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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't Trust Family Lore Blindly!

Janice's Question:
My GRANDFATHER HENRY CHARLES STILLWAGGON born 3 MAR.1878 died 29 JAN. 1955 MARRIED FLORENCE RENN E born 9 NOV.1885 Died MAY 1965 BROOKLYN N.Y. SIBLINGS HENRY, CLARENCE, HOWARD,WILBUR

GREAT Grandfather CHARLES HENRY STILLWAGGON Born 14 JUNE 1854 Died 17 AUG. 1894 MARRIED SARAH JANE VAN DYKE 21 JAN. 1859 Died 17 APRIL 1915. SIBLINGS HENRY, FLORANCE (LULU NICKNAME?), RAY, FRANK

GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER HENRY STILLWAGGON Died 15 JUNE 1886 MARRIED JULIA ___? Died 9 JUNE 1894. SIBLING LOTTIE

My search brings me to a halt as I can"t find MAIDEN NAME for JULIA nor DATE of BIRTH for Julia or GGG HENRY.

Most of information was from relative chatting. and off the head stone at cemetary. there is a family plot where it goes back from my grandparents,HENRY STILLWAGON & FLORENCE RENEE STILLWAGON Great grandparents CHARLES & SARAH JANE VAN DYKE - STILLWAGON_BRADHURST Great Great Grandparents HENRY & JULIA( No maiden name) STILLWAGGON Their daughter LOTTIE STILLWAGGON. Henry Vogt married Abby stillwagon (NOT sure who her parents are as family said GGG had only one child.) These are all in the family plot. at MT Olivet Cemetary. Maspeth NY

Any ideas where I should go next??? Or any answers to these questions

OLIVE TREE ANSWER Dear Janice - You have some information on your ancestors and yet you seem to be missing some that should be quite easy for you to find. I wonder if you relied only on what your family told you?

One of the first things you should do is search census records for your ancestors. For example you say you don't know when Henry (who died 1886) was born, but finding him in census would give you an approximate year of birth, as well as a location.

Census records will also help solve the mystery of family groups - meaning how many children did each couple have, and what were their names.

Here's an example: you have a stray Abby who married a Henry Vogt but you say that your family said Henry and Julia only had one child presumably named Lottie. But had you looked at the census records you'd have seen that is not correct!

Perhaps you don't have a membership to online sites that charge for subscriptioins but you can always take an Ancestry.com Free Trial That would allow you to search census for 1880, 1870, 1860 and so on for your ancestors Henry and Julia. The 1880 census is also freely available (as are other years) at http://www.pilot.familysearch.org/

A quick look in 1880 shows Henry with his wife Julia and (drum roll please!) their daughter Abigail age 24. Abby is of course the nickname for Abigail....

Henry's birth year is circa 1824 in Prussia. Daughter Abigail is cira 1856 in New York so right away you know that Henry arrived in New York sometime before 1856. You've got a birth year (approximate) and location for both Henry and his wife.

A word of caution - since your Henry is from Germany (Prussia) you must also search under his German name, not his Americanized name of Henry! Henry = Heinrich

As well, Stillwagon can be spelled in a variety of ways (Stellwaggon, Stellwagen, Stilwagon, etc) so be sure you use wildcards when searching online sites

Following Henry and family backwards from 1880 in each census year, you are going to find some very interesting information! It will be a great lesson in why genealogists should not rely on family lore as fact, but instead, use it for clues to help you find your family.

The 1870 census shows us that Henry was an American citizen so he naturalized at some point before that year. Have you looked for naturalization records?

I found Henry and his family in 1850, 1860 (a challenge as his surname is indexed as Stellwagen), 1870 and 1880. Each census gave new clues including Julia's full first names, and that he had several children including Emma, Charles H., Abbie and Babethe. German ancestors often had two names such as Johann Heinrich but used the second name as their given name. So finding Julia listed as such in 1850 and 1870 but listed with a different first name in 1860 doesn't surprise me. It does give you another name to use when searching.

Henry's occupation is given in early census as a baker. In later years he is a tollgatherer and a ferry master. Do you see why you need to find ALL census entries for Henry?

You should also be able to narrow the timeline for Henry's immigration to the USA.
Ancestry.com has very complete ships passenger lists for you to search

So my advice is to go slow. Gather the information from all the census years possible. Don't worry about small discrepencies, keep an open mind and be creative when searching! Lastly do NOT believe everything you are told, find supporting evidence by doing your research in census, cemetery, vital records and so on.

1 comment:

  1. Someone wrote to my great grandmother once and told her that she was related to a John Haynes who was the Governor of Massachusetts in 16 something or other. This of course became family legend until a few people like me started sourcing the family info. Great Grandmother was actually related to German Palatine refugees named Hains/Heins/Heintz. It's probably better that she never knew that.

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