Friday, 22 July 2016

Week 29: Suicide by Firearm

I am not 100% sure what to make of this.   My first reaction was total heartbreak and sorrow when I found the death certificate for a person in the tree.  The cause of death was suicide by firearm.  What demons or hardships had this poor man gone through, that he had felt there was no way out but death?  I had to learn more to try to understand why!

So let’s start at the very beginning.  George Henry Symes was born in Quebec, Canada in 1853 not 1855 as seen in the above death death certificate. (the first of many discrepancies)  His parents were Robert Symes and Mary Palin.
Symes, George Henry in baptized son of Robert Symes, farmer, Leeds, and his wife Mary, by her maiden name Palin, was born the tenth day of February 1853 and was baptized the 15th day of January in the following year.
A very large American contingency of the Palin family tree comes from Mary’s parents, William Palin and Maria Ann Thomason.  William and Maria immigrated to Canada in 1830. Six of their children were born in Cheshire and immigrated with them and they had two more children born in Quebec.

Mary Palin married Robert Symes in Quebec in 1849 in Leeds, Mégantic, Québec.  There were eight children born in total and George was number four in the birth order.  In the 1871 Quebec census, George aged 18, is living with his parents working on the farm and his occupation given was farmer.

Most of the children then moved to the USA and so did George.  The next thing we find is a marriage for George in May 1880 in Carrol, New Hampshire to a Cora Rollins.  In the 1880 census George’s age is 25 and Cora’s is 16 years of age.

Then we find a divorce for the two on October 12 1886 in Whitefield, New Hampshire and the cause for divorce was abandonment. 
Marriage and divorce records
Then only 19 days later on Oct 31, 1886, George remarries to a Mary L Sanborn in Belknap, New Hampshire.

I could not find George in the 1891 census.  The next thing found was a divorce from Mary granted Oct 9 1896 in New Hampshire.  The reason from the divorce was extreme cruelty.

Then on August 17, 1898, George marries again.  He married Nellie Fisher in Littleton, New Hampshire.

We find George in the 1900 census living with his older sister Eliza and her husband, Charles Winn in Barnet, Vermont.  George is listed as married but his wife is not living there.    We found Nellie living in Barre, Vermont and she is listed as married as well.  Barre and Barnett are about 36 miles apart in Vermont.

I was not totally surprised when I found divorce papers granted for George and Nellie on Oct 15 1909.  The cause for the divorce was abandonment.

I could not find George in the 1910 census but found another marriage for him.  On March 6, 1919 in St Johnsbury, Caledonia, Vermont, George marries Esther J Smith.

So why on earth would a newly married man commit suicide less than twelve months later?
Below is a newspaper article found that reports the suicide.

Boston Post January 24, 1920
(St Johnsbury, VT Jan 23 - George H Symes, a local carpenter, today shot and killed his wife, whom he married only last June, and then after escaping and fleeing to the home of his sister a quarter of a mile away shot himself when he learned the police were pursing him.  He died tonight at Brightlook hospital.   The Symes had not been living together of late because of alleged unpleasant relations.   Symes fired one shot at his wife, the bullet killing her instantly.  He was 65 years old and she was 48.)

The article may answer the question why he killed himself and perhaps why he killed his wife. However it raises another question brought forth by my daughter.  Did he have undiagnosed mental issues?  What else might have possibly happened in this man’s life that led him to this horrific demise?

Sometimes the more you know, the less you understand.

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