the son of Albert and Valentine Leonard. She didn't know much about Albert's first marriage. She sent me the only photo I have of Albert, shown here:
Finally, Rose is shown here with her friend, Ina Rankin. Surely Ina knew the story of what happened between Rose and Albert, but we may never know!