Men of the same name: Too many, too many places

Spend any time doing genealogy and you’ll run into this problem: too many men of the same or similar names in the same place. Men not in the place they are supposed to be, or when they are suppose to be. The inclination is to skip the mess and move on to other things, but there comes a time when you must sort it out.

For me, that time when it must be sorted out came when, as a DAR Lineage Research genealogist, a member came looking to prove her lineage to a man who would be a new patriot. The DAR has specific requirements for proving new patriot ancestors. First you must be able to document the service of that individual. Next you will need to prove that your ancestor resided in the place where service was rendered. There are exceptions but never mind for now. Then of course, you need to document the major milestones of their life, and that is birth and death dates and locations, marriage records to document the wife’s name change, and of course the connection between generations to a daughter or son. And yes, it’s a precise process and your submitted application and supporting documentation will be examined. Closely. At National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. by a seasoned professional genealogist. If your application can pass muster, you can take it to the bank.

This case will be posted in multiple parts just because it’s so long and complicated. So, simply put, here’s our job ahead.

Establishing the documentation necessary to prove a New Patriot, Charles Karl Joseph (?) Geissinger/ Kissinger by lineal descent through his daughter, Catherine Geissinger Mower

In order to have a foundation for establishing this New Patriot, we must prove:
1. Service of Charles Karl Joseph Geissinger/ Kissinger,
Residence of same, at time of service.
Connection to daughter, Catherine Geissinger Mower.

Just three things. Simple, right? It often isn’t. First thing is this guy’s name. It seems to change everywhere he goes and that’s not a good sign, nor is it at all helpful to the researcher. Here’s a chronology taken from a compiled biography found on Ancestry. (Will not include the usual commentary about taking unverified documents from Ancestry, but just know that in parts it looked credible.) Note the name changes and the locations. If I was unable to verify any of this, it’s noted.

15 Oct 1766, ships list as Carl Geissinger, arrival to port of Philadelphia.
11 Jul 1767, listed as a run-away indentured servant as Charles Geisinger, Alloway Creek NJ.
9 May 1768, listed again as a run-away servant as Charles Geisinger, Salem County NJ.
9 Jun 1776, Karl Gysinger taken prisoner at Battle of Trois Rivieres in Canada. (Not found.)
16 Mar 1777, Charles Geisinger, in Nicholas Von Ottendorff’s company. Source: PA Archives, Series 2, Vol XI, pg 88. “Continental Line, The German Regiment, July 12 1776 – January 1, 1781.” Fold3. Note: No location given.
1790 Census, listed as Charles Geissinger in Frederick MD.
9 Aug 1794, Charles and Catherine Geissin in baptismal record in Adams County PA.
1800 Census, Charles Geisinger listed in Frederick County MD. District 3.
28 March 1805, Bounty Land Warrant #202-1900 issues to Charles Kissinger of Colerain Twp., PA.
1807, 1808, 1809, 1810 Examination of List of Taxable Inhabitants, Charles Gisinger or various spellings, Colerain Twp., Bedford Co., PA. No records of any type found.
Note: No will is found for in Bedford County PA under any spelling.

So what do we have here? Let’s look at his name. His first name might be Charles or Karl/Carl. Or Charles Karl, or Karl Charles. There are so many variations in the surname it’s hard to know where to start! The man who landed in Philadelphia 1766 could easily be the same indentured servant who went missing in 1767 and 1768. A quick check of given names and nicknames, always helpful, shows that Carl is a nickname for Charles. So anytime we see Charles or Carl, or even Karl, we can proceed knowing that they might be the same person.

The variations in surname are a larger issue. As we go, we’ll look for patterns and degrees of variation. However, it’s going to be a big stretch from Geissin in Frederick MD to Kissinger to Kissinger in Colerain Twp. PA.

Now let’s look at the statement in the family biography that he was at the Battle of Trois Rivieres in Canada and was taken prisoner on 9 June 1776. While the main battle was fought on 8 June, it could easily be that Charles Carl was captured the next day. That is, if he was there. My first thought is to question how he got from New Jersey to Quebec. He might have decided somewhere along the way that the military was the best career for him and signed up with the Continental Army. It would have been reasonable for a unit to travel all the way from New Jersey to Canada, on foot. And Brigadier General William Thompson did come from Pennsylvania and had joined up after hearing the news of the Battle of Bunker Hill. After an extensive search no company records, enlistments, nor pay vouchers for units in this campaign have been found, so we can’t use this. Pity.

As a side note but of utmost importance here is that the DAR only accepts military service between the dates 19 April 1775 and 26 November 1783. Other types of service are also recognized but that’s a whole other blog post or two. Therefore, what we need is military service between those dates, if we are going to claim military service. (Seen a Dar member to find out about the DAR’s Genealogy Guidelines and more information about qualifying service.) Bottom line: we need service between those dates.

Take away:
1. If other researchers have gone before you, gather all of their work that you can find. Examine it closely, of course. Break it down into individual elements. Try to find sources for each of those elements.
2. Names are the game, especially in this case. Consider nicknames for given names and say the surname out loud to find variations. Take note of any names that don’t fit, especially if the locations had changed.
4. When dealing with military service, the first stop should be Fold3. First, search under all name variation just to be sure. Next, if you have any clues about the unit he served in, search for unit records. Then search for records by state he lived in.

Next time: Does any of this make sense?


Connecting Generations: Cherokee Connection Details

Note: Sorry to have taken so long to finish this one up but everyone at our house has that cold/flu that’s going around. Ugh. Glad that’s over with! And here’s hoping that you and yours didn’t get it.

In the previous post a couple of issues came up that we might examine in greater detail. They are smaller items that don’t interfere with the main objective, and that was to prove the identity of Jesse Bushyhead’s mother. However, the rooted family historian needs to follow every lead to the end of the line even when the investment of time isn’t a sure thing but only might yield some new information. So we push on, looking for more information about Jesse Bushyhead and his birth mother.

Jesse said that he was “an orphan” and brought up by “kin folk”.
Now this is one of those small details found in a document that might be passed over, but sticks in your mind even though it doesn’t impact the main goal. Take a look.


See where it says “The variations of the applicant’s name on the roll of 1880 has been explained in a satisfactory manner, he having been an orphan and having been brought up by his kin folks, who bore the name of Seven.”  Now that’s interesting and we’d not have known it if we hadn’t read the entire Dawn interview, carefully.

We know that we should read every word on a document and try to understand what it’s saying, but how often do we grab up the names dates or places we seek and move on?

I won’t take the time here to explain who Jesse lived with and who those kin folk were but let’s say that it’s one of those tiny details that can easily be missed but in the long run was the hint that made the difference: his surname in some records was Seven!

A timeline for Jesse.
There was such a strong piece of evidence for proving who Jesse’s mother was in the Dawes records and Jesse’s own testimony that we didn’t need to go much beyond that. (I didn’t even include all of the times his mother’s name was stated, just enough to cover a sampling of the variations.) However, if that hadn’t worked out or if the variations in his stated mother’s name as found in the Dawes records was too wide, there is another way to prove just who his mother was and that’s by using a timeline. It would show that Jesse was born before his mother Sally McCoy died and before Charles Bushyhead, his father, married his second wife, Pauline Starr.

So why not use the timeline? Because it’s better to use the Dawes documents. The transcription of the Dawes interview with Jesse Bushyhead is direct evidence. Those are his words naming his mother. The timeline, while fascinating to the Rooted Tree type of genealogist, isn’t direct evidence. And it’s a lot of stuff to prove something that could be more easily proven with one page of the Dawes interview with Jesse’s own words. Get it?

How do you say that?
If you’ve read the previous post, you’ve seen the evidence in the Dawes interview about the name of Jesse’s mother and how it was recorded. It might be argued that it wasn’t entirely conclusive. Now let’s look at both Sally McCoy and Pauline Starr’s Indian names and see if they tells us anything.

In the Dawes interview, Jesse names his mother as “Deyanne.” The file folder lists her name as Ti-yane. The 1851 Drennen Roll shows her as Ti Ya Ne. I think that even the most persistent skeptic would see the similarity!

Pauline Starr is listed as such in the records, even in The History of the Cherokee Indians. The only other name associated with her in the usual records is Polly, which is to be expected, but there is no readily available Indian name for her. As far as the records go, Pauline Star had no Indian name.

Take away:

  1. When you think that you’re finished with a search, stand back and look for other avenues not taken. There’s no telling where each of them might take you!
  2. Look for patterns. Can’t emphasize this enough. If you’re making research notes, you’ll be more likely to find them. Just read over the notes and let the patterns emerge.
  3. Timelines are great! Use them.

Note: Source citations are very important, as we all know. Had a little trouble deciding when, where, and how to post them. So please bear with me as I figure this out once and for all. Thanks for your patience.

Connecting Generations: Proving a Cherokee Connection

I was chatting with a couple of ladies who also work on lineage research for the DAR, sharing war stories. After a while we all agreed that every time we start a project it’s the same thing: free-floating anxiety and that feeling that we have probably forgotten everything we ever learned. We feel a lot of self-generated pressure to do a good job and find a clear line to that DAR Patriot Ancestor! We decided that if you aren’t feeling at least some level of anxiety about the work, at some point, you’re probably not doing it right! Maybe you’ve felt that way too?

My most recent high anxiety task was finding a clear line to Cherokee ancestors and a wonderful Patriot Ancestor and a Beloved Woman of her people (which means that she was allowed to sit in councils and to make decisions, along with the chiefs and other Beloved Women) and revered by many people, Nancy Ward or Nanyehi. After I found out a little about the amazing life of Nanyehi, I was very excited to begin, even though I’d never researched Native American lineage. This has got to be the ideal family historian challenge: things to learn and a line that leads to an historical figure who is a strong fascinating woman! Love it!

The applicant’s line was solid up to Jesse Bushyhead, son of Charles Bushyhead, and then it was solid from Charles’ wife, Pauline Starr up to Nancy Ward. We needed to work out proof that Jesse was the son of Charles and Pauline Starr. Problem was that there was a first wife, Ti-ya-ne, also known by her English name of Sally McCoy. We needed  to document Jesse’s mother.

While not critical to our goal of connecting Jesse Bushyhead to his mother, this came up. It’s included here because it’s typical of what we see when dealing with two men of the same name and because our applicant mentioned it right away. Jesse’s father Charles served in the Civil War but there were two Charles Bushyheads to be found in the records. The applicant knew about the two men but thought they were the same person and that her ancestor also went by another name, Charles Walker, and was also called Buck. Take a look.



Unbelievably, these two men served in the same unit! The thing that struck us right away is that Buck died in Kansas in 1877. We knew that our Charles Bushyhead lived in Saline District, Michigan and died in Pennsylvania in 1863, more than a decade earlier. That was the first tip-off that we might be looking at two men of the same or similar name and not simply one man with two different names in the records.

But look closer and see what the records are telling us. The first one says that the individual’s name is Charles Bushy-head, he’s a Sgt. and a minor applied for a pension 29 Aug 1881. There is no death date or place.

The second Veteran’s card records the man’s name as Buck Bushy-head who used an alias of Charles Walker. He died 28 June 1877 at Fort Scott, Kansas. A widow and minor applied for his pension, with dates given.

Because they are in the same company and one is a sergeant and the other a captain, we can surmise that they are most likely two different men. As a practicality, the records would want to indicate a difference and record it accordingly so as not to get them mixed up. If they had been in different companies or served at different times, the names might present a bigger problem.

Let’s back up and review which records sets might be consulted in this case. Because I’d not researched in Cherokee records before, my first stop was the FamilySearch Wiki which was very informative. It gives an overview and a timeline, along with sources on their FamilySearch web site and other sites too. By reading the History and Timeline section, a starting place was found.

There was the 1851 census of Cherokees who had survived the Trail of Tears called the Drennen Roll. Here’s what the FamilySearch Wiki on the Cherokee has to say about it in the time line.

1851: Drennen Roll, Is a roll of the Cherokee Emigrants who were forced to remove from the Cherokee Nation and the Old Settlers who moved voluntarily before the forced removal. 

After that, there was a Cherokee National Census in 1880 that might be helpful in finding ancestors. Then the time line showed that this happened:

  • 1887: General Allotment Act passed. This act required individual ownership of lands once held in common by the Cherokee people.
  • 1889: Unassigned lands in Indian Territory were opened to white settlers. (Oklahoma Land Rush)
  • 1893: Cherokee Outlet was opened for white settlers.
  • 1898: The Curtis Act dismantled tribal governments.
  • 1906: A final agreement was reached between the federal government and the Cherokee people. The Dawes Commission (all Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cree and Seminole) created the enrollment records.

By looking at this time line, it can be seen that the Dawes Commission records would be our first stop.

Fold3 has a brief overview of available records too. You can click on the title in he left column and information pops up to the right. For Cherokee people, click on the two Dawes entries. The Native American records are free.

We’ll look at two different documents for our Bushyhead family members and that’s the Enrollment Cards and the Enrollment Packet. The card shows family members and their relationship to each other while the packet contains records from the enrollment interview and documentation. Both are family history gold. Now let’s look at the Bushyhead family records.


The above is the Dawes Enrollment card for Jesse Bushyhead and his immediate family and descendants. Take a moment and drink in all of the data point on this one document! If this was your ancestor, how happy would you be to see this? Now let’s see what the Dawes Enrollment Packet contains.



The above are just a couple of pages from Jesse Bushyhead’s file. The top image is only part of the transcription of the extensive interview and the image below is one page of a questionnaire. More genealogy gold!

Now for some specifics records from Jesse’s interview as regards his parents.



These documents show that Jesse’s father was Charles Bushyhead, also seen here as “Bird Bushyhead.” While Cherokee is the tribe name, Bird is the clan name. I knew this because I’d spent some time looking at “History of the Cherokee Indians and their legends and folk lore,” by Emmet Starr, Warden Company, 1922, and you can download it on Google Books.

Jesse’s mother was Deyanna in the top record and Ti-yane in the bottom record. Remembering that these were white men doing the interviewing who might not be as familiar with tribe and clan names, you can see the similarities. Say both aloud and it’s not too big a stretch to think that they are probably the same name. But if we’re looking for clarity from the enrollment card up top, we’ll not get it because Jesse’s mother is listed there as Da-aua. We can sort of hear the similarity when said out loud. Don’t you wish you could have been in the rooms to hear what Jesse actually said?

So, circling back, we can see that on more than one important occasion we have Jesse stating in official circumstances that his mother was Ti-ya-ne, who was also known and elsewhere recorded by her English name, Sally McCoy. No where does he mention Pauline Starr, Charles’ second wife.

Now this is sad to realize. Our applicant’s family had invested many years in believing that their line went to the most noble and Beloved Woman, Nancy Ward. But it was my responsibility to tell her about our findings. I called her on a particularly hot day as she and her husband were leaving for a cooling center. We chatted about the weather and then I got around to telling her that we could find no records that proved that Jesse’s mother was Pauline Starr. In fact, Jesse said in two sworn statements that his mother was, using her Indian name, Sally McCoy. Plus, Jesse was born before Sally died and before Pauline and Charles married. (Whole other post.) I added as I always do, that perhaps another researcher would be able to find other records.  “Let’s talk later,” she said so I suggested she call when she had time. And that was that. She never called.

I printed out the documents, marked them up and underlined the relevant parts in red. Included the source citations and wrote up an analysis too. The packet was mailed to her.

We continued to work on her tree and found another Patriot Ancestor for her. She was happy with that.

Take away:

  1. Fear no genealogy! So what if you’ve not worked on records like this before. Think of all that you’ll learn. Go bravely forward!
  2. The first place to go when working in a set of records new to you is to get an overview of what’s available. I start with FamilySearch Wiki. Enter the place name and go read up. Consider it a crash course.
  3. Be ready to go against the “common knowledge.” When you’re chugging along and you aren’t seeing what you should be seeing then it’s time to test the “common knowledge,” in this case, that he used the alias Charles Walker. Or whatever you’ve been told.
  4. When it’s time to deliver the bad news, just say it. Be gentle but don’t sound like you’re not sure. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, lay out the particulars, and then conclude by telling them what you just told then. It’s a tried and true method. Finish by offering an idea about what they could do next. I always suggest that one of the things they could do is consult another researcher who might be able to find other records, especially a local one. I’d love it if someone else could connect this woman’s lineage to the famed Nancy Ward. For that, I’d welcome being proven wrong.

The grave of Cherokee “Beloved Woman” Nancy Ward (right, with the plaque) and her son, Fivekiller (left), and her brother, Longfellow (middle) near Benton, Tennessee, in the Southeastern United States. This small cemetery is situated along US-411 on a small hill overlooking the Ocoee River. The plaque reads: IN MEMORY OF NANCY WARD PRINCESS AND PROPHETESS OF THE CHEROKEE NATION THE POCAHONTAS OF TENNESSEE THE CONSTANT FRIEND OF THE AMERICAN PIONEER BORN 1738 – DIED 1822 ERECTED BY THE NANCY WARD CHAPTER DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 1923. (Wikipedia Commons.)


FasTree: Build your tree out in record time

Disclaimer: This is not the way to build a tree in the proper manner and it’s going to be frowned upon by most authorities on the subject of family history methods. However, I use this technique all the time and it works remarkably well if your only objective is to see where the ancestral line takes you as quickly as possible and be reasonable sure that it’s correct. It has it’s weaknesses – and we’ll cover those too – but if your back is to the wall and you need to see someone’s tree fast, this will work.

It all started when I volunteered to be a chapter lineage researcher for the Daughters of the American Revolution, the DAR. Ladies would want to join and not have a tree or even a partial tree and needed to know quickly if they had a Revolutionary War ancestor. A  shortcut was needed. Not only did this work, but it also showed us where a problem was likely to occur and when there was no connection at all to any Revolutionary War Patriot.

If you’re not sure how to begin a new tree on Ancestry, take a look here for a tutorial. Start by plugging in your name and a spouse’s name, if you want to include the spouse’s line on the tree. Forget about dates and places unless you have them at hand. Be sure to check the boxes in recent generations for “Living” or “Deceased” because Ancestry blocks everyone who is still living. If you’ve ever seen someone from the 1700s who is coming up blocked in your search, the owner probably forgot to check Deceased.

Save the tree under any name you wish and I like to make these so-called test trees, private. (Test trees, because I’m testing the lineage to see where it goes, or doesn’t go.) The reason for making it a private tree is that if it’s wrong or not well researched, other Ancestry members won’t be thrown off kilter by seeing false information.

In a short time you’ll be seeing green leaves, or hints. Start using those as soon as they appear. What you’re looking for is the thing that’s usually poison when you’re building your own tree, and that’s the matching Ancestry Member Trees. Click to see the list of member trees offered. If you only see one or two member trees in the list, this could be a problem. I’ll get back to this later.

Now, check to see how many supporting documents are attached to each tree’s listing for that individual. If you only see one and it’s another Ancestry Member Tree, then that’s a problem. Back to this later.

If you’re seeing 8 or 10 documents, click through to check it out, and if there are records then you’re OK using this person’s information when building out your test tree. Go ahead and click the check box in order to copy what they have. In this way you’ll be able to move all of the dates, names and places over to your test tree within a couple of clicks. Only use the parents and skip the rest of the children for now. Remember, we’re just following that direct line, also called the blood line, of parents and that one child.

Here’s an example of a tree that I might choose to copy from. It has sources and I’ve clicked on the individual’s name at the top of the box to see the full page for that person and reviewed the documents they’ve saved. They are fine and include church records for birth, a marriage index as well a tombstone photo showing death date. That’s good enough for our purposes.


Keep building out the tree, branch by branch, until you can’t go further back. Be sure to backtrack and pick up the female lines too. Keep looking at the tree overview to see the whole thing as you go, noting where there are holes / dead ends. When you run out of good trees to borrow from, then stop. We’ll get back to this later.

In this way you can build out a tree fast and feel fairly confident that it’s correct. Now let’s get back to some issues raised along the way.

  1. If you only see one or two member trees in the list, this could be a problem. This situation usually means that the line can be “ify” at this point. Try using regular Search to find what you need. (Find Search in the upper right.) If nothing much comes up, this might be an erroneous individual or relationship. Set it aside for later and don’t go any further on this line for now. Once the rest of the tree is built out, go back and search more.
  2. If you only see one or two Sources, Records, or Comments and when you check it’s another Ancestry Member Tree, then that’s a problem. Frankly, what you’re looking for here is to piggy-back off of someone else’s excellent work. We might use that old adage, “if you’re going to steal, steal the best.” Look for the prize entries on the prize trees and mimic that.
  3. When you run out of good trees to borrow from, then stop. Don’t force the tree. If you run into a stopping point because that generation is weak in readily available information and documentation then don’t rough your way to the next ancestor.

Next step:

When this is done and you have two choices: quit or finish up with records. If you choose to keep on working and have the tree built out to the point where you lose confidence in the next generation, start back at the beginning and look for just the foundational documents to find these following items.

1. Name with birth date and location. Might have to use a census record from 1850 forward.
2. Name with death date and location. Might use Death Index, SSI Death Record, or tombstone photo. Watch out for Find A Grave listings that are not based on what can be seen in the photos there or without sources such as obit.
3. Marriage record with names and date and location.
4. Information in any document that connects this individual to their parents or their children and thus connects the generations.

When you have all of these, consider it a job well done and you can mark this generation “completed”, at least for now. You might want to make a list of missing documents in each generation as you go.

Last, go all the way back and flesh out the rest just as you usually would. Find all known children. Locate all the sources that ring true. Use both Hints as well as the Source function at the upper right. Then bring in your own sources or images and add them to the Gallery.

Now it’s time to tackle the end of the line on each branch and try to find the next generation. Add it only when you’re certain that it belongs.

This might be a FasStart, but it returns to slow going after that!


When you use this method, you do build the tree fast but you also deprive yourself of the slow sweet enjoyment that comes from taking it person by person and uncovering all that you can about their life and times. The excitement of discovery isn’t there when you use FasStart. This, more that the chance of making a mistake, is the biggest reason not to use FasStart. Don’t cheat yourself out of one of the most exciting and meaningful experiences you’ll ever have, and that’s the journey of finding each of your ancestors and building your tree.

Take away:

  1. Start a new tree but keep it Private to avoid leading others astray.
  2. Stop working on a line when you find a generation that has weak supporting documentation on other folk’s trees. If they can’t find it then you’ll be slowed down if you take time to find it now. Get back to that later.
  3. Steal from the best and leave the rest. Copy only from quality trees with proper supporting documentation. If other bare bones and unsourced Ancestry Member Trees is all you find, leave it in the dust.
  4. Just for fun, test out this FasStart method by volunteering to make a tree for a neighbor or friend and see how long it takes.



Research Log: Whatever works!

If you have ever found yourself thinking, hey I’ve looked for this here already, then you really need a research log! Once you start using one you’ll never do that again and you’ll always feel that your time researching for something is well used. Plus, you’ll have notes about the ground you covered that can be double-checked for what was missed. So cool! You need this!

This is one of those things we know we should do but somehow, for many of us, it’s hard to do. I was reminded of how bad this can be for some folks by Janine Adams in her really nice blog, Organize Your Family History. This post covered the topic well, and as the title, “Creating a research log habit”, points out, it’s often not so much about the form of the research log as it is the habit of doing it. Good point, Janine!

Many researchers use a note taking app like Evernote or Scrivener which is more of a writing tool with a research component. For me, the thought of mastering a new app or software in order to be organized seemed somehow counterintuitive, like needing to get organized before you get organized. So I put off trying one of them.

For a long time I sought out a simple solution that was as fluid as my research was and allowed for all of the twists and turns that most research entails.

First let me say that I don’t know if this will work for you but I’m posting it here because it’s so easy that it can slip into any research approach. And you need to know that I’m awful about filling in forms and have tried all manner of research logs and none of them worked for me. But you might be a forms person and get pleasure from filling in boxes or running an Excel spreadsheet. But that’s not me.

Finally, one day I was tired of losing track of what ground I’d already covered, so I just opened a Word document and started making notes. At the top of the page went anything that I would be happy to be reminded of at a later time, such as the ancestor’s name and locations and what’s known and what’s being hunted for. Then when I started looking, I’d just copy the URL and click over to the Word doc and paste. I could also make a note about what was found or not found. I could make a note about anything at anytime. It was really working!

Now I wouldn’t think of starting even the tiniest of research tasks without making a research log like this. Quite often I need to stop what I’m doing and don’t get back for a while and I can tell you that having these notes is crucial to resuming right where I left off. Plus, as I move through the project this provides a thorough overview. The fuller the notes, the better off I am later.

A little while ago, someone volunteered to help out on a project and asked where I’d searched. I was able to send her my research notes. That felt very good!

If you’re not now using a research log, this solution might work for you. It’s super easy to try. Once you do it for a short while, you’ll probably never work without one again.

civil%20war%20veterans%20circa%201912%20frostburg%20mdTake away:

1. When researching, even for the smallest item, use a research log.
2. The research log needs to fit your work flow and personal likes and dislikes, not the other way around. If you have to change too much about the way you work, you won’t use it.
3. Try your new research log for one or two sessions and then give it a look to see if it’s doing all that you need it to do. Then make it your own, add or subtract whatever works for you.
4. You’ll need the best research log possible in order to do the best work possible!

The URL for this post is:

Connecting Generations: When one document isn’t enough.


The above image is the inside front cover of a book owned by Don Workman, with his notations, who was an expert on the Workman line. You can see the lineage Don penned out from Dirck Jans Woertman (bottom of the right hand page, left corner) who came to New Amsterdam in 1647 up to himself. A fine book, Workman Family History was written in 1962 by Thelma Chidester Anderson. She was diligent in her research and traveled from England to Brooklyn and New Jersey and then to points west in search of material, relationships and answers. “Knowing” the lineage is one thing but “proving” it is another thing entirely. Thelma researched well and left good clues in her book about where to look but mistakes and omissions were made, as anyone would. It’s proof that we now seek.

Look there at the lineage and see the red oval at Nancy Ann Troutman who married Elisha Workman. Yup, there she is. That’s all the proof we need, right? Don copied this line from the book so it’s got to be right? Thelma said so and Don corroborated it and he was an expert on the  Workman line in Allegany County, Maryland. And he knew who they married and when too: 20 June 1845. But when I searched, trying to locate documentation that proved that Nancy Ann Workman was the same person as Anna Troutman, daughter of Benjamin Franklin Troutman, no one document was to be found.

A marriage record of some sort – church or civil – would have been perfect but there was none. Civil records from the 1840s in Somerset County, PA where her family resided are scarce and civil record losses from fires in 1833 and 1872 present a challenge. To better set the stage, here are some dates. Somerset Co, PA was formed from Bedford Co, PA in 1795. Birth records began in 1893, marriage records in 1885, death records in 1893, so no help there. Because civil records of marriages in the county began in 1885 which is after the 1845 date of the marriage of Nancy Ann Troutman and Elisha Workman, church records were vigorously sought.

The family church was easily identified as Comps Church, located at Comps Crossroads near Wellersburg, Somerset County, PA. Nancy Troutman’s father, Benjamin F. Troutman, and his family were members of this small Lutheran congregation. He’s mentioned in the earliest records of the church, hosting services at his house and donating land for the church building. After an exhaustive search, those early church records have not been found and therefore no birth, marriage, and deaths records of this family have been found other than tombstones in the church yard. Unfortunately, Nancy Troutman and her husband Elisha Workman are not buried there.

For this reason, other records besides marriage records were sought, and the first to be looked for were probate files. Nancy Ann’s father left a will but it only mentions his wife Catherine and “all of my children,” so the probate papers were consulted.

Somerset County, Pennsylvania, Probate Court Records, Probate Packet File Number 8-1856, Benjamin Franklin Troutman, accessed 2014; Somerset County Courthouse, Somerset, Pennsylvania.

As you can see from above, these two pages from the probate file are confusing. On one, Benjamin’s daughter is listed as Nancy Troutman and on the other she’s Nancy Workman. That would indicate that daughter Nancy Troutman married a man surnamed Workman.

Land and probate records have the longest history in Somerset County and began in 1795. No land records were found that indicate purchase or gift from Benjamin F. Troutman to Nancy Troutman, Anna Workman or her husband Elisha Workman. Also, it is useful to consider that Benjamin F. Troutman had five sons to whom gifts of property might be made.

Newspapers records were also sought. The only relevant newspaper that could be checked is the Somerset Herald, published Dec 1845-1847, then 1872 and on, which was reviewed for a marriage record but nothing was found. Another negative finding.

Additionally, census records from 1850 and 1860 were closely examined to see if there were any other women by the names under consideration. By 1850 Nancy Ann was married and living with her husband Elisha Workman in Maryland. No Nancy Troutman or Workman was found in Pennsylvania during those years. If there was one found it would cast a negative shadow over the results and this conflict would need to be resolved. Here she is under two different given names in the Maryland 1850 and 1860 Census for Allegany County.

Year: 1850; Census Place: District 5, Allegany, Maryland; Roll: M432_277; Page: 86B; Image:178.

Above, Elisha is on the previous page.

Year: 1860; Census Place: Mont Savage, Allegany, Maryland; Roll: M653_456; Page: 515; Image:515; Family History Library Film: 803456.

Angeline? She’s gone from Ann to Angeline in 10 years. However, children Cass and Amanda do appear and are the appropriate ages.

Also checked was the use of nicknames for given names in the 18th and 19th centuries. While Ann and Anna were nicknames for Nancy, Angeline was not.

However, what was found was the death certificate of John F. Workman, son of Nancy Ann Troutman and Elisha Workman, clearly showing the name of his mother and father.

Certificate of Death: John F. Workman. Filed 23 Sep 1930. State of Maryland, Registration District #9, File #16674. Informant Estella W. Griffith [Nee Workman, daughter of the deceased.] Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland.
John F. Workman is not in my direct line but his sister Moretta is and below is her death certificate by comparison. Notice Moretta’s mother’s name: Anna Troutman

Certificate of Death: Moretta Zeller. Filed 27 Mar 1946. State of Maryland, District 9, File #02289. Informant: Mrs. Lee Kelly [Nee Zeller, daughter of the deceased.] Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland.
As you can imagine, a lot of research time went into the above! But where are we? Does any of this strung together prove that Nancy Troutman is Anna/ Angeline/ Ann Workman? Yes.

  1. The connection from Moretta Workman in my line to Elisha Workman and his wife Anna Troutman is proven by Moretta’s death certificate.
  2. The connection between John Workman and his sister Moretta is proven by the 1860 census. As a double-check, no other siblings named John and Moretta Workman were found in Allegany County, MD.
  3. Both death certificates show that their mother’s name was Anna or Nancy Ann Troutman indicating that Elisha Workman’s wife’s maiden name was Troutman and she was known by Nancy as well as Nancy Ann.
  4. The probate records of Benjamin Franklin Troutman show that he had a daughter named Nancy Troutman and then Nancy Workman.
  5. Review of census records for 1850 and 1860 for both Somerset County, PA and Allegany County, MD shows only one woman named Ann / Angeline Workman and no woman named Nancy Troutman. Therefore there are not two or more women of the same name in the area. Yes, a different Ann Troutman, daughter of Benjamin F Troutman but not the wife of Elisha Workman, could have married a different man surnamed Workman but none were found.
  6. Research shows that the nickname for Nancy commonly used in the 19th Century was Anna or Ann.
  7. Therefore it can be concluded that Nancy Troutman and Ann Workman are the same person.

Take away:

  1. When no one direct document proves a relationship then look to using multiple documents to prove it.
  2. Assemble all of the documents in hand and either spread them out on a table or floor, then make a spreadsheet or a mind map so that the relationships can more easily be seen. Record each document and what it offers. This is the time to record specifics that might help illuminate the solution. More is more. Then see if you can piece them together to make a case.
  3. Write it up. You are not done until you can write it all up, put it on paper. With an array of documents and data points, it will be easy to later forget how you arrived at the solution!
Nancy Ann Troutman Workman (1826-1882)

The URL for this post is:

Connecting Generations: The why and how of it

Connecting recent generations can be relatively easy but many family historians find that as they reach further back in time it gets much more difficult. Records are not where we’d like them to be, relationships we thought were correct suddenly vanish into thin air, and people just up and disappear. Add to that the difficulty of the maiden name changing to a married name and you have a connection problem.

At first the going is usually smooth, as we reach back in time, due to available birth and death certificates, census records, wills and probate or land records. The work is relatively easy until about 1840 when census records list only the name of the head of household, and most of them being males, with no family members listed. Then it becomes a bit more challenging. If we’re lucky enough to find good church records or be in the New England area and find town records when our research reaches this point, then we’ll probably be OK. However, as you’ve likely found, if you move your search out of New England and to the frontier, everything becomes more difficult to prove. This is the point where some give up entirely and just chalk it up to a brick wall. Others, however, do something else entirely. It’s at this point that they really start to have fun.

One might ask: What’s the big deal? So what if you can’t go back any further? It is a big deal. All brick walls are a big deal. Think of all the wonderful ancestors and stories that you’re missing if you don’t add that next generation! Past of your ancestral story will be missing.

Connecting generations is such an important piece of the puzzle but it’s often overlooked. Take a moment now and go look at your own tree. Check each generation and find that document that links one generation to the next. How far back can you go on an ancestral line before you are missing the document that links the two generations? Sometimes it’s shockingly recent on the tree!

I’ve worked on lineage society applications for quite a while now and this is the single greatest weakness of many applications that prevents an applicant from becoming a member. It’s worth paying attention to on our own trees even if we’re not applying to a lineage society.

To properly document a connection between parents and daughter or son, you need records of some sort. As we’ve all found out the availability of these items varies by time and place. So let’s explore that for a while.

Step 1: where are you looking, where did they live?

This is critical! When reading about the search for Irish immigrant ancestors the first item of business is to find out where they came from in Ireland. It’s like that for all of the ancestors we hunt for. The biggest challenge is when they move from one place to another. Sometimes we get lucky and a family member such as the grandma goes too so we can track her to find the family we seek. Occasionally, a published or unpublished family history gives the answer. Other times we look to migration patterns for the general population and go digging. In one of my own ancestral lines a whole group of families moved about 1810 to 1830 from Western Maryland to Ohio to take advantage of available military lots. Once we knew where they moved to, we are ready to go on.

Step 2: what records are available online?

Here’s the thing: instead of jumping right in and searching on Ancestry or other large site, get an overview of all of the records available there during the years you think your ancestor was alive. I like to use the FamilySearch Wiki to get more familiar with places I’ve not previously researched. The FS Wiki will get you off to a good start. You’ll find the history of the place, changing boundaries, when records became available, and so much more. Links to record sets are also provided. It’s a one-stop-shop. When my ancestral line landed in Knox County, Ohio they left quite a paper trail.

There are excellent state guides out there too, such as this Pennsylvania State Research Guide from Ancestry. Here’s another from the National Genealogical Society. And there are others. Just Google the place name and “genealogy” and you’re off and running

Before you dig into a location take some time to get a quick overview of it’s history and see what’s available there. You’ll be better equipped to search in a purposeful manner and the work will go faster.

Step 3: go local.

Find out what resources are only available on the local level in the geographic area you’re looking at. Do a quick search for “genealogy” and the place name, as above only this time looking for local institutions, archives and societies.

Most archives and genealogical libraries now have their holdings online so you can search the card catalogue. If you find the book you seek, call the librarian and ask very politely if she could take a moment and look at the index for the name or info you seek. If she finds something, ask again if she could check that page. Most are happy to help and will forge ahead leading the way. Of course they won’t do major research for you but might be able to recommend someone who will, for a fee.

Courthouses still hold many records of desire for us, and plenty are not online. I’ve called a court clerk and asked how I might get copies of a probate file and what I was looking for. He did it just then and emailed a scan to me within the half-hour. Nice guy.

Historical societies are often helpful in the same way. Start by asking for their advice on how to find the records you seek. These knowledgeable folks are a wealth of information. If they don’t have what you’re looking for they’ll usually be happy to point you to the next place to look.

Step 4: what to do when one document isn’t enough to prove the connection?

Sometimes one direct piece of evidence just isn’t available. In that case think about stringing together multiple records to make a case for the relationship.

Take away:

  1. Documenting the connection between generations is just as important as documenting the birth date or location.
  2. The first question to answer is where was the son or daughter born. Then look for any document that proves that the parents were there as well.
  3. When you have a location, get an overview of the genealogical resources available as well as historical facts that might influence your hunt. Try FamilySearch Wiki.
  4. Other times that can influence the way you search are the location of the death of the parents. In this case, look for probate records and land documents.

Next time: More about when one document isn’t enough.


Oral Tradition: Do you believe grandma?

Emma Whetstone Williams (1897-1956) left, and Helen Zeller Kelly (1894-1985).

Would either of these grandma’s not tell the absolute truth? I think not! What about your grandma? We want to believe what grandma tells us, but then….

Did you hear family stories, often called Oral Tradition? Many family historians did. We’re often admonished about believing “any of that nonsense” in favor of doing it the regular way and relying only on documentation, and at that, mostly primary sources. Set those tall tales aside and go do your work in the documents.

However, in my experience most of these tall tales are somehow based in truth. It’s our responsibility to find that grain of truth and rewrite the story, setting history to right.

See that grandma one on the right, she liked to “spin out a yarn,” as she’d day. And ghost stories were her favorite verbal media. Tell it to you like it happened yesterday and pretty soon you’d start to think that you’d seen that ghost too. But she told other true stories as well. (Not saying that ghost stories aren’t true. You hear that, ghosts?)

There was one story that Grandma Kelly told that stuck with all of the cousins. Not the one about the Indian Princess – turned out to be true – but the one about a fortune lost because of a land swindle perpetrated by the big coal company. She got some of it right and much of it not so right. Let’s explore.

There were a rash of land swindle plots going around in the late 1800s. One with which I’m familiar is the House Heirs Association. The basics components of all of these land swindle schemes was: 1. the long-ago-ancestor had a massive land holding of thousands of acres, and 2. the government (usually) leased the land for some time (typically 99 years), and 3. now that it’s past time, they won’t give it back or pay the millions of dollars owed to the family.

Usually these schemes targeted the poorer members of a family, often who couldn’t read or write and needed an attorney to help them. But first they needed to post money to get the project started and to cover papers being drawn up, research, and travel and such. “Send as much as you can! There are millions at stake!” And remember, the majority of the targets of these schemes couldn’t even read or write. One person I ran into said that his father spent the money saved for his college education on the House Heirs Association swindle and received not a penny in return, and so he didn’t get to go to college. No one was ever charged with a crime in this case. It seems that the investors held out hope to the last.

 Our own dear grandma Kelly told of our Eckhart ancestor who “owned all of the land that contained The Big Vein” of coal, worth millions. Not only do the Kelly cousins remember this but a version of this story has traveled down the generation of other lines of the descendants of John Eckhart, George Adam Eckhart’s son. (See previous post for some details.)

The story grandma told was that the Eckharts owned all of the land under which was The Big Vein of coal, and that the coal company had tricked the family and took possession of it. When the family pursued their ownership, the coal company paid off someone at the courthouse to make the deed proving the family’s ownership, “disappear.”

George Adam Eckhart who first owned the land died in 1806 and left the bulk of his estate to his son John Eckhart who owned land in his own right. When Adam’s wife died in 1812 the remainder of the estate went to John who then held about 650 acres. An agent for a mining company, Mathew St. Clair Clark, came to the area with his crew and after evaluating the land in the area, offered to purchase John’s portion. By 1835 an agreement was arrived at. Then John Eckhart died.

Maryland Probate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940; Allegany, E, Eckhart, John (Box 14)

Before his death, John Eckhart and Mathew St. Clair Clark had come about an agreement that the land would be sold to the mine company for $20,000.

Unfortunately, with some supremely bad timing, John died shortly thereafter. Above is a page from his estate file showing that Mathew St Clair Clark owes $8,000 carrying interest from the 9th of December 1835 and $5,ooo more from 1 April 1836 for a total of $13,000 interest owed. This document is dated: 13 April 1836.

The statement of debts due dated 13 January 1836 showed that Mathew St Clair Clark owed $18,000 plus $8,000 carrying charges. We might conclude that between January and April, St Clair Clark paid the family $18,000 but not the $8,000 interest. It could also be surmised that St Clair Clark might have paid a ten percent down payment prior to the January date and thereby paid the entire $20,000.

The following is from the Hughes Mines Report published in 1835. It describes the actual fact of the mines owned by John Eckhart and sold through agent Mathew St. Clair Clark. Notice that it’s dated 12 June 1835 and says that the land had already been purchased. It makes no mention of “the late” John Eckhart, so it can be presumed that he’s still alive.


It says here that John Eckhart opened the coal pit as early as 1823, and it was said to be the first coal mining effort in Maryland. But once Mathew St. Clair Clark surveyed it and got a geology report, the Big Vein was revealed to be gigantic and well beyond John’s capability. And, it might be noted, John owned a prosperous inn on the National Road that ran right through his property. We can almost hear him thinking: I can’t run a big mining operation but if I sell off all this land that’s just been farming land and just kept the inn, I’d be very well off.

We don’t know if John Eckhart had access to the mining report or if he knew how valuable it would be if mined for coal. An educated guess could be made because at $20,000 for the 650 parcel, that would be $60 per acre. A couple of us are thinking that was n the high side for this particular farming land.

Farming was very difficult on this hilly and rocky land. First the trees had to cleared and sold off and then the many rocks removed. Unless the land was a flat parcel, even the best farmer would have a difficult time. Many came in the early days and moved on to Ohio where there was better, flatter land.

But coal mining was a difficult business as well and it would take a large and money-rich company to set up operation and mine the coal. John Eckhart, while well-off, was in no position to float that effort.

Was there a swindle of the Eckhart land? Was John Eckhart paid a fair price? Was he informed by Mathew St. Clair Clark about the true value of the land to the mining company?  We’ll probably never know all of the details but the hunt continues. New details come to light regularly.

One thing is clear: the family was paid for the land, and were paid a large sum. Instead of being swindled, the family were shrewd and claimed even more than the $20,000 in the $13,000 total interest, a 60% tariff. Now that might have been considered a swindle… on the mining company.

As the years passed, the memory of the transaction took on twists and turns and a new, sour dimension. Did this happen in the crash or depression years of the 1800s? Looking back on much needed large sums, not available to the present generation? We do know that by the time 1900 came, the story now painted the family in the victim role, not in the role of the crafty and wise businessman, which John Eckhart certainly was.

Take Away:

  1. Take all family stories seriously. Write down every detail that you remember and then ask everyone else who might remember the story for what they remember. Get it down in writing.
  2. Try to find other descendants not in your direct line and ask if they remember anything. Make detailed notes about what the versions of the story they remember.
  3. Make a Facebook page with the family name and/or the name of the swindle. Post it everywhere you can think to. Be sure to add this information to the individuals pages on your Ancestry Member Tree. Post everywhere. Ours is called “Descendants of George Adam Eckhart.”
  4. Make a Fact Check chart of each of the “facts” of the story so that you can track them down one-by-one. Of course you’ll want to be thorough and put Google to good use.

Next time: Connecting generations

Place Names: Some Variations


We’re familiar with the need to use the correct place name, that is the name of the place at the time the document was made. There are helpful web sites that can assist in this task. Changing county boundaries can be watched over the years in dynamic maps at Historical Atlas. Simply select the state from the menu below and watch the county boundaries change over time from the earliest day to present. You can press pause and stop or start the changing maps at any point. Or you can Google the town or county name to find when it was founded or changed.

In the practice of family history the place name is always stated as correct to the time the document or event took place. If the name of a place has changed radically over time then a notation about that is helpful to those who come after, such as: Mt. Pleasant, Frederick County, Maryland (now Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland.) Without the notation a reader might be very confused.

Sometimes investigating the place name changes and the reason for the change can be revealing.  Let’s look at the story behind the change from Eckhart to Eckhart Mines, Allegany County, Maryland. How and why did that happen? But first let’s look at some photos.

As you can see, Eckhart is a small place and it’s located in Allegany County in Western Maryland. All of those photos above were taken in the early decades of the 1900s.

In 1940 the population was 2300 but now it’s only 150 or so. A few settlers came to the area having purchased lots assigned to veterans of The Revolutionary War as bounty land. If the veterans didn’t want to settle on the land, they sold it. George Adam Eckhart, a German immigrant who went by Adam, and his sons John and George Jr. with George Jr.’s friend Jacob Loar purchased over 1,000 acres of land in total.

Coal had long been picked from the ground by Native Americans and this habit was continued by the settlers. The town was laid out in lots by 12 July 1789 as others asked for land. These villagers also continued to picked coal. At this point the town was simply called Eckhart after the first family to settle there.

The land contained what’s now called The Big Vein. That’s vein of coal. It was bituminous coal and was known for being clean burning and ideal for powering steam ships, ocean liners, and locomotives. It was much in demand from the earliest days but especially into the Industrial Revolution and into WWI.

So far we have: Eckhart + coal.

And so we see how Eckhart might then be called Eckhart Mines, especially as it became a company town in the 1850s when the railroad came to the area to transport coal and people from nearby Cumberland to the more populous areas of the country. It was all about the coal mining and the coal production.

So now we know the why of the name change from Eckhart to Eckhart Mines. Let’s try to figure out the when of it, if we can. We go to the census returns for the same family residing very near the site of the old Eckhart Mansion, now demolished.
1870 Census = Frostburg
1880 Census = Eckhart Mines
1900 Census = Eckhart

Same place, different names. We many never know why this place was enumerated as it was in these particular years nor why in that image at the top someone crossed out Eckhart Mines and substituted Eckhart, but there you have it. We could probably spend hours digging up other records from various times and what we’d find is an Eckhart identity crisis. In this case, the best we could possible do and the correct thing to do is record it as it is on the document.

And when we search for ancestors who lived there, we know to look for both Eckhart, Allegany County, Maryland as well as Eckhart Mines, Allegany County, Maryland. In this way we’ll find the greatest number of records even if the search engine doesn’t find both automatically.

See how important it is to state where they were, precisely? Knowing this can make all the difference in the world to the knowledgeable researcher.

Take Away:

  1. The place name for the document in hand should be recorded as the place name at the time the document was made.
  2. If the place name has varied widely over time it’s appropriate to include a notation about any name changes in your source citation.
  3. Helpful Tip: Think of yourself a number of years from now looking at that document and trying to find other records for the family or individuals who also lived there. Wouldn’t you want all the help you could get to illuminate any quirks about that place name? Yeah you would.
  4. If a place was known by two names then search by both, separately as a safety measure.

Next time: Oral tradition and what Grandma said.

Surname on a Death Certificate. Correct?

Frank Kelly, seated front, with his three sons: left to right, Eugene, Frank Jr., and Lee. Taken on the occasion of Lee’s wedding, 30 Sept 1913.


Kelly or Kelley? You tell me.



We have in our hands – finally – the death certificate for our great grandmother. (See previous post.) As you visually scan it and then settle in to examine each entry, each data point, you come back to her surname. Is it Kelly? Or is it Kelley? It looks like they wrote in Kelley and changed it to Kelly. Or is that the other way around? We need more information before we can decide.

If we were using this death certificate to document lineage on a lineage society application we’d need to build the case for one or the other spelling before we could submit the application. In doing so, and if there isn’t a definitive document that states the surname with clarity and authority – one piece of direct evidence – we could build a case by using a number of documents to set out our conclusion. An Analysis. Let’s take a look at some of the documents we might use and how we could use them.

It want find as many documents as possible both vertically (in this line) as well as horizontally (in this generation.) The surname follows the male line so at the very minimum we need to check Christiana’s husband Frank’s father as well as one of Frank’s sons.

Step one: How does the surname appear in this generation of Frank Kelly and Christiana Eckhart?
We need to see a number of records before a conclusion can be drawn. Let’s see what we can find easily on Ancestry and if the answer reveals itself, even though in a real Analysis we’d be looking at a wider variety of records sets. For this short example a couple of records will be sufficient to make the point.

Year:1860; Census Place: Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland; Roll: M653_456; Page: 406; Image: 406; Family History Film: 803456.
Year: 1880; Census Place: Eckhart Mines, Allegany, Maryland; Roll: 494; Family History Film: 1254494; Page: 309C; Enumeration District: 012.


Year: 1900; Census Place: Eckhart, Allegany, Maryland: Roll: 604; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0116; Family History Library microfilm: 1240604.

Here’s what we find:
1860 Census: Kelly
1880 Census: Kelly
1900 Census: Kelly


Year: 1910; Census Place: Election District 24, Allegany, Maryland; Roll: T624_549; Page 13B; Enumeration District: 0026; FHL microfilm: 1374562.

And then there’s this, above. The 1910 Census: Kelley. We won’t bring in the 1920 Census but it’s  enumerated as Kelly. So we can say that all the census returns show Kelly, except the 1910 that shows the surname as Kelley. Take note here that daughters Edith and Margaret are present in the household. We’ll get back to this later.

Another document that should be consulted is Frank and Christiana’s marriage record. This is a certification of marriage done much after the couple had died but it accurately reflects the marriage record made at the time of the wedding. It’s suitable for genealogy purposes.


Now Frank’s tombstone. Note that it too says Kelly, no “e”.

Find A Grave, Memorial #93827406, St Michaels Cemetery, Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland.

And here’s Frank’s own death certificate.

Certificate of Death: Francis Patrick Kelley. Filed 1 Oct 1923. State of Maryland, Registration District 9, File #11521. Informant: Mrs. John Condry [Nee Kelly, daughter of the deceased.] Eckhart, Allegany County, Maryland.
It’s Kelley here. The Informant was another daughter, Edith Condry. (See previous post for Christiana’s death certificate in which the Informant is Mrs. Margaret Peddicord.)

So, we have two daughters who were the Informants on the death certificates for both of their parents. And both were in the household during the 1910 Census when the family was enumerated as Kelley. Can we draw a conclusion about this? In short, no.

We could go on to review all of the extant documentation for this generation of Kelly’s but for the sake of brevity, we’ll move on.

Step two: How does the surname appear in the preceding and following generations?

Find A Grave, Memorial #107263732, St Michael’s Cemetery, Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland.

This is Frank’s father’s stone. Clearly it says, “John Kelly”, no “e”.

Now let’s go to the stone for Frank’s son, John Lee Kelly. And it’s Kelly.

Find A Grave, Memorial #43472157, St. Michael’s Cemetery, Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland.

Therefore it can be concluded that the surname of this family was and is Kelly and is found as such in all but two vital records (death certificates) and a census. How it happened that the surname Kelley ended up on Frank and Christiana’s death certificates is unknown at this time.

We might guess that the Informant daughters were less knowledgeable than the brothers would have been because Kelly is no longer their surname. There’s no way of knowing so any speculation must be left out of an Analysis.

In this example we’ve followed a question raised by just one entry on a death certificate. It was a question about a surname and that makes it an issue that needed to be resolved. We wouldn’t rightly be finished here until it was resolved.

Take away:

  1. Always make a strong effort to resolve conflicting information. The hunt for that resolution will be worth it because you’ll know that you’ve left no stone unturned in your reasonably exhaustive search.
  2. Think about researching vertically, that is within an ancestral line from father to son or mother to daughter, and so on.
  3. Think about researching horizontally, that is within a generation of family, friends, associates, and neighbors.
  4. Don’t take any data from a document without thinking about what that information means and asking if it raises other questions. If it does, you’ll need to research that as well.

But really! What’s with these two daughters that don’t know how to spell the surname of their parents?

The Frank and Christiana Eckhart Kelly Family. Taken on the occasion of their son John Lee Kelly’s wedding, 30 Sept 1913.

Next time: Where did they live? It’s a long story!