Finding Widows, Disappearing Husbands, and Lost Relatives

Great-grandma may be listed as a widow in the 1900 federal census…but she might not actually be a widow after all. Women in the past sometimes claimed widowhood to protect their family’s good name. A recent reader’s question prompted this post for sharing some tips to finding widows, disappearing husbands, and lost relatives.

Finding widows, disappearing husbands, and lost relatives

Widow or Not?

Genealogy Gems reader, Mary, wrote us the following comment:

“My grandmother Kitty’s first husband was Robert Lee Jeffries. They married in 1887 and had 4 or 5 children. He died in the very early 1900’s. She later remarried my grandfather, John, and they had four children together. All this took place in Hardin County, Kentucky. I cannot find when, where, or how her first husband died, or where he is buried. Can you help me?”

I think we can give Mary some tips to help her find Robert. As you read along, consider how these same tips and techniques could help you in finding widows, disappearing husbands, and lost relatives.

Finding Death Records in the Early 1900s

A death record is typically a good way to determine where someone went. If you can locate a death record for your lost individual, they aren’t lost anymore! Finding death records for the time period that Mary is asking about isn’t usually too difficult, unless there has been a record loss for that county. By doing a quick check on FamilySearch wiki for Hardin County, Kentucky, I learned that many records between 1852 and 1911 are missing, including some of the death records. That may be why Mary wasn’t able to find one.

When a death record can’t be found, there are many alternatives that we can exhaust. Cemetery records, newspaper obituaries, and probate records are just a few suggestions. But before we move into alternative records, something caught my attention.

Misspelled Names

With a last name like “Jeffries,” there could be several ways to spell it. Jeffrys, Jefferies, Jeffres, and perhaps many more. What can you do when you have a name, first or last, that could be spelled so many different ways?

One suggestion is to search by each of the possible name spellings, but another tool is to use an asterisk or wildcard. The first part of the surname Jeffries is always the same: J e f f. Whether you are searching records at Ancestry, Findmypast, or MyHeritage, you can use an asterisk after the last “f” to indicate you are looking for any of the possible surname spellings.

DisappearingHusband_1

I didn’t find any great matches using the criteria you see in the image above, but I took off the death date range and Kitty’s name and found Bob Lee JeffERies living in his parents home in 1880 in Hardin County, Kentucky. Take a close look at this image:

DisappearingHusband_2

Do you see the mistake? If you look at the digital image of the census, it spells the surname as Jeffries, however the record is indexed as Jefferies. Not to mention that Robert Lee is recorded as Bob Lee. This combination of name differences will always cause a little hiccup in our search process. This is why it is so important to consider name spellings when searching for records.

Even though using an asterisk didn’t produce a death record, you can see how using a tip like this can help when searching for any records online.

Alternatives to Death Records

Like I mentioned before, Hardin county had some record losses. Just because their death records may have been lost or destroyed, doesn’t mean the probate records were.

Using FamilySearch.org, I used the browse option to search probate record books in Hardin county, Kentucky. I found a record dated 25 Apr 1893, in which Kitty wrote her own will. [1] She mentions Lucy (possibly Robert’s mother found in the 1880 census) and others by name. What is strange is there’s no mention of a husband. I wondered if perhaps husband Robert had died before 1893. Unfortunately, there was no Robert Jeffries (or any variation) in the previous record books and the record book that Kitty appeared in was the last one available online.

When no will can be found, that doesn’t mean there is not a probate record available. The next step would be to visit the Hardin County probate office or State Archives to see if there is an estate packet available for Robert.

An estate packet is typically filled with all sorts of genealogy goodies! Receipts, list of heirs, and affidavits may shed light on many a burning question for your targeted ancestor.

The Disappearing Husband

Sadly, not all husband’s leave their families due to their demise. In the past, it was sometimes easier and more appealing to call yourself a widow or widower when your spouse left you. Kitty wrote a will in 1893 and did not mention a husband. In 1900, she was living in her father’s house and her children were divided up among the relatives, including her in-laws. Could Robert have left Kitty and the children? There may only be one way to know for sure.

Kitty remarried. To do that, either Robert had to die or she would need to be divorced. Divorce records can sometimes be located on a county level or at a state archives. I gave Hardin County Clerk of Courts a call and found out that divorce records between the years of 1804 -1995 are held at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives. Their website provided details to ordering several types of records, including divorce records.

Looking in All the Wrong Places

Sometimes, we are so focused on one area that we can’t see past the end of our noses! Many of our ancestors lived on the borders of other counties. Hardin County, Kentucky is especially unique. It borders not only eight other Kentucky counties, but it also borders Harrison County, Indiana. It’s always a good idea to branch out to these nearby locations when you are having trouble locating records.

A Re-cap

When struggling to find a record for any targeted ancestor, try the following:

  • Consider alternate name spellings and search for common nicknames.
  • When there has been a possible record loss, search for alternative records that may hold the information you are looking for.
  • Determine which counties/states your targeted location is bordering and search there for records as well.

Have you found a disappearing person or long, lost relative? If so, share with us (in the comment section below) your story and how you finally tracked the elusive person down. Maybe your story will help others still searching for that missing ancestor!

More Gems on Finding Missing Ancestors

How to Search Your Ancestors’ Other Spouses and Childrenmy ancestor in the newspaper news

6 Sources that May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

How to Save Time and Find the Ancestors You Are Looking For


Article References

(1) “Kentucky, Probate Records, 1727-1990,” digital images online, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 10 Aug 2016); record for Kitty A. Jeffries, 1893; citing Will Records, Index, 1893-1915, Vol. G, page 12.

Looking for a Living Relative?

Join Lisa Louise Cooke of The Genealogy Gems Podcast as she reveals 9 strategies to find your living relatives. Unleash your inner private eye and discover the tools that will help you connect with long lost cousins who may just hold the key to your genealogy brick wall!

This video class is part of Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning and includes a downloadable handout. Members can click here to watch right now. (Not a member? Click here to sign up!)

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

This article was originally posted on August 24, 2016 and updated on April 18, 2019.

Episode 193

The free Genealogy Gems PodcastThe Genealogy Gems Podcast
Episode # 193
by Lisa Louise Cooke

Episode highlights:

  • Genealogy milestones, anniversaries, new records, upcoming conferences and new free video tutorials;
  • Email response to The Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #192: another tip on the U.S. Public Records Index, a family adoption story and his own research on the changing coastline of Sussex;
  • More response to the “Where I’m From” poetry initiative;
  • Announcement: the NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club title;
  • A key principle in genetic genealogy from Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard.

NEWS: FOIA Turns 50
What is the FOIA? The Freedom of Information Act opens federal records to the public. The FOIA applies to certain kinds of information about the federal government and certain information created by the federal government. It DOESN’T apply to documents that relate to national security, privacy and trade secrets, or to documents created by state or local governments.

FOIA for genealogy research: Use the FOIA to request:

Click here to read an article on the 50th anniversary of the FOIA and more on FOIA for genealogy

 

NEWS: NEW RECORD COLLECTIONS ONLINE

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, Honeymoon and Visitor Registers, 1949-2011

The Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast #133: Peggy Lauritzen on “Gretna Greens,” quickie wedding destinations (Premium eLearning membership required to access)

Announcement of Freedmen’s Bureau Project completion; In September 2016 you can access the full Freedmen’s Bureau Project at www.DiscoverFreedmen.org.

New videos to help find your family history in Freedmen’s Bureau Records

Where to find Freedmen’s Bureau Records online, and the Freedmen’s Bureau indexing project

 

NEWS: AncestryDNA Hits 2 Million Samples

Ancestry.com blog post: AncestryDNA Reaches 2 Million Samples

Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard talks about these AncestryDNA features in:

 

NEWS: UPCOMING CONFERENCES

3rd Annual Northwest Genealogy Conference

  • Hosted by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, north of Seattle in Arlington, WA  on August 17-20, 2016
  • Theme: “Family Secrets Uncovered — Lost History Found”
  • Keynote speakers include Blaine Bettinger, Claudia Breland and Lisa Louise Cooke
  • Free Day Wednesday afternoon: Beth Foulk will address beginner’s issues — which is also a good refresher for the more seasoned genealogists
  • Other features: Meet a distant cousin with the “Cousin Wall;” participate in the genealogy-related scavenger hunt on Free Day Wednesday, and enjoy the free taco bar at the evening reception. Wear a costume from your ancestors’ homeland on the Friday dress-up day.

 

GEMS NEWS: NEW VIDEOS ONLINE

 

MAILBOX: CHRIS WITH US PUBLIC RECORDS INDEX TIP AND MORE

Follow-up email regarding The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #192 from Chris, who blogs at Leaf, Twig and Stem

Chris’ post about a compelling story of an adopted child in his family

Chris’ post about the changing coastline in Sussex

U.S. Public Records Index

MAILBOX: “WHERE I’M FROM”

The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #185: Interview with George Ella Lyon

“Where I’m From” video and contest results

Tips for writing your own “Where I’m From” poem

Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society “Where I’m From” contest: “Anyone near and far may join our Contest. Each entry receives a gift from the. We will have a drawing from all entries of cash or a nice prize.  Deadline for entries is Aug. 31, 2016. More information on scchgs.org.”

NEW GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB SELECTION

Everyone Brave is Forgiven Chris CleaveEveryone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

It’s a story inspired by love letters exchanged between his grandparents during World War II, when they were each in dangerous places: he on the island of Malta and she in London, both of which suffered some of the worst sustained bombing campaigns of the war.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a fast-paced book. It begins in London in 1939 with Mary North, a wealthy young lady from a privileged family who, on finding out that war has been declared, immediately leaves her finishing school and signs on for the war effort without telling her parents. She fulfills an assignment as a school teacher long enough to make a meaningful connection with a school official and one of her students. Then her students (along with the rest of London’s children) are evacuated to the countryside, leaving her to figure out what to do next.

The plot gets a lot more involved from here. There’s a love triangle, a long-distance romance, a series of scenes that take place on the heavily-bombarded island of Malta, harrowing descriptions of the London Blitz, homeless children who return from the evacuation only to find themselves parentless, homeless and in constant danger. It’s intense and eye-opening, but it’s compassionate and it’s still very readable for those who have less of a stomach for blood and guts but still want to understand some of the human experience of living and loving in a war zone, and then picking up the pieces afterward and figuring out how to keep living.

Video: Chris Cleave on the U.S troops coming to Europe in World War II

Click here for more Genealogy Gems Book Club titles

 

DNA GEM: GENETIC PEDIGREE V GENEALOGICAL PEDIGREE

A key concept in genetic genealogy is that your genetic pedigree is different than your genealogical pedigree. Let me explain.

Your genealogical pedigree, if you are diligent or lucky (or both!) can contain hundreds, even thousands of names and can go back countless generations. You can include as many collateral lines as you want. You can add several sources to your findings, and these days you can even add media, including pictures and copies of the actual documents. Every time someone gets married or welcomes a new baby, you can add that to your chart. In short, there is no end to the amount of information that can make up your pedigree chart.

Not so for your genetic pedigree.

Your genetic pedigree contains only those ancestors for whom you have received some of their DNA. You do not have DNA from all of your ancestors. Using some fancy math we can calculate that the average generation in which you start to see that you have inherited zero blocks of DNA from an ancestor is about seven. But of course, most of us aren’t trying to figure out how much of our DNA we received from great great great grandma Sarah. Most of us just have a list of DNA matches and we are trying to figure out if we are all related to 3X great grandma Sarah. So how does that work?

Well, the first thing we need to recognize is that living descendants of Sarah’s would be our fourth cousins (though not always, but that is a topic for another post!). Again, bring in the fancy math and we can learn that living, documented fourth cousins who have this autosomal DNA test completed will only share DNA with each other 50% of the time.

Yes, only half.

Only half of the time your DNA will tell you what your paper trail might have already figured out: That you and cousin Jim are fourth cousins, related through sweet 3X great grandma Sarah.  But here’s where the numbers are in our favor. You have, on average, 940 fourth cousins. So if you are only sharing DNA with 470 of them, that’s not quite so bad, is it? And it only takes one or two of them to be tested and show up on your match list. Their presence there, and their documentation back to sweet Sarah, helps to verify the genealogy you have completed and allows you to gather others who might share this connection so you can learn even more about Sarah and her family. Plus, if you find Jim, then Jim will have 470 4th cousins as well, some of which will not be on your list, giving you access to even more of the 940.

This genetic family tree not matching up exactly with your traditional family tree also manifests itself in your ethnicity results, though there are other reasons for discrepancies there as well.

In short, this DNA stuff is not perfect, or even complete, but if you combine it with your traditional resources, it can be a very powerful tool for verifying and extending your family history.

Additional readings:

 

PROFILE AMERICA: First hamburgers at a 4th of July picnic

Genealogy Gems Newsletter Sign Up

Check out this episode!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Free Beginner Genealogy Podcast Series (Also Great for Do-Overs!)

Beginner genealogy FHME podcastA free podcast series for beginner genealogy, The Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast series offers step-by-step how-to instruction and inspiration.

Are you just getting started in family history? Or are you ready for a genealogy “do-over” with a more systematic approach to learning and researching? My free beginner genealogy podcast series, Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, may be just what you’re looking for. Kim from Alpine, Utah, wrote in to say how much that series has helped her:

“Dear Lisa,

I’ve downloaded all of the Family History Made Easy podcasts and am making my way through them while I exercise. I just finished listening to your archived Family History Made Easy podcast #31 “Immigration and Naturalization Records, part 3” with Stephen Danko, not realizing there were also parts 1 and 2. When I got on my computer to look at the show notes and realized there were two more episodes in this series to listen to, I was thrilled: I have an incentive now to go walking at least twice more this week! The podcasts are the motivation for me to get out and get the blood circulating!

I was amazed at all there is to learn from ship manifests, and have a plan to go back and review those I’ve already captured. I’m sure there are many new things I will be able to learn from them, after learning about all of the marks and notations.

Thank you for producing this entire series of informative, educational, instructive, and interesting, podcasts, as well as the Genealogy Gems podcasts. They are a service to the genealogy community and help elevate the quality of our family history work. I wish you well and hope you continue producing them for a long time!

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastHere’s how to access the free series:

1. Go to www.genealogygems.com
2. Hover your mouse over Podcast
3. Click on Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
4. Episodes are in numerical order
5. Click the link for episode 1 called Getting Started
6. The web page is called “show notes” and has all the information covered in that episode.
7. Click “Play Now” link at the top and then click the Play button to listen on your computer, or you can subscribe through iTunes. Here’s a link to frequently asked questions about podcasts.

Free PodcastAlong with the step-by-step beginner genealogy series, you can also listen to the entire archive of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, like Kim has done, for tons of additional ideas and strategies.

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Mobile Device

http://www.mindanews.com/buy-topamax/ mobile device” width=”263″ height=”263″ />Ever feel like your tablet or smart phone is smarter than you? Here are 3 quick tips for getting the most out of your mobile device.

If you’ve got a mobile device–a smart phone, tablet or iPad–but aren’t really sure how to use it, you’re not alone. This common problem makes me think of this video below of how one father uses his iPad. Check out the expression on his daughter’s face!

Don’t resort to using your mobile device as a cutting board! There are so many things you can do with it in everyday life, for work or hobbies–and especially for genealogy. I’ll teach you more step-by-step mobile genealogy in the coming months. But let’s get started with these 3 quick tips for getting the most out of your mobile device:

1. Know your mobile device. In the case of an iPad, for example, which generation do you have (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, Air, Pro etc.)? Which operating system does it use? How much storage space is on the device itself and how much cloud-based storage space do you have? (How much is available right now?) Your ability to answer these questions will help you to know which apps you can use and will help you best manage your device’s memory.

Don’t be afraid to browse your device to find these answers. If you can’t find the answers, (and there’s no 15 year old handy to help you), just Google your question. Below are two sample Google searches I ran: click to read the top result for each! (You can model your specific Google search phrase after the examples below.)

2. Keep your device updated to its current operating system.

Sometimes when you’re having trouble using your mobile device, it’s because its operating system is out-of-date. (On Apple products, you’ll see that referred to as iOS.) Some people consider it annoying to have to frequently update their operating systems, but the world of mobile technology changes so quickly that you really do need the most current system to be glitch-free and good-to-go.

How to find the version of your operating system:

1. Tap Settings
2. Tap General (iOS) or About Device (Android)
3. Tap Software Update
4. You will either see that your operating system software is up to date (and what version it currently is), or you will be notified it is out of date and prompted to update it.

An up-to-date operating system helps ensure you are getting the most out of your mobile device.

3. Get to know your Settings.

Your Settings icon probably looks like a gear. Open it. Browse the different areas so you’ll become familiar with it. Some features you’ll want to use will require that you activate them in the Settings. Also, sometimes if your device is supposed to support a feature but it doesn’t work, that may be an indication that you need to update something in your Settings. It’s not difficult to do!

mobile genealogy bookIn the coming months, I’ll teach you LOTS more about using your mobile device for genealogy (and everything else). Just enter your email in the “Sign Up for the Free Email Newsletter” box on any page on my website to make sure you’ll receive these helpful articles. (You’ll also receive a free gift just for signing up!)

Ready to make ensure that you’re getting the most out of your mobile device for genealogy?
My brand-new book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research is on SALE for those who pre-order through January 31, 2016.

Genealogy for Beginners: FREE Podcast Series

The FREE Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast series teaches genealogy for beginners with step-by-step, hands-on help at a friendly pace!

Genealogy for Beginners podcast family history

“Which podcast is best for beginning genealogists?” This question recently came from our reader and listener, Beverly.

It cued me to remind everyone about my FREE Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast! I created it for beginners to help them get started in a fun and easy way, and for more advanced researchers who want to brush up on their family history research skills in a step-by-step fashion.

Are you new to podcasts?

A podcast is like an online, on-demand radio show. You can listen whenever and wherever you want because they are recorded! Here’s a link to frequently asked questions about podcasts.

Get My Free Podcast – Perfect for Beginners!

To access the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast:

1. Go to www.genealogygems.com

2. Hover your mouse over Podcast

3. Click on Family History: Genealogy Made Easy

4. Click the link for episode 1 entitled Getting Started (episodes are in numerical order.)

5. Click Play Now and then click the play button to listen on your computer.

6. You can also subscribe through iTunes here.

Get More Podcast Episodes, and Our App!

After you get started, enjoy the back episodes of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast for tons of additional ideas and strategies. The easiest way to listen is through the Genealogy Gems app available for Apple, Android and Windows.

More Gems: Genealogy for Beginners

We really want you to see Genealogy Gems as your guide through the fun and fascinating world of family history. That means in addition to our podcasts, we write loads of how-to articles just for you. To get instant access to all of our blog posts just right for beginners, click ARTICLES in the menu and select any article. On every article page there is a Categories menu. Click the down arrow, and click Beginner.  On your screen you will see all of our Beginner articles in chronological order starting with the most recent.

4 Beginning Genealogy Answers to Get You StartedFree Podcast

6 Sources That May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents

Try These Two Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online: Google and FamilySearch Wiki

 

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