A Second Look: More about Lish and Mary

Through a combination of census records and city directories, I’ve pieced together a rather troubled relationship between my grandfather, Lish Askew, and his first wife, Mary.

Using information from the 1930 census, I estimated that Lish and Mary were married in about 1926.  Whether or not it was a legal marriage, I cannot say.  From past conversations with older family members, common law marriage in the Black community during the Jim Crow Era was not uncommon.  This meant the woman could use the man’s last name without having a legally binding document or ceremony.  If the relationship went sour, they could pack up and go their separate ways without the need for messy divorce proceedings.  Most of us back then didn’t have a whole lot of possessions to fight over in the first place.  It’s possible that this could have been the arrangement or understanding between the two of them.

At the time of their marriage, my grandfather was 19 years old, and Mary was 32 years old.  I cannot imagine the circumstances that brought them together.  What would a relatively seasoned woman see in a young man 13 years her junior?  Why would a young man be into a woman 13 years his senior?  Perhaps it was a symbiotic relationship of sorts?  Maybe Mary wanted companionship, and Lish wanted to get away from the sharecropping life in Clayton County, Georgia?  It’s only speculation.

They were married for 14 years, but not always under the same roof.  Following the paper trail, they lived on Eden Avenue on the 1930 census and things were stable between the two until 1931.  I’m assuming they were separated as Lish appears in the Atlanta City Directory as renting a rear room/apartment alone on E. Confederate Avenue.

The house where Lish rented a room/apartment in 1931 still stands. Image capture: Jan 2023 © 2023 Google

In 1932, Lish returned to Eden Avenue, but was living there alone.  There may have been a brief reconciliation, but they seemed to have separated again.  In 1934, Lish and Mary were together again on Connally Street.  They resided there together until about 1937.

The house where Lish and Mary lived from 1934 until about 1937. It’s undergone renovations, but is still standing.  Image capture: Jan 2023 © 2023 Google

In 1938, it appears that Lish and Mary had separated yet again.  Mary was living alone at the Connally Street address.  However, in 1939 Lish and Mary were back together again at a home on Decatur Street.  This reunion would be short-lived, because in 1940 Mary remained at the home on Decatur Street while Lish and his new wife, Lady Beatrice, were living with his nephew’s family in DeKalb County, Georgia.  This time the  separation between Lish and Mary was final.

What happened to Mary after she and my grandfather finally separated?  For a while, it seemed like she fell off the edge of the Earth.  I could not find a single shred of information on her until just recently.  I came across a record of death that could possibly belong to Mary.

If this is my grandfather’s ex-wife, she died less than a decade after they split.  I searched the local newspapers and found death announcements that coincide with the date on this death record as well as the race.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) · 12 Mar 1948, Fri · Page 30

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) · Sat, Mar 13, 1948 · Page 10

My plan moving forward is to order a copy of her death certificate.  Since she kept my grandfather’s last name, there is a chance that his name may be noted on it.  In addition, I’ll get a concrete source for her maiden name and the name of her parents.