Ideas on Breaking Through a Brick Wall
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I was actually trying to track down the daughter of Josephine whose name was also Josephine Black. Josephine Carre married Thomas Black in 1913. Little Josephine was born in 1916. By the 1920 Census Thomas had died the the family was living with grandma. In 1924, the older Josephine died. The 1930 Census still shows little Josephine living with her grandma. After that record I can not find a trace of little Josephine. Also, not surviving relatives that might know the history.
I am basically at a brick wall until the 1940 Census is released. Does anyone have a suggestions for breaking through this particular brick wall or just breaking brick walls in general?
An 18-year-old orphan in 1934? That had to be rough. My grandfather impressed on me the importance of having at least 1$ in your pocket so you did not get arrested for vagrancy. If the newspaper lists arrests I always look at them.
I guess the moral of the story is go with the basics first. Try to contact your oldest living relatives. One letter helped me fill in two branches of my family in which I had hit brick walls.
Also thanks for all the great suggestions. I followed up on most of them. Once I knew her married name I did find her SS#. Never did find a marriage record but I still have to check a couple of places. Delaware newspapers are available for the time frame of interest but they are on microfilm at only 2 libraries and neither is that close to where I live but I will get there eventually.
I'll be back with another brick wall soon.
When I began inquiries about my family, I rapidly hit a dead end with one great-grandfather. I could find him in the 1900 census at age 20, in the town where he remained until he died, and I had consistent information about his birth date and place, and the names of his parents, but requests for official records got the response that the records had probably been destroyed by flood or fire, if they ever existed. In 2003, I wrote a letter to my father's cousin, who was the oldest of the relatives still living in the town of interest, had known my great-grandfather, and seemed the only hope for access to anecdotes or documents. I told him what I had established so far. He replied that he knew less than I did, and "I was never interested in the past, as I couldn't alter it." With sporadic efforts over the years, I found a family in the census that seemed a plausible family of origin, and traced most of its members through 60 years, but several pieces of information didn't quite match, and some of the matches seemed too common for identification. I could spin a plausible tale to account for the discrepancies, but I couldn't be sure. I requested official records for this family also, and got a few bits that were consistent with it being the right family, and that seemed remarkably coincidental if it wasn't, but still... And there things sat.
Then out of the blue last week, my father got a phone call from his cousin's son. Who reported that his father died a few years ago, he was sorting through boxes of his father's papers, and he came across the letter that I wrote seven years ago (with an address and phone number that are no longer valid). Along with letters from other relatives and captioned photos going back to the early 1900s, exactly the sort of thing that I had wished for. And the cousin also has access to a family bible, which lists birth and death dates that precisely match the dates I had established, from cemetery records, for the family in the census. So my plausible tale has been confirmed.
So the moral of this story is similar: contact people. Also, keep chipping away at the problem. The family in the census could've been wishful thinking, but I kept collecting information, in frustratingly little bits, over a frustratingly long time, with the hope that something somewhere would either prove or disprove the connection. So now, instead of starting from scratch with my cousin's information about a few members of _my_ family, I am able to build rapidly on the information that I had already established for three generations of _that_ family.
The Australian forum is very active and there are people there who are usually able to help. I am not sure just how active the American one is but I have had some good results from there as well.
I use the Ancestry census as well but unfortunately anything earlier than 1841 in England is not helpful and there I find that the baptismal records give a great deal of information.
Another thing which I have found immensely helpful is to get your family tree on-line. I have been contacted by a number of cousins - even a 5th cousin - with whom I have been able to exchange information. They have googled a name on my tree and were able to email me.
Even knowing when and where she was born I could not find any information on her before the 1910 Federal Census but now, with the internet, I hit gold. First Google Earth showed me that the three addresses I had for her were all within 10 miles of each other, although they were all in different counties. I added two generations, her grandparents moved to south eastern Kentucky in the 1830s, about the time of the Indian Removal. It is not that cut and dried though. She was born is a small village named Travelers Rest, ten miles off of the Wilderness Trail. There is documentation that the Quakers leaving North Carolina due to persecution for their anti-slavery beliefs used the Wilderness Trail as their primary route to the "Miamis" (Indiana). What traveler rests 10 miles off the beaten path? Maybe African Americans resisting the bonds of slavery? With that question I started looking at the Underground Railroad and African American resistance to the institution of slavery. Which led me to a foot note about a court case involving, someone who I believe is one of my fathers paternal ancestors over emancipated slaves. Now that the school year has started again and Miami's libraries are open late and weekends I might get a chance to take a look at the court record and learn a little more about my ancestors.
They were the phone books of the day with listings for both business and people. Each company that published one seemed to have a different idea of how to list everything. so you will have to study each directory a bit before you can make best use of it. There are a few things to note. Many of the directories were from before the use of street numbers, be prepared to see listings like SW corner Elm & 15th. Poor people are poorly represented. I guess that the people publishing the directories never imagined any one would ever need to find a poor person. Still, there is a lot of information in them. Often the home and work address is listed as well as occupation.