Solving the Mystery of S. Ada Miller (Part 3)
June 03, 2021
If you have been following the story of S. Ada Miller you know that we started with a political card, asked research questions, and then did some research into S. Ada Miller and her children. If you haven’t been following along, you can read our journey so far in Part 1 and Part 2. Now, let’s go back to where we started. Was Ada Miller a County Recorder in Ames, Story, Iowa?
If we use her death certificate as evidence, then yes, she was a county recorder. However, it appears that her time in this position was short-lived since she died in 1923 and it appears she may have been elected around 1920.
We’ve exhausted the census. So where do I look next to verify her occupation? Since I am doing this from home without the benefit of in-person research, I decided to search digitized newspaper and book websites.
I found S. Ada Miller listed as the Recorder for Story County in the 1921-1922 Iowa Official Register. She’s also listed in the 1923-1924 Iowa Official Register that I accessed through Hathi Trust does show S. Ada Miller as the Recorder for Story County.
So I know she served right up to her death but I don’t really know anything about the election that gained her that government position.
I really didn’t find much in relation to online newspaper for S. Ada Miller. I did find mention of her membership and role in Degree of Pocahontas (remember the antique dealer mentioned that in her sticky note attached to the card. I also found some information about her role in this fraternal order in a search of Hathi Trust. But I decided to not explore that more since really want to focus on her occupation as county recorder.
One newspaper article from December 28, 1923 announcing her daughter's marriage gave a hint about S. Ada Miller’s government career:
Paul Critz and Miss Ruth Miller were married at the home of the priest of this parish Christmas eve. She is from Ames and is a daughter of Mrs. Ada Miller who was for years county recorder of Story county, and the daughter was her deputy. When her term of office expired, she became secretary to Col. Shaffer of the military department of Ames College...They had no wedding, on account of the recent death of her mother. They simply came to Washington and had Father Haragan [?] perform the wedding ceremony...
So Ada was “for years” a county recorder and her daughter Ruth assisted her (Ruth would have been a teenager during this time). That doesn’t give us much to go on but suggests that perhaps she was a recorder prior to 1920 and her daughter was a part of that career. Other records might indicate the first election she won and her tenure as a recorder.
Ada’s story is an important one that could provide insight into the working life of women in the early 20th century. However, for now, this is where I am ending my search. I don’t doubt that there’s so much more to be found. But my initial goal was to learn more about a card I purchased at an antique store and I’ve learned answers to some of my questions. I look forward to revisiting Ada’s story when I can.
Reader, did you find anything more about Ada? What do you know about county recorders during this time period that might add some context to her story? Please let me know in the comments.
 “State of Iowa 1921 – 1922 Official Record,” pg 323 available at Hathi Trust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiug.30112073460559?urlappend=%3Bseq=323
 “State of Iowa 1923 – 1924 Official Record,” pg 260 available at Hathi Trust: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiug.30112073460567?urlappend=%3Bseq=260
 Alex Miller's Column. Washington County News and Comment on Current Events. Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) 28 December 1923 page 14. Newspapers .com
Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.