First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! As for mine; it was great!
Recently; while researching for one of my clients; I learned another valuable lesson in finding the “difficult to find” in a census record. Reuben Walker had married Elizabeth Reese on the 21st day of September 1841, in Harrison County, Indiana. They apparently did not remain there for very long. Although we have yet to find Reuben and Elizabeth on the 1850 census; we did have Elizabeth and her children located on the 1860 census; in St. Louis, MO. She had 3 children in the household with her. They were Marshall (age 17), Frank (age 5) and Edwin (age 2). Because of the large age gap between Marshall and Frank, I must admit that I initially thought that Reuben may have died much earlier; and that the two youngest children may not have belonged to Reuben. Since my client descends from one of those 2 younger children; it was important to determine whether Reuben had fathered them. We had no idea when Reuben died; or even if he had died before 1860.
Having spent a lot of time trying to locate Reuben and family in the 1850 census; with no success; I finally decided to try to locate Elizabeth in later census records. I spent a lot of time searching for her in 1870 and 1880, to no avail. We then discovered that the oldest son, Marshall; had served during the Civil War; and that his mother (Elizabeth) had applied for his pension. Since I know how helpful these pension files can be; I suggested to my client that we obtain a copy of the complete pension file.
I immediately emailed my contact who obtains pension files for me from the National Archives. I received the complete pension file about 10 days later. We were not disappointed! The pension file provided several new clues for us. One of those clues eventually lead me to finally finding Elizabeth on the 1870 and 1880 census. Before I get into that; allow me to speak briefly about some of the other great information given in the pension.
We Learned so Much from the Pension File!
As soon as I started reading through the pension file; I knew I was in for a treat. Things were beginning to come clearer; and I learned so much about the family. In 1890, Elizabeth applied for Marshall’s pension, claiming that she was dependent on him. She states that Marshall had died in November of 1868 of Lock-Jaw; caused by a cut or wound in the hand. He left no widow or children. Then…… a bombshell! Elizabeth says that “the father of said son is dead. He died at Memphis, Tennessee, April 1860”.
According to all census records, all three of Elizabeth’s children were born in MO. Marshall had been born about 1842/43. Frank had been born Sept. 1854. Edwin was born Aug. 1857. So… it certainly appeared that the family had been in Missouri from shortly after the marriage; until after 1860, when Elizabeth appears there with the children. However; we also knew that Reuben had apparently worked on the river. His dying in Memphis; even though his wife and children are in Missouri; doesn’t seem so odd.
Since we learned that Reuben did not die until April of 1860; we also can feel better about his being the father to all three children. Since Reuben worked on the river; he probably was not home much; and this would help explain the large gap between the children.
Back to the Census
From family information, we already knew that Elizabeth had married A Ziegler at some point later. We just didn’t know when. However; because of the pension file; we now knew that had to be sometime after April of 1860; when Reuben died. We also knew that she was still Walker at the time of the 1860 census. In the pension file; Elizabeth stated that she “remarried to Jacob Zeigler July 18th, 1867 and that he died in August 1882”. However; she did not state where she married Jacob., At least we now knew that she should be a Zeigler in 1870 and 1880. We also knew Marshall had died before the 1870 census; and would not be in the household after the 1860 census.
Since we learned the first name of Elizabeth’s Zeigler husband, I began searching for Elizabeth Zeigler (with a husband, Jacob) in 1870 and 1880. We had found an Elizabeth and Jacob Zeigler on the 1880 census in Illinois. However; by 1880, Elizabeth’s two living children were living in Nebraska; so I could not really confirm that this Elizabeth Zeigler was the one we were after. Jacob and Elizabeth are both common first names. Also; the birth places listed for Elizabeth’s parents on that 1880 census; did not match what we knew. Of course I realize census information is often incorrect. But there just wasn’t enough on that census to be certain this was out Elizabeth.
I had also tried searching for an Elizabeth Zeigler in 1870; whose husband was Jacob. I found none that would match our Elizabeth. Since Frank and Edwin would have still been teenage children at the time of the 1870 census; I also tried searching for Edwin Walker and Frank Walker. No luck!
Finally; I decided I should check the marriage records in Shelby County, Illinois. This is where I had found the Jacob and Elizabeth Zeigler on the 1880 census; whom we felt “might” be our Elizabeth. Sure enough….. I found a marriage record for Jacob Zeigler and Elizabeth Walker there on the exact date she had given in the pension file. This confirmed that it was she whom we had found on the 1880 Shelby Co., IL census.
So….. I now knew that Elizabeth married Jacob Zeigler in Shelby Co., IL in 1867. I also knew that she and Jacob were there at the time of the 1880 census. They certainly should be there in 1870! So…. I decided I needed to search again; with focus being in Shelby Co., IL. I searched again for Elizabeth Zeigler, Ziegler, Zeiglar, etc. in 1870; in Shelby Co., IL. Still no luck! I searched for Edwin and Frank Walker there; expecting they would be with their mother. No luck! This was beginning to get pretty frustrating! Finally; I decided to search only for Jacob Zeigler, Ziegler, Zeiglar, etc. Still no luck!
What’s Going On?!?!
Why couldn’t I find Elizabeth on the 1870 census? She should be in Shelby Co., IL. I have tried about everything I can think of. Well…… almost! Being very determined; and feeling very confident that Elizabeth would be in Shelby County at the time of the 1870 census; I wasn’t ready to give up. Since I knew approximately how old Elizabeth would be at the time of the 1870 census; I decided to search for all Elizabeth’s on the 1870 census in Shelby County; allowing 5 years both ways for age difference; and not including any last name in the search. Wow! Still nothing that matched!
In a bit of a last ditch effort; I decided to search all Jacob’s in Shelby County; again allowing five years difference in age; and not including a last name. Browsing through the results, I see a Jacob “Seigler”. My first reaction was that someone had transcribed the “Z” incorrectly as an “S”. However; when I looked at the census image; the name was actually spelled with an “S” instead of a “Z”. He was the correct age; and in the right place. His wife was listed on the census only as “Mrs” Seigler. Frank was not in the household. However; Edwin was. But, he was listed as Edwin Seigler.
Finally….. I had found Elizabeth on the 1870 census! What a challenge this was! As you can tell; I don’t give up easily. Perseverance pays off.
Don’t Give Up Finding your Ancestors in the Census Records
I have had many challenges locating some people in census records. Many folks are quick to say things such as “they must have been missed during that census”. However; I have learned that is rarely the case. Often times it takes some real creativity to locate our ancestors in census records. But don’t give up! Census records can be very helpful in learning more about our ancestors. It is important to locate our ancestors in every census record.