Nina’s Story At Last

Mark Twain’s granddaughter, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch, has long been the “forgotten Twain,” relegated to a footnote in Twain lore.

After seven long years of research, The Twain Shall Meet (available on will finally allow the world to see Nina as more than just a woman who drank too much and died at age 55 of an overdose of pills and alcohol.

It is also the story of my co-author Susan Bailey’s search for her mother—a search that led us eventually to Nina and to her mother Clara (Twain’s daughter).

All the buzz so far (and we welcome it with a big smile!) has been about the connection we believe Susan has to Nina, but the part I am proudest of in the book is how the world will finally get to see Nina, warts and all,  but not only warts!   She was funny, bright, a talented actress (when she put her mind to it!), college-educated, and quite the jock as well.

Where Oh Where Are Nina’s Heirs: Part 3 Marie Weston

Having now located relatives of two of Nina Clemens Gabilowitsch’s heirs, I am moving on to the third.

A MARIE WESTON was also named in Nina’s will. I have virtually no information on this woman. There are several women in the California Death Index who could fit to be a friend of Nina’s. I would love to hear from anyone who knows anything about this Marie.

Nina’s Heirs: Found George Wrentmore

Via an email from sister site at,  heard from a granddaughter of George Wrentmore and am looking forward to hearing more from her.  She said that George and Nina were firends for a very long time and that her mother also knew Nina well.  She also thought that Nian knew Judy Garland from a mutaal rehab stay.

Two down, two to go! Lesson Reviews: Lesson 1

Inspired by the movie “Julie and Julia” where Julie decided to cook her way through an entire Julia Childs’ cookbook, I have decided to work my way through the various online genealogy lessons available and:

1)  Give my candid opinion on their usefulness

2) Cover at least one good tip from the lesson

3) Tell you how long it took me to get through the lesson

So here we go!  I will start with the free series available from  If you want to enroll along with me, I’ll welcome your comments as well!  Go to to see the lessons.


Lesson 1: Mapping the Course and Equipment for the Hunt

Opinion:  Very basic as it was intended to be.  There are a several links to side articles that can have you doing lessons within lessons.  As an example, there was a link that sent you to an article about mapping that was pretty interesting except that some of the links were broken.  Another link led to an article about citing sources that I thought might be overwhelming to a newbie reading the lesson.  Lesson presentation was visually boring and could use some sexing up.

Best Tip: Telling new family history enthusiasts to use a Researcher Planner.  OK, I admit that I don’t do this, but I know I should!  The sample they provided wasn’t very impressive though. DOES ANYONE HAVE SUGGESTIONS FOR A GOOD SOURCE FOR A RESEARCH PLAN SHEET?

Time to Complete Lesson:  About 15 minutes but time will really vary depending on how many of the side links you chase down.  Maybe you will just want to bookmark some of them (like the article oan Maps) and go back to those later. 

Restoring a WWII Service Diary to the Family

While shopping at an antique store this spring, I purchased a WWII Serviceman’s Diary. I really only glanced at it and intended to sell it on Ebay. Many WWII buffs love reading these diaries for their descriptions of battles and for glimpses into the psyche of the soldier so I had hoped to make a little money on it and bring enjoyment to a WWII afficianado.

I finally got around to reading it a couple weeks ago and, just a few pages in, realized that the soldier, Donald (last name omitted for privacy) of Michigan really used his diary to record his courtship of a lovely local lady named Elvie where he was stationed in Australia.
Skimming ahead, some final entries chronicled that Donald and Elvie had tied the knot in Australia and Elvie herself added a few entries at the end.

I stopped reading after a few entries as it seemed so personal. Armed with the fellow’s name and birth date, I quickly found that the soldier had passed away several years ago in nearby Muskegon, Michigan. I didn’t however, find an “Elvie” of the same last name so wondered if their marriage survived.

Off I went to and, buried in an Ancestry Tree from an Australian woman was the soldier’s name. Oddly, he was linked to no one at all. An e-mail to the tree submitter first came back saying that she had no such person in her tree.

In a follow-up e-mail, I got more specific to the submitter and then received a follow-up response that listed the names of all of Donald’s and Elvie’s children!

This delightful woman was only very slightly related to Elvie and thought that perhaps the family was somewhere around Queensland, Australia. This, however, did not jive with Donald’s death in Michigan.

From there, a simple search turned up a phone number for Donald’s daughter. I left a message and last night received a return phone call.

It seems that the family had held an estate sale some time back and, by accident, the diary had been put into the sale. They were utterly floored that it had managed to make its way back to them! Elvie, it turns out, is still alive but in assisted living in the eraly stages of Alzheimers. The daughter said that her mother is still alert enough that she will understand that the treasured diary has been returned.

It is going off in the mail today. It’s the ability to make “reunions” like this happen that makes having skills in family history sleuthing so darn much fun and so rewarding!

Nina’s Heirs: Progress on Jules Schmidt!

In response to the website at, I received an email from a family member of Jules Schmidt! For privacy, I will not post her name here but she in turn led me to an even closer family member. These two wonderful women have supplied photos of Jules Schmidt’s and lots of information about his long-term friendship with Mark Twain’s granddaughter Nina!

Where, Oh Where, Are Nina’s Heirs? Part II: George Wrentmore

Another fellow mentioned in the will of Mark Twain’s granddaughter Nina was George Wrentmore.   I find no mention of him in any previous letters of hers or eleswhere.  There was a George C Wrentmore who was born about 1898 who was living in Detroit, Michigan in the 1930 census.  That makes it possible that he was a childhood friend of Nina’s.  That George was the son of Clarence and Mary Wrentmore.  There was also a George J Wrentmore born aound 1918 who was living in Trumbull County, Ohio with parents Wilbur and Mary at the time of the 1930 census.  Ironically, both George’s died in California.  The Michigan born George died 3 May 1965 in Los Angeles and the Ohio George on 14 Mar 1985 in San Bernanrdino.  Does anyone know anything about either of those two George Wrentmores?

Where, Oh Where, Are Nina’s Heirs? Part I: Jules Schmidt

When Mark Twain’s granddaughter Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch wrote her will, she left small monthly annuities to four friends.

One of those four was Jules Schmidt. From a letter in the collection of the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT, we know that Jules was an actor and friend of Nina’s. Nina was, apparently, no fan of Jules wife, per the letter! The letter implies that he had at least two children.

Are there any serious old film junkies out there who might recognize Jules Schmit as a bit actor in Hollywood in the 1940’s and 1950s?  Or is there anyone related to this fellow out there?  I would guess that he was born circa 1910 as he appears to be about Nina’s age.  It seems likley that Nina wrote addtional letters to Jules and we would love to see them!

Quick Background on Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch

To begin the story, here’s some bare bones facts about Mark Twain’s only grandchild, Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch.  You can see some photos of her at

Nina was born August 18, 1910 in Redding, CT to Clara Clemens, only then surviving child of Mark Twain, and her husband Ossip Gabrilowitsch.  Ossip was a world renowned pianist who later served as the conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for years. The family trio of Clara, Ossip, and Nina appear to have been very happy.

The family spent Nina’s early childhood mostly in Germany and New York. Perhaps because of all the travelling, Ossip’s pet name for his daughter was “International Monkey” per Clara in her book “My Husband Gabrilowitsch.”

From around 1919 until she enrolled at Barnard College in 1929, Nina lived in Detroit, Michigan and was enrolled in the private Liggett School there.

During her college years, her steady boyfriend was Carl Roters who went on to become an artist of some renown. While Nina claimed later in life that she had married Carl briefly, he maintained that no such marriage ever took place.

The death of her father in September 1936 appears to have shattered the world of both Nina and her mother Clara.

In the late 1930s, Clara decided to move to California and Nina shortly followed. While the two attempted to live together for awhile, the relationship was stormy as Nina had begun a lifelong pattern of excessive drinking and disturbed mental health episodes.  She moved off on her own fairly quickly and made some attempts to pursue an acting and photography career. Nina was checked into various rehabilitation facilities over the years.

In January 1966, Nina was found dead at a hotel room in Los Angeles with bottles of pills around her. While her estate executor Marvin Harpole still believes that her death was accidental, the LA Coroner’s Office ruled her death a suicide.

The Search For More Info on Mark Twain’s Nina

Last time I mentioned that a doucumentary is in the works about our research on Nina Clemens Garilowitsch, only grandchild of famous author Mark Twain. Contrary to all belief, it seems very possible that Nina left a child (born out of wedlock). If so, Mark Twain’s line has NOT died out. In a series of blog posts, we will be talking about Nina and some of the people in her life. Maybe you will be able to help with more information!