Genealogy Strategies You Can Use to Connect Two Ancestors

January 26, 2012 at 7:59 am | Posted in Genealogy Research Strategies | 1 Comment
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Analyzing a Family with Two Censuses
Analyzing a Family with Two Censuses

Have you ever come across two people in your tree that you just knew were related?  But you couldn’t prove it?

That’s what happened to me the other day.  When I came across this predicament, I was determined to find the answer.  And like a little beaver, I kept at it until I found the link and could prove it.

Here’s the story & the research method I used to make the connection.  I’m hopeful you may find it helpful for your research, too.

This is what I knew.

  • Juliana Schwartz (maiden name) was born in Germany in 1834.  By 1855 she was married to Joseph Simon and living in Fulda, Spencer County, Indiana.
  • Mary Catherine Schwartz (also maiden name) was born in Fulda, Spencer County, Indiana in 1867.

Fast forward to 1880, and here’s what we find.

  • Juliana Schwartz Simon and her husband, Joseph Simon are living in Sedgwick County, Kansas.
  • And so is Mary Catherine Schwartz – unmarried.

Can you see why I thought they might be related?  Two women with the same maiden name both were living in Fulda, IN and again in Sedgwick County, KS.  Humm… So, much of genealogy is about not jumping to conclusions and assuming relationships that aren’t there.   However, I was willing to go out on a seemingly short limb to chase this one down.

What I didn’t know going into this was anything about Juliana’s birth family – parents or siblings, nor did I know anything about where Mary Catherine came from.  So I had my work cut out for me, researching two women with only maiden names to go by.

The Research Plan

My goal was to frame out, build, construct Juliana’s family and see if Mary Catherine hung off of her tree.  The steps rolled out as follows.

Step #1.  Find Juliana as an unmarried woman in the 1850 US Census with her birth family.

Step #2.  Find Juliana’s family in the 1860 Census to see if it matches up – albeit with her out of the house and maybe living nearby with her husband, Joseph Simon.

Step #3. Build out the extended family descending from Juliana’s siblings to see if Catherine shows up.

The Research Work

I fairly quickly found a Juliana Schwartz that met the age profile in the family of John and Barbara Schwartz in Pennsylvania (remember she’s in Indiana in 1860) in the 1850 Census.   Okay, this looks promising.  So, I open up a handy Excel spreadsheet and list the family members with their birth dates, birth locations, and age in a column headed 1850 PA Census. (see above)  What I didn’t do – and lesson learned – is to include the sexes of each family member.  You’ll see why in a minute.

The next step was to find the family – again without Juliana – in the 1860 Census.  If this is indeed my family, they would probably be in the Indiana area, if they followed or lead Juliana there.  It seems possible, that as new lands opened up, property would be cheaper, and settlers moved west.  A migration to Indiana from Pennsylvania would make sense.

So, I found a Schwartz Family in Spencer County, Indiana.  I took out the spreadsheet I started earlier.  Added a second set of columns titled, and plugged in the same information as before. (see above)  It made it very clear what information matched up and what didn’t.  This family didn’t quite look like the family I found in Pennsylvania.  First of all, John. the father, was missing.  Second, the second child, Frances, was a girl (in 1850 the second child was Frank, a boy) and born 7 years later.  Finally, the youngest son wasn’t there either.  Juliana was, as expected, out of the house since she married in 1855 and therefore not with this suspected birth family in 1860.

Rats.  So close.

The Solution

There were several pieces that fell into place that ultimately made the connection. I went to the Midwest Genealogy Center, and pulled down the books on Spencer County, Indiana.

  • The newspaper abstracts from the period listed the death of John in 1855 – suicide.  (Sadly it was just a month before Juliana moved to Kansas.  Maybe it was the reason for the move?)  So now we know why John wasn’t in the 1860 Census.
  • I went back to the 1850 US Census for PA to look at the sex of each family member.  Frances, it turns out, though spelled with an “e” is a boy!  So, even though there was a 7-year discrepancy in the birth dates Frances & Frank looked like they could be the same person.
  • The cemetery transcripts for St. Boniface Cemetery in Fulda, Spencer, Indiana (again at Midwest Genealogy Center) listed the graves of Frank and Mary Philomena (Klum) Schwartz.  Ah ha!  Juliana had a brother named Frank/Frances/Franz, who lived & died in Fulda, Spencer County, Indiana.
  • The final step was to look for Frank & Mary Schwartz in the 1860 Indiana Census.  If they had a daughter of the right age named Mary Catherine, the mystery would be solved.  And, yes, she was there. (Interestingly, the Frank & Mary Schwartz migrated to Missouri before making it to Kansas.)

As it turned out Mary Catherine was Juliana’s niece.  And she followed her to Kansas, where she married, and as they say “lived happily ever after.”

Lessons Learned

I love genealogy simply and richly because it is an ongoing learning experience.  What I learned with this project includes –

  • Check the sex of each person listed in the Census.  It makes a difference.
  • Just because I knew Frances with an “e” is usually a girl, doesn’t make it true every time.
  • I love spreadsheets.  It came in very handy when comparing a family across two Censuses – among other things.
  • There were materials such as the newspapers abstracts and the cemetery transcripts which made all the difference in putting the puzzle together.
  •  Follow the research all the way through. If I’d have stopped and assumed the 1850 family & the 1860 family were the same – or not the same –  and not pulled other records, I could have either made the wrong conclusion or missed hitting a land mine that would have derailed everything.

Finally, wow this was fun.  I’m eager to find another mystery to solve.

How about you?  Have you solved a mystery and learned something in the process?  Share your story.


1 Comment »

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  1. Germans often named their children the same names, especially if one had died. So the boy with the 7 yr age difference could be two different boys. I apologize if I haven’t read your post closely enough … sick tonight … but I wanted to point out the phenomenon. Happy research!

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