As part of my scanning and organizing adventures this year, I have created a binder of documents that I have already scanned and plan to review further. One document led me on a search to determine if my information was correct. I titled this identifying your ancestor but really, we are identifying and verifying information about our relatives but that’s too wordy for a title. <smile>. Let’s look.
The document that I was reviewing was a short obituary of my great aunt Ada Belle. It didn’t list her parents but did list her four living siblings. I didn’t know her or her family since most had passed before my birth. She had two sisters listed in the obituary who were listed with no first names but instead as “Mrs.” and the initials of their husbands’ first names.
I really wanted to identify who her sisters, including their first names. Neither were in the census records with my great aunt and her brothers and parents. It was helpful that her parents were born in Pennsylvania and New York. This will be helpful later as I identify work to identify the sisters as it confirmed that I had the right people when comparing later census results.
Researching in Ancestry, I decided to try my luck at finding the husbands and found likely hits in the right places and identified their first names. From there I found the sisters in census records with their husbands. Perfect! Now I could search for their birth records but had no luck. I did find a family tree of one of the sisters which had Ada Belle listed but as a daughter of one of her sisters! Further research showed this sister and her husband living with my great aunt and her husband. The census recorder had listed that sister and her husband as mother-in-law and father-in-law. What??!!
This information conflicts with the death certificate of Ada Belle; her parents are the same as those listed on the sister’s death certificate. The only thing that made me pause was the age difference between Ada Belle and this sister...twenty-two years. However, the 1900 census of her parents indicates that their mother had six children. So, while their births were spread out, it looks like they had three of their children earlier in the marriage and the rest later with little Ada Belle born as the youngest. Her mother would have been in her early forties. Or was this a case of the sister having Ada Belle out of wedlock and the parents raising her as their own?
When I looked at the 1900 Census Records, her sister had been married for 6 years by the time that Ada was born and living in another city with her husband and children. It seems unlikely that she would have her parents raise Ada as their child. Online birth records are not available this early in South Dakota so my next step to be extra sure would be to contact the local county records.
Out of curiosity, I decided to dig around in old newspapers of the area to see if I could find out more about her siblings. I was fortunate that this sister and her husband were well known in this small community. Small town papers are great because they talk about people traveling, coming to town and visiting relatives. Luckily one such article mentions this sister visited her father and that her sister, Ada Belle, was going to come back and stay with her for a visit. Another article ties the other two sisters together. The news article about Ada Belle’s marriage also listed her father as the same man as her sisters' father.
Most of the evidence indicates the parents are the same for Ada Belle and her sister. And unless I find additional information to the contrary—including the elusive birth certificates—I plan to stick with that hypothesis. I can see how the person with the family tree assumed based on that census record. It is good to have more than one record support your information. That is especially true in a case like this when there is conflicting information.
Your challenge for this week to grab a document related to one of your lesser-known relatives and really study it. Determine if there is more research that should be done because of the information in that record. Have fun digging into those records.
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.