Tuesday, August 31, 2010

David, Daniel, Donald!

In early August I was contacted by a young woman asking if I had information on her ancestor, Daniel. She was struggling because one census record listed him as Danial and another as Donald and it made no sense to her. I checked my files and even though I have a very large data base for the surname that she is researching I had nothing on this man. I explained that the only reason I could think of for the census discrepancies was an error on the part of either the census taker or the person that supplied the information.

I was intrigued by her request because the only persons with the surname she is researching in the Syracuse area seem to be descendants of my 4th great-grandparents. I decided to see what I could find for her.

A month earlier and I would have just logged onto Ancestry.com and searched several data bases at once, however I gave up my paid subscription at the end of July. I was forced out of my comfort zone.

My first stop was Family Search. I tried both the Labs and Beta sites and came up with only the 1930 census where he was listed as Donald, living in the home of a married daughter. One of his sons was also living there. He was recorded as Danial on the 1910 census and the 1910 census is not available anywhere for free. (She later provided me with a copy of the 1910.) Let me say that this is a surname that can be misspelled a dozen different ways

My next stop was Old Fulton Post Cards to see what I might find in the newspapers. I quickly found three articles, all of them sad. They did place the family in Syracuse in the 1915 - 1916 time frame and provided me with the names of some of the children.

Through emails I learned a little bit more about what she already knew about the family and some of the things she had been told. She was expecting Native American and Irish ancestry. (I believe she will be disappointed.)

I went back to the newspapers and did some very creative boolean searches. I found an obituary for Mrs. Charles _____, 1903 in Oswego County, just north of Syracuse. Daniel was listed as one of her survivors living in Hastings. But was this the correct Daniel? I went back to Family Search and tried to find him on the 1900 census. First I tried searching for just the surname in Oswego, New York. I found one of the other sons mentioned in the obituary but not Daniel. Next I searched for him with just a first name, year of birth +/- 5 years. No luck. Next I searched for just his wife's first name, Ida,  year of birth +/- 5 years. BINGO! I had never seen the surname spelled with an s in the middle and he was listed as DAVID! The children were the same as listed on the 1910 census so I'm fairly certain it is the correct record.

So now I had David on the 1900 census, Danial in 1910, MIA in 1920 and Donald in 1930. But where was the rest of the family in 1930? Ida and their youngest child were living with another family and she was listed as a domestic. My best guess is that times were tough in 1930 and Ida took a job when it was offered. Both of them listed their marital status as married so I don't believe they had divorced. I have been unable to locate Daniel on the 1880 census but I did find Ida with her parents. [Update below]

Frustrated with the census I returned to newspapers. I found an obituary for Charles ____  from 1906 that listed the same sons as the Mrs. Charles ______. This time Daniel was said to be of Amboy. There are two Amboy's, one in Oswego County and the other in Onondaga County. I found several article about the other sons of Mr and Mrs Charles ______ but they didn't help me any with tracking down Daniel.

I started looking for Charles in the census. The only record I found was for a Charles born abt 1836, one town west of where I had been looking. He was living with his parents, Egbert and Charity. This couple was in my file however I was chagrined to realize that I had Egbert as a son of John but with no firm source. This would be a distant cousin and I had never followed up.

Partly due to frustration, mostly due to life I put this project aside. As I was writing the above I decided that I WOULD find Daniel, hopefully with Charles and the siblings I had listed. And I did! I finally found them by going to the original FamilySearch.org, choosing just the 1880 US census to search and looking for a family from the 1900 census. After only two tries I found myself in the town I wanted and clicked through, household by household. Another odd spelling of the surname. Then the masochist in me went to the Family Search Beta site and searched for Charles with the birth year +/- 5 years, residence in 1880, Oswego, New York. Of course the record came right up. Previously I had searched for Daniel with the wrong year of birth as shown on the 1900 census.

Meanwhile I put my tree for the surname on Ancestry and extended her an invitation. As I found things I added them to the tree and she was able to access them there. I transcribed some of the newspaper articles I found and placed them there too. She can easily evaluate what I've found and post it over to her tree as she sees fit. If we can ever find a source naming Egbert as a son of John she will have one line of her family tree back to 17th New York, perhaps with a couple of other glitches too.

It was interesting working on a line I knew nothing about. Because I have previously (as in several years ago) researched the surname in the area I think I actually handicapped myself, thinking I knew more than I did. I also learned how to more effectively search at Family Search and that switching between their three sites can be beneficial. I also should have tried to find records at both Footnote and World Vital Records but even though I have subscriptions to both, I find them frustrating to use. Many newspapers have been added to the OFP site and I found many articles that weren't available a few years ago.

I expect to continue to work on this because I love a good puzzle. Next I need to tackle the 1860 and 1870 censuses. And while I was searching for this group of _____ I found others that didn't already reside in my tree so I'll be taking another look at them to see if / how they connect to me.

This was written for the 97th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, Research From Scratch, to be hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene. The task was to spend 3-5 hours of online research to get someone else started. Jasia is just too funny! Who could stop at just five hours?

Thanks for the poster fM!


Nancy said...

Just today I've been trying to write a post about a family of 3, and all of the individuals have been hard to find. I took a break and started looking at others' new posts and happened upon yours. It is such a well-written post with your steps so clearly identified. Thank you.

The 1910 census is available for free at Heritage Quest which is available at home through most library websites if you have a library card.

Coloring Outside the Lines said...

Great detective work Apple! Sometimes I think we could all be CSI team members. LOL

Here is another place for free census online:

J.M. said...

Great story. I totally agree, such a puzzle can't be put away after only a few hours.

Bill West said...

I know what you mean, Apple. I lose track of time researching and suddenly it's the wee hours of the morning.

Good post!

Marsyl said...

Wonderful post. I'm going to try more research on the sites you mention. Ancestry is awesome but smoetimes I get tired of paying for it. Thanks for the well written story.

Kerry Scott said...

Wow! That's some excellent detective work right there...and a great example of the kind of disposition needed to be a good genealogist. There's no room for people who give up easily in genealogy!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Apple, great post! Thanks for the tip on Old Fulton Postcards. What a great resource! Most of my research is MA and New England, but I had some family in NY and my husband's family is from NY. Also, regarding Heritage Quest, if your town library doesn't offer if, check the largest library in the county or region. My small town doesn't have it, but the Worcester Public Library does. As I am a resident of Worcester County I can access it at the WPL. I am also able to access material via the Boston Public Library site as a resident of MA. Maybe NY has a similar arrangement.