Show us a document that helped you break down a brick wall on your family tree. Discuss the information that appears on the document and how it contributes to your family history.
© 2010, copyright Michelle Goodrum When I think of breaking down a brick wall in family history research, I have this vision of what's on the other side of that wall: a Genealogy Garden of Eden of sorts. Beautiful green fields with babbling brooks and cute wooden bridges, peaceful little cemeteries where my ancestor's headstones are prominently displayed, family homesteads overflowing with family photos, stories, old documents and maybe even a curator to show them to some curious soul who happens by. All the answers to any question I ever had on that family line are there for the picking. For most of us the reality of what's on the other side of that brick wall is quite different.
Earlier this summer, I discovered among my parent's papers, a Certificate of Birth for my great grandmother Bessie Maud Passmore. Actually it's a delayed birth certificate as it was issued when Bessie was about 56 years old and applying for her Social Security card.
We are dealing with an original source (the best kind) which is full of both primary and secondary information. What's so great is that due to the credibility of the informant (Bessie's older sister Cora), I consider both the primary and the secondary information to be high quality and reliable.
Much of the information in the birth certificate is supported by other evidence I have: Bessie's full name, date of birth, place of birth, father's name, and residence of her parents. What I want to focus on is some key new information in this document and how it helped me chip a hole in my brick wall large enough to wriggle through.
Let's start with the father, Thomas Passmore, analyze the information and see where it leads in relation to a question I wanted to answer: Who were Thomas Passmore's parents?
Age and Birthplace: Now armed with a specific birthplace of Mt. Vernon, [Knox Co.,] Ohio and an age of 28, which translates into a birth year of about 1854, I was quickly able to locate 6 year old Thomas and his family in the 1860 Census in the 5th Ward, Mt. Vernon, Knox County, Ohio. Having a specific birthplace was particularly helpful since there is at least one other Thomas Passmore in Ohio who is about the same age as my Thomas.
The next bridge I had to cross was a little rickety so I had to be careful. I located Thomas and his family in the 1870 Census living in Keithsburg, Mercer County, Illinois. I had to do some additional research to be certain that I had the correct family. Here's a summary of the household:
Illinois Statewide Marriage Index for Edith Passmore. Edith Passmore married Rueben Gladman on 29 March 1866 in Mercer County. I had the correct family.
So now I have a first name for Thomas' mother - Eliza. Unfortunately, RJ Passmore is missing and possibly dead. However, I've got a bonus, the names of two additional sisters, Mary and Cora. After tracing them through the census records, it turns out they never married and Eliza continued to live with them. This information allowed me to stop at a beautiful rest area in the Genealogy Garden of Eden and order death records for the three women. Hopefully, the death certificates will allow me to connect Eliza and "RJ" to each other and their daughter's Mary and Cora. If I am unable to eventually find a death certificate or other document connecting Thomas to his parents, I will need to connect Thomas to his sisters to "prove" who his parents were.
The same process will be used to answer the question, "Who were Jeanettie Poor's parents?" once I figure out the name of that village that is her birthplace on Bessie's Birth Certificate (hopefully this is just a little gate I need to figure out how to open and not another brick wall).
There is much, much more information that can be gleaned from Bessie Maud Passmore's birth certificate, especially when taken in context with some of the other information I have on the family:
- The number of children born to the mother (6) and how many are now alive (3) has helped me to make a tentative identification of a second sister to Bessie.
- Since Bessie's sister, Cora, was the informant, I now have additional information on Cora that I can use to lead me down yet another path should I choose to follow it.
- Then there is the plate my mother has with the name Cora Passmore written on the back and a letter from one of Bessie's son's to Mom that discusses "...the two hand painted plates (painted by an Aunt, or Great Aunt of ours)..." I am wondering if the plate Mom has one of the plates referred to in the letter. If it is, which Cora did it belong to? In my Genealogy Garden of Eden I see this as a little path with a patch of woods that I might want to wander down someday.