The mysterious life of my mother’s half-sister

Although my mother was his only surviving child, her father always said he had another during his first marriage. He implied that the baby died as an infant, Mom says; in fact, I discovered this weekend, the little girl lived nearly six years.

My grandfather, Robert Bruce, was seventeen when he wed Nettie Mason, then sixteen, in May, 1925. A year later Nettie gave birth to Bonnie Katharine Bruce, and three years after that, just months before the start of the Great Depression, Nettie and Robert divorced. The announcement appeared in the July 26, 1929, issue of the Dallas Morning News.

By the time of the 1930 census, three-year-old Bonnie was living as a “boarder,” apparently without either parent or any other relatives, in a house in Arcadia Park, a section of Oak Cliff.

Two years later she died in Denton. Of what, I don’t know. Neglect? Starvation? Tuberculosis? I’ve requested a full death certificate in hopes of finding out.

Updated to say: She died of diphtheria. Previously in Robert Bruce lore: his thirteen marriages, including the wife who shot him in the stomach and the one he cheated on my grandmother with; the adultery letters; his careers as union president and garment cutter, mechanic, and Phoenix real estate agent; his obituary, and his early and final last will and testament.


Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to my free newsletter, Ancestor Trouble.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.