Lost and found: Minnie Bryce

Updated: 20 hours ago

The blog is closed, and now consists only of this post as fitting to the End of Trail: Sandra Bryce aka Minnie Kirkman was the last mystery of 'holstory' and finding her final years adding no new knowledge to the life and times of Jelly Bryce, nor to holstory.

I should've found a way to require an I.Q. test for membership! Y'all aren't bright enough to see the dead canaries in your particular political mineshaft that is USA and it's been my lifelong habit to never interfere with people who insist on failure.

The site will stay up until the domain fails to renew.

Good luck, you're going to need it.

Minnie Bryce was Jelly Bryce's second wife, and 'five foot two, eyes of blue'. Turns out her mother of the identical name also was 5'2" tall, with blue eyes. By 'identical name' I'm looking backwards a bit: 'our' Minnie was born Minnie Alexandra Kirkman and that was her mother's married name, too. This, is who Minnie Bryce became after their divorce in circa 1942 that was the first full year of World War II.

When I started the research for Witty's and my Holstory book even her identity was unknown. Prior researchers like Ron Owens and Mike Conti were on the back foot because they didn't wait for the results of the 1940 census to be released in 2012. Instead they had only a woman's name who had appeared with D.A. Bryce in the circa 1940 Oklahoma City directories: Sandra. And English. And petite. It would take finding her sister, Elsie Earnshaw Kirkman previously presumed dead in '42 but who had lived until 1976, to finally discover how Minnie Kirkman Bryce had lived the rest of her life.

Owens' 2010 book, of which much is based on Bryce family interviews, acknowledges that Sandra was English and very attractive; petite and very short even in high heels. They met in Chicago as I had deduced but Owens had not found their marriage record because he had looked in SD, OK, and IL only. They married in VA! Here they are together on Jelly's WWII draft registration (from which draft he was exempt):

The 1940 Census identifies his wife as Sandra Bryce of England, and gives her approximate age, etc. And having this kind of info, today's uses a linkage system that is similar to Facebook's basic concept: find one person and Ancestry offers more records that could/should be the same person. Birth records, marriage, death, newspapers, other family members, etc. Like this one for the former Minnie (Kirkman) Bryce; now notice all the Kirkman names listed with her

So from the info available to me until today, I was able to identify her as being Minnie A. Kirkman born in October of 1911; same year as my Dad who was born that November. A newer record adds that her birthday was on the 13th. A small thing to know but welcome.

We know that she came to America in 1930 as a 'domestic' -- an au pair or even a maid. She lived with an aunt (her father's sister) in New Jersey at first then by 1935 had moved to Chicago. Who else was in Chicago, then the second largest American city after New York? Jerry Campbell, celebrated tommy gunner of the FBI and good mates with D.A. Bryce since their service together at Oklahoma City P.D; they joined the FBI within months of each other in 1934:

Can't be a coincidence because in 1936 she married Jelly Bryce; in VA of all places. That marriage certificate gives both her parents names and it is these accumulated bits of info that keep us researchers on the straight and narrow: no wishful thinking; this is either the same person or it's not.

Her mother having the identical names didn't make it easy! But also it didn't make things impossible, either. Yet I just couldn't get beyond Minnie's apparently final appearance, with Jelly, in the Oklahoma City directory for 1942. War had been declared by America upon the occasion of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Jelly had remarried in 1944; so it was mighty clear that he and 'Sandra' either had divorced or she had died.

I chased a theory that she had died in England in '42 because her family home was Liverpool and her somewhat younger sister Elsie had been recorded (erroneously; different woman) as dying there in January of that year. The port of Liverpool is special for British historians of WWII because it was the most bombed city outside of London during what was called The Blitz; and the final raid on Liverpool was in . . . January of '42.

Where am I going with all this? Well, it was in finding Minnie's sister Elsie Earnshaw Kirkman at her death that led me backwards to the fate of her sister Minnie Alexandra Kirkman -- who lived into the 21st century! Not so fortunate was Elsie who had died in 1967. And there her obituary lists her husband who was Victor Tonge (a common surname in England), her daughter Sandra (Howe, by marriage), and her sister . . . Sandra Higgison. Supporting details in Elsie's obituary are her age, her brothers' surnames of Kirkman. Suddenly it was all possible: that I had found Minnie Bryce and would learn about the rest of her life.

So I went looking for "Sandra Higgison"! That she could have changed her first name from Minnie to Sandra, and then either kept the Bryce surname or reverted to Kirkman (she married Jelly as a Kirkman despite having been married before), or remarried and taken a new surname had hopelessly complicated the search. Waiting for the 1950 census results that are due out April 2022 was the last, best hope.

But Sandra Higgison I could find. And there she was. Tracking back and forth among the records, she had continued her voyages between USA and Liverpool, sometimes as Minnie Higgison and sometimes as Sandra Higgison. Born 13 October 1911 to Sydney Earnshaw Kirkman and Minnie Alexandra (Riddell) Kirkman, and a sister Elsie Earnshaw Kirkman born 28 May 1914 all in Liverpool. Minnie had come to America in March of 1930 and appeared in that year's Census in New Jersey.

This was the era of the gangland wars and both Jelly and Jerry were right there at the coalface. And Minnie not only was 'five foot two, eyes of blue' (see below) as with the popular 1920s song, but also was named Minnie as was the even more popular song, 'Minnie the Moocher' from Cab Calloway. If you're young you'll know this latter tune best as the rousing 'hey dee hey dee hey dee ho' song that legend has it, is because Calloway had forgotten some lines; and these became lines for the audience to shout back to the stage. All that and gangbusters like Jerry and Jelly? And surely with the diminutive Minnie looking quite like Betty Boop? And with that Liverpool accent? Irresistible:

So after a trip back and forth between Mexico and Oklahoma with her mother (I know, right) Minnie simply . . . disappeared. I can't say that I feared her dead; born 1911 she couldn't have made it to the tail end of 2021 regardless. But I kept referring back to Ancestry records in the hopes that I would finally be able to bring closure to her life.

Owens' book states that the two had divorced because she was "running around on" Jelly. Well, she was 'hot' and he was never home! By 1959 she had returned from London as Minnie A. Higgison via TWA, final destination Santa Cruz CA. And in Santa Cruz . . . were her sister Elsie and husband Victor Tonge -- they had resettled there via the S.S. Sue Lykes in 1947 with their new daughter also named Alexandra who later was known as . . . Sandra.

Then across the Pond again in 1960 after their father's death earlier that year. Sandra had stayed on in Santa Cruz as a Higgison while a medical secretary. Retired (went on Social Security) in 1976. And lived until 10 April 2003 when she died in Oregon; her sister Elsie having shifted to Seattle by the time of her own death in '67.

Then I found MISTER Higgison. First name Fred, middle name Milton, he was a swabbie in WWII -- one of his ships noted as 'sunk' -- and by 1950 he was listing her on his Navy papers as Sandra Higgison of Santa Monica. Their marriage, though, was in 1957 where both are said to be 36 -- but Minnie, true to form, was ten years older than that! Fred having been born 1920 in "Joisey". They appear together often in Santa Cruz where her sister lived, and by the time of his death in 1990 he had appeared in WA where she would eventually die, too. Bloody oath, he lived in my home town of Fallbrook CA (they married in San Diego and he is buried there; it was a Navy town) at the same time as we Bianchi Holster employees did! I'll add him to a list of holstorical notables there that includes Lorene Threepersons' grandson who was one of the other 'Nichols' in the Fallbrook phone book.

Bringing to a close the life of Minnie/Sandra Alexandra (Kirkman) (Bryce) Higgison after nearly a century; and outliving everyone including Jelly (1974) and Jelly's other two wives (Shirley in '73, Maxine in 1985) and even Jerry Campbell (1991). By a LOT in Jelly's and Shirley's cases.

Sorry, I didn't know how to make this interesting! This will help make up for it; Cab Calloway's 1932 performance that's was updated for 1980's film, The Blues Brothers:

There are no pics so far of Minnie; let's be somewhat satisfied to have a pic of Jelly with his third wife, Shirley Bloodworth, circa 1945:

There. Was that so hard to imagine? That Minnie Bryce looked like this? Then? And marry a sailor ten years her junior, when she was 46? Bloody hard to keep up with Minnie:

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