Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be Prepared to be Mystified

In addition to surprises, once you begin researching your family history you will encounter at least one mystery, maybe more.  For example, there will be periods where an ancestor disappears, and then suddenly reappears. Where did he or she go? Or a census will list a family member as having one name, and the next census will list a person born the same year but with an entirely different name. What’s going on?
The” name” mystery is usually easier to solve than the “where were they?” mystery.  Early census records were compiled by people – census takers – who wrote down the information given to them by the people they were interviewing.  A name could have been misheard or misspelled. In many cultures, people went by their middle names or call names. It’s possible that the first census used his or her more formal first name, and the second census used the middle name or a nickname. 
In the1860 Census, the first census he appeared in, my great-grandfather’s name was listed as Albert. In the next census, he was Augustus, the next  August, then Gust, then plain Gus. Where the heck the Albert came from, I have no idea, and probably never will. Anyone who might know the answer has long passed.
My biggest “where were they?” mystery involves my great-great-grandfather Thomas, who was born in Oneida County, NY, in 1828. He does not appear in a census until 1870, after he and his wife had moved to Wis. In the 1860 census, his wife Eliza is listed as living with her parents and siblings under her married name, but no Thomas. His brother Charles is listed in the 1850 and 1860 Censuses as running the family farm in Oneida County, but no Thomas.  How does a man escape being listed in the census for the first 40 years of his life? And where in the world was he?
As you dig deeper into your family history, you’ll have to accept that some mysteries are not meant to be solved.  What mysteries lie in your family history?
Discover your roots and watch the branches of your family tree begin to grow.
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