As If Their Little Hearts Would Break

Bgirls at Adrian
Industrial Home for Girls at Adrian, Michigan

This is the second post based on a cabinet card I found in a shop in Allen, Michigan.  The photo was identified as Inez Swartz “Adrian Home girl,” which was a term used for residents of the Adrian Industrial School for Girls. If you’d like to see the complete cabinet card image and read my earlier post, you can do so here.

Identified on the reverse as Inez Swartz “Adrian Home girl”

Girls were sent to live at the Home for Girls for a variety of reasons including running away, homelessness, poor home environment, or any behavior that was considered unbecoming.

There were no girls named Inez living in the Adrian Industrial School when the 1900 census data was collected but there were three Swartz girls; Addie and Ada, 15-year-old twins, and their 17-year-old sister, Lizzie.  I found no record of these girls using the name Inez at any time during their lives so I don’t believe they’re our sitter.

Of course, it’s important that we take into consideration that written identifications are only as good as the person’s memory and knowledge at the time it was penned.  Could someone have identified this photo many years later and been confused about the name?  Absolutely.

B_1898 Mar 31 SWARTZ children REMOVED FROM HOME The News Palladium Benton Harbor MI
Mar. 31, 1898 ~ The News Palladium, Benton Harbor (MI)
B_1898 Mar 30 SWARTZ Children AGES The News Palladium Benton Harbor MI
Mar. 30, 1898 ~ The News Palladium, Benton Harbor (MI)

While searching newspapers I came across the above articles which not only solved the mystery of how Addie, Ada, and Lizzie ended up in the Home for Girls, but also provided two more possible matches; Lulu and Flossie Swartz.  As if the story wasn’t distressing enough, I’m sure that the reporter’s description of the children “crying as if their little hearts would break” brought a tear to the eye of even the most calloused reader, it definitely did to mine.

Could one of the youngest Swartz children be our sitter?  The ages fit, as I estimate Inez was about thirteen to fifteen years old when her photo was taken sometime in the early 1900s and I knew it was plausible that the names Lulu and Flossie were nicknames. Tracking them down took some time.

It was common practice for the Adrian Home to send girls to live and work on farms in neighboring communities and, at least for Flossie, that ended up being the case.  The grand discovery came by way of a Shiawassee County, Michigan marriage record for a Florence Miller.  Flossie had indeed been a nickname.  It’s a lesson that we should always inspect documents when they are available and not rely on the transcribed previews.



The name Swartz was not transcribed, nor was the notation “by adoption” that you see added below the mother’s name.  Florence had escaped life at the Adrian Home for Girls and was adopted by John and Sarah Miller.  Was her life better for it? I hope so.

1942 Feb 26 SWARTZ Florence OBIT Lansing State Journal MI
Feb. 26, 1942 ~ Lansing State Journal (MI)

Florence died in 1942 and her obituary led me to Lulu whose given name was Louise Elizabeth.  Louise wed Ralph Robinson in 1907, but where was she in 1900 while her older sisters were living at the Adrian Home?  I located a 13-year-old Lizzie Swartz living as a servant with the Reed family in 1900 in Barton Township, Michigan.  Since Louise’s middle name was Elizabeth this might have been her.    

With all of the Swartz girls accounted for and no evidence to suggest any of them used the name Inez, should they be ruled out? What if, as I mentioned earlier, the identification on the cabinet card is flawed? Speaking of that, here’s another case to consider:

Our sitter might have been Agnes Schwartz, a 14-year-old in 1904, who I initially thought was the weakest theory as there was no evidence or circumstance (such as a parent’s death) to support Agnes being sent to the Adrian Home for Girls.  Of course that’s a silly reason since all it would have taken is something as simple as sassing her father or skipping school.

I can see how someone might have confused the names Agnes and Inez, as they have a similar ring to them.  There is also the fact that Agnes lived in Algansee, Michigan, which was a mere 18 miles west of Hillsdale where our sitter posed for her photo.  I always had the photographer’s location in the back of my mind, wondering how it played into this mystery.  Inez Yoder and the Swartz sisters all lived 75 to 115 miles from Hillsdale.  Wouldn’t their families have used a studio that was closer to home?

Bgirls at Adrian 2

I wondered if the Home for Girls, 35 miles east of Hillsdale, might have taken some of the residents to have their photos taken.  Maybe the photographers made a “house call” to the institution. However, girls living at the Adrian Home wore uniforms of white blouses and skirts, so our sitter’s attire doesn’t fit that hypothesis.

By the age of twenty, Agnes was boarding with a family in Coldwater and working as a Cutter in a shoe factory.  She married Sam Ferree in 1910 and had one son, Clifford.  Agnes died in 1967 and is buried in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Were any of the girls I researched the young woman from our cabinet card?  Out of all of them, I think Inez Yoder is the most probable match. But, I have to say that the answer is more likely that it’s none of them.  Ha!  What do you think?

In a couple days I’ll be making a wrap-up post focusing on the Adrian Home for Girls itself, and what life held in store for some of the other young women who lived there in 1900.  Beware, it’s far from a pretty picture…

Census records
Find a Grave
Juvenile Delinquency: Historical, Cultural & Legal Perspectives, pub. 2001
In the Archives: Criminal Girls
State Industrial School for Girls
“Early Adrian”, presented by the American Association of University Women, Adrian, Michigan, 1964, Swenk-Tuttle Press, revised 1973.



9 thoughts on “As If Their Little Hearts Would Break

  1. Interesting stuff for those who enjoy genealogical research such as myself. Yesterday based on your previous post I did a lot of searching and was able to find more data about that Yoder family. And I was able to reunite the daughters with their parents and siblings via some existing Find A Grave memorials which had not been connected, with the discovery of these records.

    The biggest “flaw” in your continuing research, in my opinion, is that you have assumed that Inez was a “bad girl” and was sent to that place because of that. But I felt from the start, and your posts today confirm, that most likely Inez was sent there simply because of her age, and the fact that both parents had died, leaving her an underage orphan. I don’t know what Michigan was like for young females, but based on these photos today, IF they were ONLY delinquents, there sure was a heck of lot of them! As your research today also proves, bad parenting is not a reflection on the children’s deportment, but is never-the-less a reason for the state/municipal to place them in the home.

    Inez married in 1909, as Inez Yoder, and though she had not been taken in by her elder sister/mother in 1902 when their mother died, Inez and her husband took in that widowed elder sister/mother and as you found they are listed together in the 1930 census, the sister’s husband having died in 1923. This elder sister died only 3 years later in the State Hospital 1933.

    Regarding yesterday’s comments, it may well prove true that Inez was the elder sister’s “illegitimate” daughter, and so was raised as the youngest sibling by her parents.

    (My own maternal grandfather, b.1870 was raised as the youngest in the family; his bio mother was believed by him to be his eldest sibling 23 years senior to him but it was a large family and there were children ranging in ages down close to his own. He did not learn the truth until her death, when he was already 49!)

    And because of my own family history, I may be biased, but I find it highly UN-likely that the family would up and move so far away, simply to disguise the fact that Inez was not actually the daughter of her grandparents. They were farmers, not high society, so I doubt unwed motherhood would be the cause of such a major upheaval. But who knows!

    Maybe Inez was actually sent to her sister and brother-in-law’s home at the death of their mother, but for economic, or simply intra-familial reasons couldn’t stay with them, and so the sister and brother-in-law brought her to the home, and thus she got the name of Swartz through that process. Or maybe she even went to the sister’s with the INTENT of being placed at the home. Maybe the photograph was a “resume” photo with the school trying to place her in a job? Many “what ifs” for sure.

    What proof do we have for Inez’s illegitimacy? The photo has the name Swartz, her eldest sister married a Swartz, and the census says the sister is “mother-in-law” to Inez’s husband. But whether Inez was the daughter or the sister, her birth name would still be Yoder, and that’s what she’s married under in 1909.

    (this comment is much too long for such, so feel free to not post it, or edit it as you wish. Also, coincidentally Inez and I share a birthday!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lots of great input! There’s just so much that we have no way of knowing without a family member’s input. I really hoped I’d be able to get in touch with a grandchild of Inez Yoder who would have some photos or answers. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Luckily for me, I really enjoy researching so even though I never found a definitive match I had fun trying. And how cool that you share a birthday with Inez Yoder. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  3. I think it’s relevant that the Swartz sisters’ mother “ran away from Niles last week in company with a colored man.” How common could that have been? I think it significantly increases the likelihood that your sitter is connected to that family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is definitely one the bits of info that make me lean towards the Swartz sisters. That and the fact that I have a record of them actually being sent to the Home. But, if it is then why the name Inez? I go back and forth so much with which one I favor which is why I always end up thinking it’s none of them. lol!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is sad. Even more so because I recently read a book reconstructing the life of a girl who was sent to a home like this in the home was very abusive. I’m trying to remember the name of the book. The letter V is part of the title.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds more and more like this won’t have any tidy resolution. I run into this myself at times and it is frustrating, but what can you do? The Inez/Agnes angle is plausible. I have a family name in my tree of Rackleff. Many times it got recorded as Radcliffe. One member of the family eventually just changed his last name to Radcliffe!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s hard for me to follow the research assumptions without actually doing it myself but with that said I think your doing a fantastic research job on this. I agree with Tokens of Companionship on the newspaper article and would follow that thread…. great mystery posting and follow up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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