Thursday, January 27, 2011

Permanent Markers Not Welcome!

Another day, another new piece of evidence to add to the pile. I had a distant relative contact me through my family website the other day asking about some family members with the surname of Wineman. She had run into a brick wall with her great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Daniel Raphael Bradley and his wife, Ellen. My relative's grandmother, who married their youngest son, James, had helped fill in some baby books years ago, and had put Ellen's maiden name as Wineman. However, there was never any paper trail to back this up. Since I had Winemans in my line, she thought we could exchange information and see if we could come up with any theories.

There was another researcher out there on Ancestry.com that also had some research on this line. However, this individual had listed Ellen's maiden name as Johnson, not Wineman. Since she couldn't get a response back from the researcher to see where that information had come from, she had nothing semi-concrete to go on. (I say semi-concrete because in genealogy, nothing is permanent. Seriously. Your entire ancestral picture can change with one new piece of information.) Since she had no paper trail, she wisely left the information she had been given from her grandmother in her files and made notes of this other research.

Part of the issue was that Daniel Bradley and Ellen were both born in Kentucky, moved to Illinois during their married life, and then Ellen had died in 1865, when their youngest child of seven, James, was about 7 years old. In 1880, Daniel was found in the federal census living alone, in Kansas.

During the 1800s, when the mother of a family died young, the children didn't often stay with dad. They were usually shipped off together or separated among different relatives, which definitely makes the individuals in that kind of situation a little harder to track down.

Here's where persistent research and investigative work come into play. This relative had traced the family through the 1850 and 1860 census, and then found Daniel in the 1880 census. The gap she was missing was the 1870 census, which was a mere 5 years after Ellen died. If we could find the father or children in this census, we might also find some more relatives that would help us pinpoint Ellen's maiden name. Or at least give us a direction to go.

So, with that in mind, I started digging into the 1870 census, looking for dad and each of the children separately. I found the 2 youngest children, James, and his older brother, Moses, both living with relatives. Moses Bradley, now 14 years old in 1870, was living with William Harvey Wineman and his wife, Nancy Fielding nee Johnson. And James, who was 12 years old, was found living with John Morris and his wife, Francis nee Johnson.

Based on all of this information, we have arrived at a temporary theory about Ellen's maiden name and all of the confusion. It's likely that this relative's grandmother had thought her mother-in-law's maiden name was Wineman, when in fact, her mother-in-law's sister had married a Wineman. It's also likely that Nancy Johnson Wineman and Francis Johnson Morris were Ellen's sisters, as they were also born in Kentucky, and they took in her children after Ellen died. With all of that now discovered, we think it's probable that Ellen's maiden name was Johnson, and that her sister married a Wineman, bringing that surname, and confusion, into the mix.

Of course, my relative will still need to spend some time tracking down a paper trail on this, probably with the focus on locating an obituary on Ellen from 1865, or a marriage certificate for Daniel Bradley and Ellen from Kentucky.

The point of this post is to re-emphasize the fact that genealogy is like a great artwork, done in pencil. At any point, we need to be able to erase and re-draw if we find evidence that changes the picture. It's also important that we keep very good notes on our research. It would have been much harder for us to come to these theories had my relative not kept very good detail on which census records she had already searched and what those showed about the family. If I had to search through 3 more federal census records, it would have taken a lot longer. Finally, don't rule out anything. In cases where you hit a brick wall with a certain relative, look at the spouse, siblings, children, or grandchildren. In this case, a good starting point was looking in the census where we had not located the family, and of course, looking for each individual child. Just James or just Moses living with a Johnson relative would not have been as compelling a piece of evidence as both of them ending up in the care of 2 different Johnson relatives. That definitely makes a stronger case for the conclusion that Ellen's maiden name was Johnson.

We are constantly adding new pieces to the puzzle, and nothing is ever truly written in stone. It indeed is persistent detective work, which is not always elementary, my dear, Watson.

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