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Taking a chunk out of a brick wall - success and some new tips


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I got some tips from the videos I was watching and made so much progress on one of my brick walls.  

And in so doing made contact with someone who is related by marriage and is still in touch with living people related closely enough to very possibly have info about my grandmother.  I sent them some pics - some of their great aunt when young (my grandmother) and their great grandfather so maybe they will feel moved to share any details they have.

Seriously - such a huge win and it's been a shitty week.

Tips quickly - can add details if anyone is interested later

Don't just search by name.  Leave the name blank and go birthday, marriage date, first name only in a range....change how you search.

Don't just use Ancestry's main search but go card catalog and work backwards.  you find a lot more stuff that way.  

Think of things differently.  focus on one question you want to answer and think about it differently.  Throw out everything you "know" but has no sources.  Even things you know from family.  I was positive the woman who wrote my dad in the 1980's was his mom's sister.  I was so sure of this but couldn't find her...but too weird because name was too similar to Grandma's.  Changed how I looked at it and bam - she was his cousin.  Her mother was my Grandma's sister.  I just had to stop assuming things I knew to be facts because clearly I remembered incorrectly.

It was so awesome - just had to share.

And can one of you please be distantly related to me?  I'd love to work on this with someone and strangers scare me and no one in my family cares.

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Yay for you. 



I had a family story about and 'her mother was a niece of Zachary Taylor.'  now this morphs into her assumed to somewhere along the line to be my great grandmother's mother.  uhhhh no.  Close, but no.  'her' was my great grandmother's father's sister so the mother is, therefore, my 3x great grandmother.  Who kind of appears to be related to Taylor but as his  distant cousin, not a niece.   

So watch the ambiguous pronouns in the family stories.

(I believe this error happened because the speaker was talking about her grandmother's aunt (meaning my great grandmother's aunt) who in stories family members seem to be who great-grandma visited in SE KS (or her own sister).  When it was really - because I chased this crap down out of curiosity - great grandma's aunt.  

On dear old dad's side there was the bit of information relayed from my mother that my dad's sister (who died in 1940) was E. M. M. H.  and died of something to do with her head.  

MMH died in 1940. The family probably let stories float out there about how she died (someone on ancestry tried to tell me it was the same thing that killed my grandmother - which made me laugh because she died in 1939 of an asthma attack so, no, not the same disease).  Where was I?  Oh - the stories covered potential scandal of my aunt, who was engaged, possibly dying from an abortion.  (which is suspected because among other things the fiance did not show up for the funeral).  the E in this equation turns out to be a cousin of my dad.  And the head injury was the one that killed E's father (who my father is named after).  So those stories can get really messed up.

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Yep - it's like a crazy game of telephone.

It's so sad and frustrating that so much was covered up back then that not even families know what's really true.  Very cool about Zachary Tyler...I always thought he was pretty good looking.  At least the famous/important people have records more easily sourced since historians did all this on them for years.  It's our regular old working ancestors who were too busy to keep journals and no one cared enough to record who are the problem.

I had a holy shit what have I dug up moment last week when this lovely woman I was messaging pointed out that on the 1940 census my Grandmother answered "yes" to have you been married before.

Uh...she was 8 mos preg with my dad when she and Grandpa married...I had this weird feeling questioning my dad's paternity and knowing that true or not they'd be furious for me looking at this.  Either for discovering the truth or even thinking it could be true.  

I'm still looking into it but as I see it there are two possibilities:

  1. My grandmother kept a first marriage secret from everyone decided to come clean with the census taker, who was what?  Going to call Germany and demand proof there was no one before?  She gave the age at first marriage 21 which would have been the same as when she married grandpa.  So either she married two men in less than a year - in Germany just after WWI where there was a major man shortage, and never mentioned it to anyone until she, known as a cold and kind of permanently bitchy person, decides to confide in the stranger with a clipboard.  OR....
  2. There was an error on the census.  The census taker asks the questions in order:  Are you a veteran or spouse of a veteran?  Yes.  Which war?  WWI  Were you married before?  Yes.  Age at first marriage:  21.  To me it seems more plausible that someone for whom English wasn't her first language would misunderstand and perhaps think they meant where they married before he was discharged - which they were.

I'm still digging into it - because not going to assume but tbh we're not above having secrets or a scandal but I would like to think we're smart enough to lie to the census takers if we want to keep things on the down low. :) 

And I know it's not conclusive or anything, but my dad bore a striking resemblance to his father.  Including a fairly distinctive nose...which is carried on by my brother and one of my sons.  So two husbands within months when men were scarce?  And if #1 was my dad's biological father the features were that similar?  

I should just let it lie there - but I want records to know for sure.

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I vote census error - just based on the levels of errors (spelling among them) I've seen (and will not even go into census transcription issues).  My sister has a skill at reading what I call 'flouncy' handwriting.  I've been known to download a document and send it to her in pdf so she can read the old handwriting with all the flourishes and give me a second opinion.

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I'm with @clueliss on it being an error. I come from very working class London roots and I'm sure a fair few were illiterate. The census takers may not have been too literate themselves.  

There are so many variations because people simply told the census taker their name and it was written phonetically. Eg I have Akers/Acres, Grimsby/Grimesby/Grymesby. First names too. I have a German 2 X great grandfather whose name is Willy. He is in two census as Wolley due to accent? Transcription? Who knows. I know it is him because they were the only people with their very unusual surname in the UK at that time. 

Birthplaces listed on census docs change even though I am sure it is the same person. Add in a language barrier and mistakes will occur.

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I have akers/acres (and I've seen a few other spelling variation of that one) too!  In the US.   another fun one was Standlee/Standly/Standley which can show up depending on records and transcription without the  'd.'  Making it Stanley which is not the family name.  

Oooh Birthplaces!  I found on a great (or is it grand) aunt's  death certificate her birthplace was listed as St. Louis (or Missouri).  Only I have a copy of the manifest from when she, her mother and 3 siblings came the US.  She was born in Germany (Prussia) and her first name at some point went from Olga at birth to Olive (or Ollie) later in life.  

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Ahhhh...the last names with eleventy spellings!  I have Selvidge, Selvedge, Selvege, Savage, Salvage...its so irritating.  



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My favorite census mistake is the identical twins who were listed at two different ages.

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