H P Lovecraft, biography and ancestry

Biography and Ancestry of the author H P Lovecraft


This article written by Will Johnson, wjhonson@aol.com, Professional Genealogist


1 Howard Phillips Lovecraft

Howard Phillips "H P" Lovecraft was born 20 Aug 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island, the only child of Winfield Scott Lovecraft (1853-1898) and his wife Sarah Susan Phillips (1857-1921) who had married the year before in St Paul's Episcopal Church, Boston.  His birthdate, place and names of both his parents, appear on his original birth record, the index entry for that appears on ancestry.com which is where I found it.

His first cousin Frederick Lovecraft committed suicide around 1891/1894 over the love of a woman who also committed suicide.  His father died in 1898 in a psychiatric hospital where he had been housed for five years before his death.  Lovecraft's mother Susan died much later, in the same hospital, where she had lived for two years.

Signature of H P Lovecraft
from his World War I Draft Registration Card 1917

You can skip to the reason why he is so famous by reading several of his stories online for free at this link.

Shortly after his mother died, he met another writer Sonia Greene at a writer's convention.  They married and moved to Brooklyn.  Lovecraft however was not able to find any kind of steady employment.  They divorced after a few years, Sonia moved to the mid-West.  Many years later she wrote an autobiography.
He had had some stomach discomfort for a while, but put off seeing a physician until it was too late and he was diagnosed with cancer.  He died shortly afterward.  When H P Lovecraft died, he was fairly unknown except to a smallish following of fans of pulp fiction magazines.  His fame grew substantially since then, mostly due to the founding of Arkham House publications, and propelled as well, decades later by several film adaptations of his work, among which Re-Animator.

Sources for 1
  • Rhode Island Births, 1636-1930, on ancestry.com "Howard P Lovecraft" parents Winfield S, Sarah S
  • U.S. Federal Census 1900, Ward 2, Providence, Rhode Island : "454 Angell Street, Whipple Phillips, Head, Nov 1833, 66, widower, 45 years, RI, Real Estate Agent; Lillian D, daughter, Apr 1856, 44, single, RI; Sarah F Lovecraft, daughter, Oct 1857, 42, widow, 10 years, mother of 1, RI; Howard P Lovecraft, grandson, age 9, born Aug 1890, RI/NY/RI; Maggie Corcoran, servant, Apr 1877, 23, single, Ireland"
  • US Federal Census 1910, Ward 2, Providence, Rhode Island: "598 Angell Street, Sarah Lovecraft, head, 52 widow, mother of 1, RI, rents home, no occupation; Howard P, son, 19, single, RI, student, chemist"
  • World War I Draft Registration Cards, on ancestry.com "Howard Phillips Lovecraft, born 20 Aug 1890, in Providence, resident of Providence, self-employed as a writer, single, tall, medium build, dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, no disabilities"
  • US Federal Census 1920, Ward 2, Providence, Rhode Island: "598 Angell Street, W S Lovecraft, head, rents home, 62, widow, RI, no occupation; Howard F, son, 29, single, RI, writer, literary books; Annie P Gamwell, sister, 53, married, RI, teacher, public school"
  • US Federal Census 1930, Ward 2, Providence, Rhode Island: "10 Barnes, Howard P Lovecraft, roomer, 39, divorced, writer, poetry"

2 Winfield Scott Lovecraft
Winfield Scott Lovecraft was born in 1853 in New York, probably in Rochester where the family is enumerated in the 1860 census.  However by 1870, they had moved south to the town of Mount Vernon in Westchester County.  They lived at 66 South Fifth Avenue in that town, a place which is now a parking lot.  Winfield's aunt Sarah Allgood, who was a school teacher and never married, lived with them.  Winfield, if he went to secondary school, probably did so in Mount Vernon.  In the 1889 city directory his father George, is listed as a sexton,  a strangely appropriate occupation for H P Lovecraft's grandfather.

According to this source, Winfield was admit in 1893 to a psychiatric hospital in Providence, suffering from the dementia that accompanies late-stage syphilis.  He was never discharged and died there five years later in 1898.

3 Sarah Susan Phillips
She had some sort of nervous breakdown later in life, and was commit to the same hospital where her husband Winfield had died in 1898.  She was not commit however until sometime around 1919/1921 time period.  She died there after a gallbladder operation.

4 George Lovecraft
He was born 1816/1819 in England, the fourth child of Joseph S Lovecraft and his wife Mary Fulford.  The family have moved by 1840 to Rochester, New York.  Perhaps it was here that he married his wife Helen Allgood in 1839.  Their eldest known child Emma was born in 1848/9.  Their son Winfield Scott Lovecraft was born in 1853 in New York, possibly in Rochester.  Their daughter Mary Louise Lovecraft who would later marry a Mr Mellon, was born in 1855.  Helen died in 1881, George in 1895 in Mount Vernon, Westchester County, New York.