The Vallance Babies of Johnstown, PA

George and Laverne Vallance had four stillborn babies (one set of twins) between 1922 and 1924 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. They had no other children.

Born Laverne Rhoads (1899-1962), the Vallance babies' mother is my 1st cousin 3x removed. Her father, George Washington Rhoads (1868-1929) was a younger brother of my 2nd great grandfather, John M. Rhoads (1852-1919)

Laverne was born less than one year before my great grandmother, Ida Rhoads Sears (1900-2002). The two were 1st cousins. It appears that they were close. 

Here are some photographs of Laverne from my great grandmother's photo album.

 Laverne Rhoads with her older and only sibling,  Clarence O. Rhoads (1893-1964) .

Laverne Rhoads with her older and only sibling, Clarence O. Rhoads (1893-1964).

 Laverne Rhoads looks to be about five years old here

Laverne Rhoads looks to be about five years old here

 Laverne Rhoads appears to be in her late teens or early 20s here

Laverne Rhoads appears to be in her late teens or early 20s here

Laverne's mother was a Jennie Kring (1871-1949). There were DOZENS of Kring and Rhoads family members living in and near Johnstown, Pennsylvania around this time. Jennie and Laverne's father, George, were two of at least 3 (that I know of) Kring/Rhoads marriages.

I wrote about the Kring family here: Discovering My Connection to the Kring Family of Pennsylvania. In her astounding tome about the Kring Family ("From Sea to Shinning Sea: The Kring Family."), Sandra Kring Leonard included this photo of Laverne, her mother Jennie, and her grandmother, Susan Donmyer.

 Laverne with her mother and grandmother

Laverne with her mother and grandmother

Laverne married George Vallance (1894-1935) likely in 1921. Around the beginning of 1922 Laverne became pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. On May 10th of that year, after five and a half months of pregnancy, the babies were stillborn. They were not named and their death certificates simply listed a male and a female "Infant Vallance". 

 Infant Vallance boy 1922

Infant Vallance boy 1922

 Infant Vallance girl 1922

Infant Vallance girl 1922

In the Fall that followed the loss of her twin babies, Laverne became pregnant again. After a six month pregnancy, on March 26, 1923, she lost her third child, a stillborn "Infant Vallance" girl.

 Infant Vallance girl 1923

Infant Vallance girl 1923

Tragedy befell this couple one last time when, less than a year later on November 16, 1924, they would lose another infant girl. 

 Infant Vallance girl 1924

Infant Vallance girl 1924

It does not appear that Laverne and George had any other children. George died in 1935 and on the 1940 census Laverne and her mother Jennie, both now widowed, were the only occupants of 800 Park Avenue in Johnstown, PA. 

Laverne died in 1962. Here is her obituary in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat on June 21, 1962. 

 Laverne Rhoads Vallance (1899-1962)  photo credit:   Brian J. Ensley

Laverne Rhoads Vallance (1899-1962)

photo credit: Brian J. Ensley

Laverne is buried at Grandview Cemetery in Johnstown, along with many in her family. Next to her, in "Highland 3 lot 307", there is a shared grave, simple and poignantly marked "Vallance Babies".  

It is hard to imagine the trauma that this family experienced in these few short years. Their mourning must have been profound. 

As a psychologist, genealogist, and historian here are some of the questions I have:

  • Why didn't Laverne name her babies?

  • How did Laverne mourn so much loss?

  • How close was my great grandmother (Ida) to Laverne and did she help her through these tragedies?

  • How did Laverne respond when Ida lost a much older children of her own in 1927. Was she able to be supportive? Was it retraumatizing?

  • What is the impact of multiple stillbirths on generations that might follow?

  • How are these traumas passed along from generation to generation in story and lore? Are they remembered or forgotten and why?

So you have similar stories in your family tree? I would appreciate hearing about them.


This is the 19th of 52 weekly posts planned for 2018. It was inspired by the #52Ancestors writing challenge issued by professional genealogist, Amy Crow Johnson. The challenge: once a week, for all 52 weeks of the year, write about a relative in your family tree.