Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Families Aren't Perfect - Random Ramblings

I think this is the biggest understatement ever. There is not one family that is perfect. Everyone has secrets and problems. If you go through your tree and only expect to find happy stories, then you are in for a surprise. I've always known about certain things in my family. My dad is a recovering alcoholic, his dad was an alcoholic as well (But by the time I came around he was recovering), depression runs on my mom's side of the family, etc. I've known for a long time we are not perfect. Sadly though, back in September, I learned some more information about my family that really knocked the wind out of me. Things I can not share because the parties it involves are still living. I made this post about it when I found out:

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about some things and just wanted to share something I've learned. It's so easy to romanticize people's lives and stories and how you think their lives may have been like. It's part of the desire to research sometimes I guess. But you gotta be careful. Too much assuming and playing things up in your head can lead to a huge crash of reality that is hard to recover from. I went into this journey knowing fully I may come across things in family that are hard to accept. (Slavery, murder, illegitimate children, etc) And I've been OK with the things I've learned. Up until now. Over the past month, I've learned some things about my family that has shaken me up a bit. I guess it's more because I've been led to believe one thing about my family and am finding out there have been many lies and secrets about how our family really is. And it has effected all the way down to someone very close. *sigh* I guess I'm trying to say I understand when people say it's hard for them to accept some things in their family's past. I used to say, well it happened, it's in the past, accept and move on. I'm finding it's not that easy. I know I will eventually be able to accept these things and move on. Just not today. So please be prepared when doing your research. It's not always going to be flowers and rainbows. I've always been a romantic at heart and it hurts to see the cold hard truth.

So I have been unintentionally becoming the keeper of family secrets. While my grandma was alive, I found out that her parents got pregnant out of wedlock and had to move out of state to get married and have my grandma to hide what happened. I learned this from the records I came across. They kept this fact a secret to the point of writing family records with their marriage record being a year before it actually was. And celebrated their anniversaries accordingly. I do not know if my grandma ever knew and I never wanted to tell her just in case. She passed away in 2015, so now I can publicly post about it. But that's not all.

With everything I keep coming across, I am going to have to start writing a journal of just secrets, only to be viewed after my death. Just to ensure all living relatives will be long gone by then. This new information I have learned has led me to want to ask more questions to find out how deep this goes, but I can't ask anything without possibly revealing some truths and dredging up old pain. So these questions may never be answered.

The biggest and hardest truth I had to face was about my grandma. She was not the kind lady I once knew her to be. That is a hard statement to make. I know there are people who believe you shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but truth is truth, and you can't ignore it. I love my grandma with all my heart and always will. But learning more about her has really been hard. Granted we have wonderful moments of great memories, but just like finding out someone you love had a secret life, it's hard finding out some truths about my grandma's actions in the past. Like I stated, no one is perfect. But when you think someone is one way and realized you were lied to about how they were and who they were.....

I know I'm cycling. What it comes down to, no one is perfect. And you can't expect that from people. Hiding things from those closest to you doesn't protect people. It only hurts them when they find out they have been lied to. And we are going through some of this right now with other family. Keeping secrets, not facing truths, hiding things, pretending to be perfect. It hasn't helped anyone. All it has done is caused pain. Facing truths and working through them are the only way to heal and make things better. I feel that deep in my heart. I've watched for years people not talk things out or face things, and it has almost torn them apart and hurt those around them. Is it easy? By all means, NO! But it is worth the risk if makes a better relationship.

Just random thoughts going on in my head right now as the holidays are approaching. It used to be a time where I looked forward to getting together with all my family. Now it is a time I dread. It breaks my heart. Maybe one day, even though none of us are perfect and will continue to make mistakes, we can work through things and enjoy time with each other again.

The ellusive Nicholas Buer

Ever since I began my research on the Buer family, Nicholas C Buer has been my brick wall. I haven't been able to find much on his life, although I have not gone to the county he lived in to research. Most of my research, as of this date, has been limited to So what follows is what I currently know. Hopefully I will be able to post an update with more information once I find out more.

I have been able to trace him back to his marriage to Sophia Spitz on 23 May 1858. The record has his name recorded as "Nicholas Boner" and her name as "Sophia Spetes". They were married in Jefferson County by Robert Hunt, a Justice of the Peace. From there, I have them in the 1860 and 1870 Census. The 1860 Census has their last name being "Pour". After a recent conversation with a possible relative, she told me that they used to spell the last name "Buer" as "Bour", so that possibly backs that up. The 1870 Census has them recorded with the last name of Nicholas, instead of Buer. From these records, I know he was born around 1824 in France and he was a blacksmith. Until recently, I had his death range that spanned from 1870-1874. This information was based on his wife, Sophia, getting married to a George Kochner. Now, based on the probate record that was recently made available on, I know he passed away before 7 Sept 1870 in Jefferson County. (That was the date on the Probate record) That helped narrow it down. So as you can see, my knowledge of his life is limited.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Church Records

Before states were required to keep records, events were recorded in local churches. Births, deaths, marriages, baptisms, confirmations, communions along with other important events. Even if you have copies of sources from other repositories for these particular events, it might be beneficial to also seek out the church record that corresponds with these events. While I follow the belief of "The more the merrier" when it comes to sources, sometimes these records will include other information you may not have had.

Where to start?
Based on what you know about your family will determine the churches you can look into. What was your family's religion? Where did your family come from? Certain countries and even different locations in those countries had their different religions. Once you determine what their religion possibly was, look for local churches that were close to where those relatives lived. Even if you didn't know what their religion was, you can still check local churches.

Case Study: I was trying to locate the marriage record for my grandma's first marriage. I knew it had taken place because I had photographic proof. I could not find a state, city, or county record though. To be fair, the last names were difficult ones. ILG and Valdes (There was also a spelling of Valdez, but that's not how my ancestor spelled their name)So the next step was to check for church records. Here is what I did to track it down. Even though later in years my grandma was Baptist, she grew up Catholic. I had proof of this from documents my mom had. I had the certificate she received when she took first Communion. It was from St. Andrews Church. So that was the first place to start. I contacted St. Andrews Church (I was lucky they were still around) by phone first, then by mail requesting any information. A few weeks later I received a letter back. Sadly, they had no record of anyone by that name getting married in their church. I was very frustrated. So I reached out to my aunt Patty for help. She told me at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters, there is a map on the wall that shows the locations of churches in the city. She said, locate the street my grandma lived on, and see what churches were nearby. So I did that on my next visit. I found the street on the map (Pennsylvania Street) and located the nearest Catholic churches in the area. First was St. Boniface. Luckily, the St. Louis County Library Headquarters had copies of those records in the library on microfilm. I found the index of Catholic Churches, located St. Boniface, and then matched up the microfilm with the record I was looking for. Since I didn't have an exact date, I had to use a range. I knew my grandma was married by 1940 (according to the 1940 census) and my Uncle Jerry was born around 1938. My grandma told me she was about 15 when she got married which would put that around 1935. So I started with 1935 and searched forward from there. After searching for a few minutes, I almost fell out of my seat with excitement when I saw their names in the index. Then from the index, I found the actual church record. Not only did I have their marriage date, I also had the names of my grandma's husband's parents names, the church in which both people were baptized and who officiated the marriage. The headings were written in Latin, so it took a little translating through Google Translate, but I was able to read everything I needed. So as you see, I was able to find more information from one record from a church, than I would have if I'd only had a state marriage record. I can't even begin to list all the possible information you could get from church records. My advice is to make it a point to find as many records as you can from churches.

Case Study: We learned from an obituary, that my husband's great Aunt went to a specific church where she lived. So we contacted that church in hopes of getting some information about her. The information was got about her had nothing to do with records connecting to a specific event, BUT it did give us a glimpse into her life. She played the piano and was very involved in the church. They even had a copy of the church directory she was in that had her photo! So even though you may not get specific records, you may just end up with special information that you were never find anywhere else.

Other helpful tips from GAA members:
"I always send a donation. I think it helps keep the willingness to assist. It also shows that we appreciate them helping us" ~ Jackie B.
"I was allowed to copy records at a local church using their copier and paper, so I donated 1,000 sheets of printer paper." ~ Sandy S.
"Try and follow up on witnesses to baptisms and weddings. They are often other family members and you can go back several generations even if your direct line is a dead end when you find a cousin whose parents shared parents with someone on your direct line." ~ Beth V.
"We have a lot of small rural churches with graveyards with unmarked burials and often there's no office or secretary to call for information. Call a local funeral home for the name and contact information of the church's sexton. The sexton has to keep a map of the burials so they know who's been buried, when and where." ~ Stephanie H.
"There's much more than christenings, marriages, and burials. You may also find memberships lists, or references to people who left churches, either due to disagreements or because they moved, and in the latter case the new location is sometimes mentioned (or previous if you're seeing them in the location to which they moved)." ~ Kay R.
"When I went to my grandmothers Catholic Church in Paris, Ky. the priest was happy to let me see the pew cards. That gave me a wealth of info back 5 generations. Found comments about one that was less than complimentary! Then evidence that my grandmothers sister wasn't her sister but the child of her uncle! She died never knowing that!" ~ Janet S.
"Sometimes you can find out who paid for the burial. This is often sons or sons in law." ~ Nancy B.
"Read everything you can. Indexes or horridly inaccurate.....Always read the whole record, you never know what clues you may be holding." ~ Renee V.
"My best tip, they're not always at the church..... The church records could also be at the local historical/genealogical society OR in one case, actually at the church that bought the building after the first one closed...KEEP LOOKING!!" ~ Melissa F.
"There may be more than one church with the same exact name, even in a sleepy little rural area. In such cases, it's likely that no one will think to tell you this information unless you ask." ~ Nancy C. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Capt. Joseph Henry Rickards

One of the most interesting ancestors I have researched thus far is Joseph Henry Rickards; Mark's 2x great grandfather. Ever since I started researching the Rickards family, his life has been the one I have spent the most time trying to piece together. Thanks to the help of other family members, I have learned a great deal and have even acquired photos. My research is by all means, not complete. I know as time goes on, I will add more information. Click the images to enlarge.

Joseph Henry Rickards was born April 5, 1835 in Sprigg, Adams County, Ohio. He was the third child born to Henry K. Rickards and Margaret Josephine Neel. He would end up having a total of nine full siblings (not all survived until adulthood). His mom passed away in 1853 and his father remarried to a Martha Jane Lockwood and they went on to have three more children. He spent most of his life in Sprigg, Ohio helping his dad and brother farming. I have a letter that was sent to Norman Rickards from his mom, Elizabeth Theresa Rickards, that includes information about Joseph. With that, stories and records, I have been able to piece together facts about his life. Here is the first page of the letter. The first four paragraphs mention the life of Joseph and his family.

1840 Census

1850 Census

After the 1850 Census, The 1860 Census that puts him in Sonora, Atchinson County, Missouri. His profession is listed as a Sawyer; someone who operates a saw or works at a sawmill. I don't know why he moved to Missouri from Ohio or why he moved to this particular location.

Soon after, the Civil War broke out. Joseph was then mustered into the military March 13, 1862 in Rockport, Missouri as a Captain in the 5th Regiment Calvary SM Volunteers, Company C. He served until June 22, 1863. Obviously, that wasn't the end of the Civil War. He mustered in again on September 28, 1863 as a 2nd Lieutenant; October 23, 1863 as a 1st Lieutenant; and again on February 25, 1864 as a Captain. 

Before he was mustered in the last time, he married his first wife, Eliza Jane Barkley (No known picture available) on November 18, 1863 in Liberty, Clay County, Missouri. There has been some discussion about Eliza, trying to trace her back. Their marriage record has her last name being Graham, but we have documents also listing her being the sister of Amelia Jones nee Barkley. Upon further inspection of one of the proofs we have for their marriage, it does indeed list Eliza as "Mrs.", so we have come to the conclusion she was married to someone with the last name of Graham before she married Joseph. We have yet to find any proof of that marriage or to locate her first husband. We do have her living with the Barkley family when she was younger. 

I do have copies of paperwork that talk about what they did during the Civil War. The battles they fought, locations they were at, casualty lists, his roll call, etc. Joseph spent some time in the hospital due to some medical issues
. On March 29, 1865, Joseph resigned from the military because of what they call Rheumatism. I believe he gotten infections in his kidneys. He was in pain for the rest of his life. He retired a Captain.

In 1866, Joseph was elected to be the Sheriff of Liberty, Missouri. His brother-in-law James M. Jones was Sheriff before him. After only being Sheriff for about a month, one of the most exciting things took place in Liberty, Missouri. Jesse James and his gang allegedly robbed the Clay County Savings and Loan Association in broad daylight, resulting in the theft of about $60,000 and one lost life. We were able to visit the bank on our trip to Liberty in 2014. Joseph's photo is in the museum itself. I also bought a copy of the reward poster that had hand written notes from Joseph. He served as sheriff until 1868.

By the end of the year things would pick up. On December 14, 1866, Eliza gave birth to their first child, Maggie Jones Rickards. His pride and joy. Sadly though, things would get worse. On April 19, 1867, his wife Eliza passed away in the home her sister and brother-in-law, where they were staying. The cause of death is unknown at this time. Below is a copy out of the Liberty Tribune transcription book of articles.
Poor Maggie was only four months old, so Eliza's sister, Amelia Jones, took her in and raised her as her own. Unfortunately, tragedy would strike again. At the age of almost 3 years, she stepped on a rusted nail and got blood poisoning. Dr. Wallace kept record of this event in his diary.

Portraits of Maggie

A little less than a month after his daughter's passing, on December 15, 1869, he married Sarah Ellen Miller in Kansas City, Missouri. We have traced Sarah's family back to the Barkley family, so it looks like Eliza and Sarah were cousins.

According to the 1870 Census, they had a few of Eliza's siblings living with them for a time. They had three children of their own over the next couple of years: Paul Jones, born November 8, 1871; Mary Amelia, born March 12, 1873; and Francis Henry, born August 3, 1874.

1922 - Sarah Rickards, her children and grand children

From the research that has been done, it appears they bought a farm in Illinois and planned to live out there. Sadly this dream would not come to pass. The injuries and the pain Joseph had since the Civil War would finally take their toll on him. On May 12, 1875, Joseph passed away in Anna, Illinois in an insane asylum. The pain he was in drove him mad. It must have taken him down fast, as he passed away without having a will. Everything had to go to the Probate Court. It would take years before things would finally be settled. During that time, Sarah applied for a Pension from the government since Joseph died from wounds he acquired from the Civil War. She had to submit tons of paperwork and proof to show this death was caused by the war.  It took an act of congress, but she was finally awarded the pension. I have copies of his full probate file. It is a couple hundred pages long. It includes all his inventory, land, debts, credits, etc.

The Liberty Tribune also posted a Tribute of Respect from the Masonic lodge he was a member of:
Tribute of Respect. At a called meeting of Liberty Lodge No. 31 A.F. and A.M., held at Masonic Hall May 16th, 1875, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted: Whereas, It has pleased Almghty God to remove from our midst our worthy Brother Joseph H. Rickards, late a member of Liberty Lodge No. 31 A.F. and A.M., Liberty Chapter No. 3, and Liberty Commandery No. 6. Whereas, we are reminded by this affliction that life is short and that at some time we shall all rest from our labors here and pass to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returneth. Resolved, That while we deplore the Loss of our departed brother we tender our heartfelt sympathies and condolence to his bereaved wife and children, recommending them to the care and protection to “Him who doeth all things well.” Resolved, That the members of this Lodge wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days as a token of our respect for our deceased Brother, and that the papers of this city be requested to publish the above resolutions and that a copy of the above be furnished to the family. J.H. Lloyd, J.J. Armstrong, Peter B. Grant, Committee.

Captain Joseph Henry Rickards is now buried in Fairview Cemetery in Liberty, Missouri with his first wife, and his first child. Also buried right behind them are their close friends and relatives, James M. Jones and Amelia Jones. They were very close and went through a lot together. Even Joseph's children are named after them.
My header photo on this blog is all their headstones. Mark has always been around while I've done my research and I've always shared with him everything I've discovered. Yet he told me, at this very moment, all my research finally felt real to him. Before it was just names, papers, and pictures. Now, they are real people to him. His relatives. 

Sources and Credits:
  • These are just some of the sources I have to back up this information. If you are interested in having copies of the sources, please don't hesitate to contact me. Repositories include but not limited to, St. Louis County Headquarters Library, Clay County Archives, Ancestry, Find a Grave, Missouri Digital Heritage, Fold3 and others.
  • Not all of the research and photos are mine. A lot of it has come from other family members including but not limited to: Bob Richardson, Joyce Newcomb, Jonathan Anschutz, Elizabeth Theresa Rickards, Mary Amelia Louis, Norman Rickards, Paul Rickards, Sara Davis Poston, Mary Richardson, Lilly Rickards and others. I would like to thank each and every one of your for sharing what you have with me.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Oral Interviews

The holidays are fast approaching so it won't be long before you are sitting and visiting with relatives you only see a couple times a year. Consider spending some extra time with the older relatives you don't talk to very much as you don't know how much longer you will have with them. Get the ball rolling at least. If it looks like it could lead to a long lengthy discussion, consider setting up a private time to talk with them another day. You don't want to overwhelm the relative on a busy day and alienate others. The link below has some great tips for preparing to interview your relative. Click on the image to read all 25 tips.

These links will take you to two sites that have lists of questions to consider asking your relatives.

Smithsonian Institute
UCLA Library

I have conducted one personal interview as a practice interview. It was a little nerve wrecking in the beginning. Especially since I was recording. I know over time it will be easier. Take the time to talk with the individual and get to know them. I'm a big believer in bringing photos or memorabilia. That always seems to get my dad talking. I've gotten in the habit of bringing my tape recorder everywhere I go just in case. Dad has recently started talking about Vietnam so I want to be sure I'm capturing those moments.

Good luck on your interviews and here's to hopefully learning more about your family!

Nine Kinds Of Death Records You Should Look For

Family Tree Magazine posted this blog entry today. Very helpful information about the different kinds of death records you should look for. Please take some time and look over it. Click on the image below:

Definitely saving for future reference

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Related to Pocahontas??

So the story has been passed down for years that my husband's Rickards's line is related to Pocahontas's line. I have been attempting to research this claim. My husband's 2x great aunt Mary Amelia Louis (nee Rickards) spent time researching the family. She wrote a letter to her nephew, Norman Rickards, explaining the timeline of the family back to Pocahontas. The image below is one of the pages from this letter.

Listed up above, she has an Unknown Murray marrying an Unknown Childress and having a child, Sarah Murray Byrd Childress/Childers. All of the information above that is correct and all the information below that is correct. This is the missing connection. There have been many books published since this letter was written explaining the Pocahontas line. I have yet to find one book with this connection. I will have to go back and record each book I read proving that this fact is NOT true. Sarah Murray Byrd Childers/Childress's family still claim a connection to Pocahontas, but I have not seen any published proof of this fact.

So in conclusion, at this point in time, I say we are NOT connected to Pocahontas. Please feel free to share any information you have contrary to this point. I will be happy to be proved wrong!

Biography of Ruth Mary Ilg

April 10th 2015 was one of the saddest days of my life. That's the day my maternal grandmother passed away. Next to my paternal grandfather, my grandma always in my life. We were very close. She was the reason I got into genealogy. It was her family photos that got me interested in researching. She had decided long ago that she didn't want to have a funeral or memorial of any kind. She just wanted to be cremated and to have her ashes scattered in the Big River where her husband, mother, father and aunt's ashes were scattered. We have yet to scatter them as I think it is too hard for my mom to consider it. In the mean time, I created my own little memorial. I wrote a biography of her life that I learned from my research.

*Note: Since I wrote this, I have learned some things about my family that have been very hard to take, especially about my grandma, but I will continue to honor her memory with the original biography I wrote for her.

Ruth Mary Ilg

Ruth Mary Ilg was born on Thursday night, September 9th, 1920 at 11:30 pm at Deaconess Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. She was the first and would be the only child of Joseph and Margaret Ilg. When she was almost a year old, the family moved back to St. Louis where family was located. They moved in with Ruth's great-grandma, Maggie Helfrich at 8229 Michigan Avenue. The house was a boarding house so there were many rooms.  Her Aunt Ruth Mrazek also lived there with her then husband. She remembered living on the first floor while Aunt Ruth and her husband were on the second floor. She attended St. Andrews Catholic school as a child, which she said was the closest school within walking distance. On May 26, 1935, Ruth received her First Communion at St. Andrew's Church. Eighth grade was the highest level in school she completed for which she received a certificate. Growing up, she did a lot of babysitting. She babysat a lot for her cousins, Anna Marie and Joseph Ilg when they were little.  When she was old enough, her father taught her how to drive, which was something even her mom did not know how to do, and was even taught how to do a lot of things that were usually men's work. She remained close with her Aunt Ruth while growing up even when they did not live with Ruth's great-grandma anymore. When they moved to Pennsylvania St., they lived down the street from the Valdes family. At some point, Joseph Valdes and Ruth became acquainted and fell in love. They were married on June 7, 1937 and their first child, Gerald, was born June 14, 1938. After they were married, they lived with her parents on Pennsylvania St. She remembers him being a very controlling and jealous man.  Then came World War II. Joseph did his American duty and went to war for his country. Unfortunately, after the war, he did not come back to Ruth. Joseph met a woman who lived down the street and married her secretly in Hillsboro, Missouri. What was really surprising, was on his marriage license, he listed his wife’s and parents-in-law address as his current address.  So in April of 1942, Ruth and Joseph divorced. Her and her son never heard from him again. In 1943, Ruth, her son and her parents moved to 9223 Coral Street. Ruth worked a full time job to help pay for bills while her mom looked after her son. She was working at White Line Laundry on Watson Road when in walked Les Wheeler, a very handsome delivery man. They both worked for the laundry establishment. It wasn't long before the two of them fell in love. Les and her son, Jerry, hit it off wonderfully. So on January 13, 1945, Ruth and Les were married. They lived at 7258 McKenzie in Affton, Missouri. They would have three children of their own over the next few years: Les Jr., Maggie, and Howard. After Maggie was born, they moved out to High Ridge. They became members of Fellowship Baptist church. They lived in High Ridge for most of their marriage. Les owned his own Used Car Lot and junk yard to fix up cars. Life was good at times, although rough at times. Ruth was in a serious car accident when Maggie and Howard were just kids. She was hit by a drunk driver and broke her collar bone.  Les was electrocuted himself one time while working on his CB equipment. As a family they would take vacations together to the Lake of the Ozarks, down to Tennessee where Les was born and still had family there, and even later in life, they were able to take a trip to Hawaii.  Growing up, her best friend was Virginia. They went on many vacations together and were involved in many organizations as well as Ruth's mom. She was involved in The Daughters of America along with many other organizations. When the kids were much older, and Jerry and Les were married, Ruth and her family moved to 2216 Doran Drive in 1970, which is still there today. They lived there for many years having family gatherings, watching their grand-children grow up, enjoying many parties with friends, etc. Christmas was always the best time. Sadly though, in 1983, Ruth's husband passed away from an Aneurysm. He had been sick for a little while with blood clots and it was only a matter of time. It was a sad time for family, but everyone celebrated the great times they were still able to enjoy with family. Ruth has lived long enough to see four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.  She was known to the little ones as "G.G." for Great-grandma. Sadly on April 10th 2015 she passed away in her bed after a long life of 94 years. Even in her old age, she was a spitfire and was loved by many at the nursing home she lived in. She will always be known as a very strong and independent woman who can do just about anything if she puts her mind to it. I am blessed to call her grandma.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Family Tree Kids!

The creator of our GAA group shared this link with us. It is from Family Tree Magazine and it is about how to get your kids into genealogy. It has lot of activities and tips to get kids interested in trying to hunt down facts about their ancestors. I am going to look into this deeper. I'm a homeschooling mom, so anything I can do to add to our curriculum I'm all for! It looks really interesting! Click on the image below to go to the website.

Working on a school project sbout your family history? Wondering if you're related to a princess or a Viking? Maybe you've heard a story about a Civil War soldier in your family, or you have the same last name as someone famous and want to find out if you're related. You've come to the right place! Family Tree Kids is a site where you learn how to become a "family detective" and dig up clues about your ancestry. Our games and activities are created just for kids—none of that boring grownup stuff—so you can have fun tracing your roots!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Journal Entry: Divorce records and probate records

I've been keeping a journal of my journey to help me keep track of my research. Every once in a while I will add some entries from my journal to my blog to share what I have come across.

Journal Entry Oct 8, 2015

It's been a good couple of days for research. I will attempt to explain it all clearly without jumping around. I get excited and lose focus on what I'm writing about.

First, I finally made a trip downtown to the civil courts building to get probate records and divorce records. I was so nervous because parking downtown is not easy. Luckily, I found a spot diagonally from the building. First stop was the 3rd floor for divorce records. The lady told me I didn't have to come down; I could have called. I told her I did and was told I had to come in. Well. now I know. She took down the information and told me I will receive notification in the mail whether they find something or not. She also told me they weren't going to charge me since the records were so old. BONUS! So they are looking up divorce info on Grandpa Les Wheeler and his first wife, Ruth Pirtel; Grandma Ruth ILG and her first husband, Joseph Valdes; Aunt Ruth and her first husband, Joseph Mrazek; and Oma Mae Dennis and her first husband, Edward Buer. Hopefully, I will have some information in a couple of days. (I did end up getting records back on 3 out of 4 couples. I did not receive something anything on Ruth and Joseph Mrazek)

Second stop was the 10th floor: Probate records. I spoke with Jeanie; a real nice lady who is also a genealogist. So she was extra helpful. She got me the probate records of Pauline ILG, Leona ILG, Edward J. Buer, and Maggie Helfrich. The one who didn't have a Will with their record was Edward J. Buer. The probate record I was really looking forward to looking at was Maggie Helfrich's. I was hoping there would be some listing that could lead me to the Helfrich family or back to Tennessee. Sadly, no. Jacob Helfrich wasn't even listed. As of right now, two things stood out. One: Where her signature should be, there was an 'X' in its place. Her "mark". It confirmed what I found in census records. She could not read or write. Even my daughter was like, "That's so sad." (It really put into perspective for her how we take reading and writing for granted) Two: Where it listed who got everything, her daughter Oma Mae Caldwell (New married name) was listed as receiving only $1.00. I asked Jeanie about this and she explained in order to keep family from contesting the will for not receiving anything, they would only give them $1.00. Oma had practically abandoned her daughters, so Maggie raised them. Honey and Auntie got everything. Honey is Maggie ILG and Auntie is her sister, Ruth Kelley. I didn't get copies of every document, but got what seemed important.
That was a good day of research. That was over a year ago. I have collected so much more since then, yet still have the brick wall that is Maggie Helfrich. Maybe one day I will finally break through that wall in Tennessee.

My Helfrich Connection

There has been a lot of talk amongst genealogists about researching people that are not in your direct line. Some feel it is not necessary. Well I will say if it wasn't for me branching out I wouldn't have made some of the connections I have made. This is just one example of my branching out.

As of right now, I've not been able to make any direct concrete connection between Maggie Molten and Jacob Helfrich. (This has changed recently. Check out the other entry to see the updated info). All I have is circumstantial evidence. This all came about because I traced the name of a witness on a marriage record. Here is the trail and documentation that I followed in order to make that connection.

1)Start with what I do know. I have a page out of a family date book (some was originally written in German, then translated) that states Maggie Dennis nee Molten married Jacob Helfrich Oct 19, 1890 in St Louis, Missouri. I have yet to find a marriage record proving this fact. I finally found a marriage record thanks to a fellow GAA member. They were married in Tennessee May 29, 1890. Then they came to St. Louis Oct 19, 1890.

2) On Maggie's grandaughters marriage record from Detroit, Michigan, there is an Emil Helfrich listed as a witness.  This the person I traced to make the connection. Since has the same last name as Jacob, I figured it was worth a shot. I found the census record from that time period with Emil's name. That led me to his birthdate and birth place which in turn led me to a Missouri Birth Record and a WWI draft card. So he was from St. Louis, Missouri as well. That's a good lead. The birth record gave me the name of his parents and the WWI draft card gave me his address and info from Detroit. I was able, then, to look up the 1900 an 1910 census records. I also looked up St Louis City directories for Emil and his parents. I also have city directories for Emil in Detroit, Michigan. I made sure I found as many sources as I could about Emil to make sure I was tracing the right person.
Emil Helfrich listed as witness on Marriage Record
Emil Helfrich listed in 1930 Census

Emil Helfrich Birth Record

Emil Helfrich Draft Registration

3) Ok let's trace back now. Peter and Katherine Helfrich were listed as Emil's parents. I looked up city directories to see where they lived in accordance with Maggie after Jacob was gone. I found they lived on Peopping Street which was not far from Michigan Street, where Maggie lived.
1913 St Louis City Directory

1914 St Louis City Directory

1917 St Louis City Directory

4) Based on Census records and directories, I was able to find out what Peter did for a living. I traced Peter back in the directories and found him living with a Jacob Helfrich and a Nicholas Helfrich, along with a couple other Helfrichs. Finally a Jacob! A quick search of the census records and I was able to determine Nicholas was the father, and all the other Helfrichs were his children. Since I don't have a birthdate for Jacob, I still have no official proof this is the correct Jacob, but the trail leads to this Jacob. I feel pretty certain this is my Jacob.
1900 US Federal Census for Peter & Kate Helfrich
1880 US Federal Census for Peter & Jacob listed with father Nicholas

5) Jacob is listed in the St Louis City directories until 1899, when it starts listing Maggie Helfrich as the widow of Jacob. So I assumed he passed away at that time. Although I did not find any death record. I got in touch with Dan, a relative of the Helfrich family, to ask him some questions. He had information that Jacob had passed away in Indiana at a refining company. He had had an accident, which matches up with what my little record book stated about Jacob's death. It said he was killed, but I had no date. I contacted the Knox County Library in Indiana and they were able to send me a copy of the death record for Jacob Helfrich (based on the new date Dan gave me).

1899 St Louis City Directory listing Maggie as Widow of Jacob

Jacob Helfrich Death Record Page 1

Jacob Helfrich Death Record Page 2

6) On the death record, it says Jacob was divorced. I asked Dan about this and here is what he said, "Most likely she considered herself a "grass widow."  Basically if your husband is always gone, if you were divorced, or if you were abandoned, you could pretty much claim that status and it wouldn't be abnormal in those days.  My great great grandma is listed as Widowed on the 1930 census even though her husband outlived her by about 17 years, and I think it was a similar deal."
Maggie Helfrich Death Certificate

Based on these facts, I lean toward the belief that this is the correct Maggie and Jacob. I have researched Jacob's brothers and sisters with no success in proving that Maggie was apart of the family. The search is by no means complete, but for now this is what I have as far as proof.

If I wouldn't have chased that lead on the marriage record, I would never had me the connection.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Family Tree of photos

I wanted a way to display all the photos I had collected of family. I came across this wooden tree at Schroeder's Drug Store in Washington, Missouri. So I stained it first, then I collected all kinds of little frames and added it to the tree. On the left side is my side of the family and on the right is Mark's side of the family.

The Great Divorce of St. Louis

In 1876, St. Louis City and St. Louis County legal divided resulting what is known as The Great Divorce. It affects how we do our research in many ways. Here is a link explaining more about it:

Marriage Certificate/License/Registers

Today on my GAA (Genealogy Addicts Anonymous) facebook group, a fellow member was asking about the differences between marriage certificates, licenses, and registers, which one would have more information and which ones we should really have. I've had a little bit of experience tracking marriages and obtaining the documents pertaining to those marriages. So I shared with him my findings. He said it helped make more sense of the different documents so I decided to share what I shared with him. Now, I am in no way an expert, but this is just what I've learned from personal experience.

According to the Genealogical Proof Standard:
Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order to merit confidence, each conclusion about an ancestor must have sufficient credibility to be accepted as "proved." As stated on the Board for Certification of Genealogy website.
We should always be looking for as many documents that "prove" the facts about our ancestors. In order to draw an accurate conclusion, we must do a reasonably exhaustive search and collect as much data as we can to either prove or disprove the events/facts. So really, the more the merrier. When it comes to proving a marriage, there are many different sources to consider. Depending on the time period and location will determine where to look and what to find. But that is a post for a different day. So far in my research I have run into Marriage Licenses, Marriage Certificates, Marriage Registers and Church Registers. There are more types to consider, but I have not personally run into these. So my post is going to be focused on these topics.

Marriage Licenses vs. Marriage Certificates

A marriage license is a document you must obtain from the county clerk before you get married. A marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married. Typically, couples obtain a marriage license, hold the wedding ceremony, and then have the person who performed the ceremony file a marriage certificate in the appropriate county office within a few days. This may be the office of the county clerk, recorder or registrar, depending on where you live. The married couple will then be sent a certified copy of the marriage certificate. Most states require both spouses, along with the person who officiated and one or two witnesses, to sign the marriage certificate. This is often done just after the ceremony.

Here are some examples of Licenses:

Here are some examples of Certificates

As you can see, licenses have different information than certificates. Both are acceptable forms of proof for marriage. Licenses are easier to locate because they are usually available through the county or state they were married. If they were married in a church, the name of the church (and address) is provided. Sometimes the church does not exist anymore, but the church records can still be found.

Marriage Registers

Sometimes, licenses or certificates are not available. That was the case with my great grandparents. Through Family Search, I was able to locate the marriage register that listed my great grandparents. They were married in Michigan. This register was very helpful because it listed the parents of each person and the witnesses present along with dates and places of residence.

Church Registers

If you have a copies of the License or the Certificate, they will sometimes have the Church listed where the marriage was officiated. This will provide more records for your proof. Although you do not need to have those in order to find the church your relative was married in. That was the case with my grandma's first marriage. I could not locate a certificate or license for this marriage, but I had photographic proof it did occur. My aunt gave me the tip of looking at a map of churches at our local library. I found the street where my grandma was living at the time and the nearest churches within the proximity of that location. So I checked the records of those particular churches for any possible evidence of their marriage. Luckily, I found them in the index of one of the churches. That register provided a lot of information that included parents names, churches they attended, maiden names of the mothers, and other details. I had to take multiple photos of the register to make sure I included all the important data.

St. Boniface Church Registry

As you go back father into time, the records get more primitive. They end up being mainly paragraphs of information. Below are some examples:

I hope this has made the differences between Marriage Certificates, Licenses and Registers a little more clear. If you have the opportunity, try to collect all of them. Again, the more proof the better!