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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Narrowing Genealogical Possibilities

Jan asked a question about an orphaned ancestor

I'm trying to identify the birth parents of my ancestor Charlotte Weeks who was five years old when her parents were killed in a horse carriage accident in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. She was born on 3 August 1868, so the year of the accident was either 1873 or 1974 if my mother's memory serves her right. I checked some Peterborough death incidents online from that period but couldn't find that particular one. Weeks/Weekes is not her birth surname, but the surname of her adoptive parents. Short of going to Peterborough Public Library myself to research the obits in the paper, how can I find out the identity of the mother and father who were killed?
 ASK OLIVE TREE answer: Hi Jan, what a challenge! I do have some suggestions that might help in your quest. It's all about compiling lists of possibilities and then finding ways to narrrow that list.

1. Have you checked 1871 census for Ontario? Charlotte should be found with her parents. I'd check the census and make a list of *all* girls named Charlotte living in the right place of the right age to be yours. Then I'd check Ontario death registrationsto see if any of the parents of the Charlottes you found died in 1873-1874. I'd also check the 1881 census to see which of the 1871 Charlottes you found are still with parents. You can narrow your list down quite a bit to probably a handful of possibilities left

2. Have you written to Peterborough Public Library to see if you can pay to have obits searched for the time period you need?

3. Who did Charlotte say her parents were on her marriage record?

4. I had a peek at the 1881 census when Charlotte was living with the Weeks family. A good clue there - her ethnic origin is given as Scottish. So quite possibly she was baptised in a Presbyterian church. Also the Weeks were rather elderly to be adopting such a young child. Is there a chance they were relatives - perhaps even grandparents? I'd check them out very carefully.

5. Check local church records for her birth (see #4 above) since if she was born in 1868 she was a year too early for Ontario birth registrations

6. Check Peterborough cemeteries for a man and wife who died on or near the same day in 1873 or 1874.

7. Check Ontario death registations by searching in the Peterborough area month by month. You're looking for two people with same last name, man and woman, who died on the same day or close to the same day.

Most of the suggestions I've given you can be searched at Ancestry.com.

3 comments:

  1. Great suggestions! It really takes being methodical, but smart to be able to get at some of these more difficult research challenges. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks Kevin. I think often we forget that sometimes genealogy is a lot of drudgery - methodically making lists of possibilities and then gathering facts to narrow that list.

    I thought of another suggestion for Jan - look at the names Charlotte gave her children. Do any honour her husband's parents? Perhaps she also named a child or two after her own mother and father. Then match the possible names with the names of those possibles from that 1871 census where Jan should look for all Charlottes born in the right time and place to be hers.

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  3. Don't rule out that some part of the story might be mis-remembered. For example, there was an accident but only one parent died; the other died shortly afterwards of a different cause.

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