How Many Women, Richard?

Richard Finlay

Richard Finlay has been a challenge throughout my genealogical research career. He is my great-grandfather, my mother’s grandfather. Richard was born 14 January 1845 in Markham Township, York County, Ontario, Canada, to Richard Finlay and Mary Stewart, both allegedly from Scotland and/or Ireland. I’ve been pretty unsuccessful at finding Richard or his family in the 1851 or 1861 Ontario censuses, but do have a will for his father.

Richard (Jr.) claims to have come to the U.S. in 1863 in both the 1900 and 1910 censuses in Centerville, Turner, South Dakota. Until today, I was unable to find solid proof of his whereabouts between 1863 and 1880 in the U.S. Previously, the first document I know belonged to my Richard is a copy of his graduation program from the Ohio Medical College in 1880.

Graduation Program Medical College of Ohio Cincinnati 1880

Richard Finlay's Medical College Graduation

Amazingly, after years of looking for him in censuses, both manually and online, I just today finally found additional records for him, using a combination of search strategies including,, and FamilySearch pointed me to his 1880 census entry in Cincinnati (I hadn’t found it before because Finlay is spelled “Findley” and his first name is recorded “Richd.”):

He is listed here as a physician in June, after he had graduated in March that year. He’s single and boarding.

Then I hopped over to to see if I could find anything new on Richard. Searching on “Richard Finlay” in Cincinnati in 1880 produced no results in the WVR database, but showed Google Book results that I had never looked at before. According to The Cincinnati Lancet and Clinic, Volume 4, the graduation was a culmination of three years of study, so Richard was in Cincinnati at least since early 1877. But the most illuminating link is to History of Western Iowa: It’s Settlement and Growth:

So he went to Sanborn, Iowa in July 1881! Now I have a new lead to look for his possible first wife, as the 1885 Dakota Territorial Census shows him as widowed or divorced:

The census above was recorded on 1 June 1885. Richard married my great-grandmother, Grace Mabel Hatch, on 30 June 1885, according to the Centerville Chronicle of 2 July 1885. So Grace was apparently Richard’s second wife.

Grace and Richard had two children, Mabel and William (my grandfather). Sadly, Grace died on 30 May 1890 of a brain tumor, when William was only 5 months old. Mabel Louise, William’s sister, died in 1891 at age 5. So Richard was left a widower with an infant.

In the 1900 census, Richard is living alone and says he’s a widower, but by 1910 he says he is divorced. I have found divorce papers between Richard Finlay and Luella Davis Finlay dated 15 February 1902, from Turner County, South Dakota.

So who were these women, Richard? Who was your first wife? And who was Luella Davis? I haven’t been able to find more information on Luella through searches, but I’m not done yet. Anyone have any ideas?

© 2011, Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CG. All rights reserved.

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