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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Proving Statements in Obituaries

Question from Marguerite :
Would you by any chance know any information about the great grandfather of General Lew Wallace?

I have transcripts of obits for my 3 great grandfather, James Madison Wallace (b. 1810 Huntington Co, Pennsylvania, d. 1889, Loudoun Co, Virginia), son of William Wallace m. Bethia Steel. They both state that James Madison Wallace is a first cousin of General Lew Wallace. The one in VA states "their fathers were brothers" but this phrase is omitted in the PA obit.

Can you fill in any information? I suspect that the father of "my" James is the brother of the grandfather of Lew. Is there any way this can be proven?

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Hi Marguerite - to prove (or DISprove) that these men were brothers, you will need to find reference to each of them with parents. So you will need birth or baptism records, or marriage records or census records when they are still at home with their parents. Census is not going to work for you given the years of birth. So that leaves marriages and births or baptisms.

You may want to have a look at Ancestor Birth Record Finder and Ancestor Marriage Record Finder for ideas on where to look for hard-to-find birth or marriage records.

You could also hunt for obituaries for both men - General Lew Wallace and the father of your James (William) but don't forget that an obituary was not written by the individual him/herself. Therefore it is only as reliable as the person who submitted it - and they may or may not know the facts.

Last but certainly not least, hunt for a biography of Lew Wallace and obtain more information on his parents and siblings. I had a quick search online and found dozens of bios. One states that

General Lewis Wallace, known for most of his life as “Lew,” was born in Brookville,Indiana, on April 10, 1827. He was the second of four sons born to David and Esther Test Wallace. http://www.ben-hur.com/WallaceBiography.pdf

It goes on to say that one son, John, died at a young age. So that leaves 2 brothers for Lew and you will want to find out if one was named William. If the answer is "yes" is it YOUR William? Should be a fun time for you!

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