Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Hypothetical Ancestor Trade-Off

In my previous Genealogy is Unfair post, I whined about the challenges in my own family tree, as opposed to those of my husband or clients. Others seem to have it easy.

This started a fun dialogue in my comments section. Wendy decided we should start a club. The Shy Genealogist took it even further and jokingly proposed a "Trade an Ancestor" event. This got me thinking...

Do you have an ancestor who is a challenge to research? Would you like to hand him or her off to another genealogist for a couple weeks and let someone else worry about it? 

Tell us which one and why.

Here's mine:

1940

This is my great-great grandmother: Marie Magdalena "Mollie" Schmidt/Schmitz Baerecke Hayward Sutherland. Yeah. Now you see part of the problem.

She landed on this earth as an adult with no parents. I have no idea where to go with her.

First of all Schmidt/Schmitz is just Smith with a fancy accent. There's another problem. Also the documents I possess list four different places of birth: Belgium, London, France and Alsace-Lorraine. 

When she was first widowed in the 1890's, Mollie moved from Chicago to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Why? She had to have known someone there. You don't just up and move to the middle of nowhere with your young daughter.

I did visit Las Vegas, New Mexico a few years back. It's still the middle of nowhere. I visited a cemetery where I found several Schmitt/Schmidt graves including one for Asmus Christian Schmidt. He is buried next to Mollie's second husband. I do not think this is a coincidence.


Is he the reason Mollie went to New Mexico? Is this her father or uncle?

Obviously the next step would be to research this guy and the other Schmidts in this tiny town. However I can't do that because New Mexico is one of those difficult states when it comes to records access. 

When I visited the San Miguel County courthouse, it was gutted for remodeling. I found the temporary courthouse records department in a strip mall and they told me all the records were back at the gutted courthouse. Huh? It was gutted. The building didn't even have windows.

All New Mexico/San Miguel County films I've tried to order from the Family History Library are labeled "restricted" and I'm denied access to them. I have no idea why 100+ year-old records are so controversial. 

So I'm stuck. I can't figure out the possible link between Mollie and Asmus. I haven't had any luck researching the name Schmidt in immigration records. Therefore, I've tabled the little Mollie project here in pursuit of greener research pastures. Hers is the ancestor file I'd like to trade for a couple weeks. Let someone else figure her out.

What about you? Whose file would you like to ship elsewhere in the hypothetical ancestor trade-off?


(Special thanks to The Shy Genealogist and my other great readers for once again turning the comments into great subjects for discussion. --A)



36 comments:

  1. I'll do a little work on yours. Mine is:
    George Clark, my grandfather and father of Glenn Clark b. 1901 Pleasantville, Iowa. George may have been born in Illinois but that about the only lead.

    Randy

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  2. How interesting! She's recent enough that you'd think it would be easier to figure things out. I agree, that grave doesn't seem like a coincidence... I'm afraid that I don't want to trade any of my ancestral challenges--hearing about other people's problems always just makes you grateful for your own.

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  3. What a great post! You've got me really interested in Mollie and when you do find out about her I hope you'll post about that.

    I'd like to pass along my ggg grandfather Moses V. Williams who disappeared about 1840 from Chester County, Pennsylvania - home to about 6 thousand Williams families and at least 3 Moses Williamses born between 1790-1808 (mine was born about 1797, possibly). Oh, and there was another Moses V. Williams around, too, born about 1800.

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  4. Randy, have you been able to locate George Clark in the 1925 Iowa census at FamilySearch.org? I ask because that census includes names and birthplaces of parents.

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  5. Lidian, have you blogged about your Moses Williams problem. Maybe somebody somewhere out there can help. Good luck!

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  6. Love it! It's like the SantaThing idea on LibraryThing! So many ancestors I'd want to trade tho... :o)

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  7. All New Mexico/San Miguel County films I've tried to order from the Family History Library are labeled "restricted" and I'm denied access to them. I have no idea why 100+ year-old records are so controversial.

    Perhaps New Mexico has a law similar to that of Texas. There are a number of microfilms for the county in which I work that have multiple record types on them - birth, death, and marriage. Because of state law restricting access to birth records for 75 years, you also can't view the microfilm even if it has unrestricted records on it.

    You know who I'd like to trade - Emma Pape Childs, specifically determining who is her mother. However, she actually isn't one of MY ancestors, plus she lived in Illinois and Wisconsin. I'd have you ook for some records on my Guokas Lithuanian grandparents who settled in Houston, since I can't seem to make it down there. :)

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  8. What a brilliant idea! I'd hand off my maddeningly unspecific 4th ggrandmother Rachel Hampton Mulkey - born about 1794, probably in TN, married about 1809, died after 1880, parents unknown (as in NOT the Andrew Hampton my grandmother told me). Notice a certain lack of data? I'll take any shard of info that can be found.

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  9. Amanda, that's my guess, too. The records I want on the film are 100+ year old marriage records. I suspect there is some other type of record on the same roll that is restricted.

    Let me know if I can help you with anything down here. I drive all over the place anyway. Might as well look your stuff up while I'm there. :)

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  10. It cannot be coincidence that the records include the insignificant little borough of Los Alamos, could it? Maybe it's because IAAL, and I want to break down doors over public records issues, but there seems to be something not quite right with preventing access to what are undoubtedly public records >100 years old. There is more there there.

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  11. You asked:"have you been able to locate George Clark in the 1925 Iowa census at FamilySearch.org"
    I believe that Ancestry.com has that census but I found nothing beyond 1915 and not the right Georges (too young).

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  12. What was her religion? Perhaps church records or burial records would give a clue?

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  13. What a great post--this could be a regular part of your blog! I have the same Schmidt/Smith issue. My mom pronounces her great-grandma's name as Schmidt, but only records I find are in the name of Smith.

    Lucy Emma (Smith) Jordan, born January 3 1881 or 1883, according to census records / death certificate / grave marker. Nevertheless, she appears in no census until 1900, when she is already married as Lucy Emma (Smith) Jordan living in Baltimore. She was a wonderful woman, but I do think she lied about her age!

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  14. Well, there is always my Lizzie Smith from Tennessee. I have several tantalizing clues, including a candidate for her first husband, but so far the search is still going nowhere.

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  15. Only one? haha.

    I think the one that I would trade off would be Catherine McClaren (McAllen,McLaren...). I know that she married Jean-Baptiste Bernard, lived, and apparently settled Calumet Island, in Quebec. I know the names of a few of her children, and that's about it. I've been researching this woman for so long!

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  16. Amy, I love this idea! I'll trade you Mollie for my great-grandmother Elizabeth Miller Pater. She came from Zyrardow, Poland but doesn't appear to have been born there. Plus, she's likely a Czech (Bohemian) Protestant which in Poland is like being a Mexican in Sweden or something. Anyway, it sounds like your Mollie provided a different birth place with every marriage document? I love a good mystery...as long as someone solves mine!

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  17. Amy, what a grand idea. Maybe I'll just have to write a blog post as well. Never know where that might get me! :) I have a John Brinkley, born abt 1796 (or before, or after depending on what you find), in Delaware. I think he was beamed down as the first record I find for him is his marriage record in 1818. If someone needs Oregon/Washington/California work I'll help out.

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  18. Amy, have you started looking into Asmus (love that name by the way) yet? If not, I have found him on the 1900 census with his wife, Louisa and some other tidbits on Genealogy Bank. Let me know if you need them.

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  19. This is a great idea. Maybe we should start a voluntary exchange club. Set up circles on Google+ or some. I certainly understand your frustration with NM. I've got the same thing with Oklahoma.

    My dead end is gg grandfather Charles Carroll Hall. He was either born in NJ or PA... if you believe the census. His wife lived in MY in the 1860 (census) and they married in IL in 1861. He didn't live in IL in 1860. Their is a Charles County Hall in the same village in NY as his wife (Mary), except it appears that Charles already has a wife and child...oh, and he's still living in NY with the child in 1870. I've been stuck on this one for 15 years.

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  20. Maybe you could help me work out how so many of my ancestors managed to swim to Australia because it doesn't look as though they came by boat!

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  21. Love your post and it is a great idea. I'd trade my great-grandmother in a heart beat. Finding out who her parents were and where she came from was my research goal for 2011. Well, the year is almost over and all I've learned is where in Italy she was born. Now if only I knew her correct maiden name, correct given name and correct birthday I'd be all set!

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  22. A great idea, Amy, and my choice is easy - I would trace my grandmother Alice English (1884-1945), as I cannot even trace the name of her mother. See my contribution at http://scotsue-familyhistoryfun.blogspot.com/2011/12/trade-ancestor-event-can-anyone.html

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  23. Oops! - my previous comment should, of course, have read "I would choose my grandmother........"
    (Memo to myself - use the Preview facility!)

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  24. Have you looked in the Bureau of land management Records? I did a very "quick and dirty" search for Schmidt in New Mexico, and received many hits. There was a Mollie Schmidt the dateof the land patent is 1925, nd the image of the actual patent can be downloaded as a PDF, as well as " related Documents" re: other land holders in the same town ship/range area. the URL for B. of LM is: and the URL for the specific entry for Mollie is: http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/results/default.aspx?searchCriteria=type=patent|st=NM|cty=|ln=Schmidt|sp=true|sw=true|sadv=false

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  25. I have several I'd like to trade. I think my first one would be to find the parents of my great grandfather, Herman Levy. I know he was born in 1856 in Germany, arrived in the US in either 1873 or 1875, and died in 1918 in Fresno, CA. I know nothing about parents or siblings. If I can find his parents, I can complete my quest to know the names of all 16 great grandparents.

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  26. Did Asmus live in Chicago at any time?

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  27. Would agree with the you and the others that searching Asmus could be worthwhile. I consider this the "cluster buster" approach.
    Doing research for a friend who's multi-G grandfather William Taylor (name is just a little common ya think?)in the early 1800's. Now just this week I've scored by searching his wife's first husband! In her pension application for the first husband she details the marriage dates and locations to both men and birthdates of all the chilren! Wahoo! Continued luck to all with yours!
    Amy

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  28. Fantastic article. Talking about some of your family history research difficulties just connected you so many other researchers. Thanks.

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  29. Here a good challenge that has stunped me for 36 years.

    William A. Purvis, b. 1823-1827 either in NC or SC is enumerated in 3 Census - 1860-1870-1880 Census, Anson County, NC. Last name is spelled Purvis, Purvice and Purris. He married Sarah Jane Graves of Chesterfield, SC and they had one Child - William James Purvis, b. 25 Sept 1863. William James is married to Mary Hulda Previtte in 1880 Cenus - Anson County.
    I have a lawsuit naming William A. Purvis as defendant and numerious land deeds from Anson County. He signed a land deed in Sept 1899 and is not listed in the 1900 Census. His wife Sarah Jane Graves died Dec 1893 and William along with wife Betsey/Elizabeth are selling the land.
    I would love to find parents for my William A. Purvis; My Great-Great-Grandfather.

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  30. Amy:

    A couple of things:

    1.) Have you tried looking on the New Mexico Death Index Project at http://www.usgwarchives.org/nm/deaths.htm Sam Padilla is in charge of this project, and will print and mail any death certificate that you find on the index, at a nominal price.

    2.) What records were you searching for? If you were looking for Catholic Church records, I can tell you that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe can be very restrictive when it comes to records. However, the Albuquerque Genealogy Library has all of the church records going back hundreds of years, up to a 100 years ago. Check out the New Mexico Genealogical Society website (nmgs.org) for a listing of those records (Click on the "Churches" link at the top of the page.) You may request help on finding a record by sending an email to webmaster@nmgs.org.


    Robert Baca,
    President, New Mexico Genealogical Society

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  31. I'd be game for a little ancestor trading! I think I'd trade my great-great-grandfather, Hugh Quinn. (Good, common, Irish name in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn!) He's not *quite* a brick wall, because there is one avenue I still have to pursue (although I wasn't thinking of it explicitly until this post - thanks for that!), but he seems to be utterly unconnected to anyone, anywhere, ever - at least from his side of the family. After he married, their relationships seemed to be ALL with his wife's family - her nieces and nephews and brothers lived with them at various points, their daughter married a maternal cousin of some sort, Hugh himself witnessed the naturalizations of some of his in-laws, but no connection to anyone related to HIM ever shows up. And I have no idea where he came from - I can't positively ID him in any records until after he's married. He's a mystery to me!

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  32. Many thanks, Amy, for your comment. Yes, I should have offered, in my original comment, to help anyone out there wanting to trade/trace a Scottish ancestor, and I will do my best to help. See my Blog Page on Looks Ups.

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  33. Here's mine, Amy!

    http://gatapleytree.blogspot.com/2011/12/hypothetical-ancestor-trade-off.html

    Liz

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  34. I actually have two that I would like to hand off, my maternal grandmother's mother and paternal granddad's biological mother.

    For maternal great grandmother, I can get back to 1889, when she and great granddad got married. She was born in GA around 1865, most likely a slave, and of course died before GA began keeping vital records. What's frustrating is grandma had lot's of cousins that migrated to NC from GA about the same time she and granddad did. I was hoping researching some of them would provide the link but so far all the connections have been on great granddad's side of the family.

    For the paternal great-grandma, she didn't rear granddad but she was obviously around and had contact. She was still living when the grandparents got married, my oldest aunt was named after her but...My dad always said that he thought granddad's foster mother was actually his aunt. Her marriage license indicates she was a Jones prior to marriage so it's possible.

    For both I feel like I chip off little pieces but will never be able to solve either mystery since I really don't know anything about either one of their families.

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  35. What a great idea to trade ancestors - a fresh pair of eyes can work wonders sometimes. Could you get access to the burial records to find out who bought the plots and who else be in the same lairs? Jo

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  36. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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