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Friday, April 17, 2009

FInding an Ancestor Who Disappears from the Records

Virginia asked
My grandfather: Melvin Augustave Hileman born August 21 1891 information gathered from WWI Draft Registration Card

I found Melvin spelled Melvan living with parents 1900 census in Ohio...cannot find a single thing on him after the date above when he registered for the draft. I am wondering if he was killed in the war, went to Panama...or maybe prison...I have searched the West Virginia, Parkersburg for birth info...none found...

Albert Melvin Hileman son born November 13, 1915 later changed name to Albert Melvin Heilmanon his original certified copy of Birth cert says father Melvin A Hileman , 1006 E Thomas Seattle, Washington

Any help would be appreciated...I have been spinning my wheels for quite some time on this one...

Olive Tree Answer: Virginia, I'm not quite clear on why you think Melvin may have gone to Panama, but nonetheless, I do have some ideas for you.

I notice that at his son's birth in 1915, Melvin ws living in Seattle Washington and in his WW1 Draft Registration in 1917, he was living in Portland Oregon. He also claims to be single in 1917 so either he and Bertha married and divorced (in which case you might want to look for divorce records), or they never married, or he lied and they were still married in 1917. It's interesting to me that in the 1920 census his son Albert Melvin is living with his mother who is married to a George E Sprague. Have you found her marriage to George? I'd look for it to see if it says she was a widow, or single or divorced at the time she married George.

Since Melvin Augustave was in the West Coast region before he disappears from the records, there is also the chance that he went to Canada, most likely British Columbia as that is quite near. So why not have a look in British Columbia records such as the Online indexes to Vital Stats

You could also try Directories, Obituaries and other newspaper items for mention of him. But I would not limit my search to USA, I'd also include Canadian records.

Search his siblings - look for their obits, perhaps they mention him. Also try to find his parents' obits. I found this online which appears to be your Melvin and his parents and siblings so i t might help you find obituaries for his family members. See if he is mentioned as often a location is given when a sibling or son is named. Or if he is named and listed as deceased you will have more facts to go on.

-Bertha Amanda Varner, born 9 Sept 1867, died 1943, buried at the Varner Cemetery, near Summitt, in Wood Co, WV.
-Alonzo Melvin Hileman, born 19 May 1866, died 26 Mar 1936,buried at the Varner Cemetery. They were married 12 Nov 1890 in Wood Co, WV.


-Illa Hileman, married --Bumgarner;
-Melvin Hileman;
-Cora Hileman, married --- Allison; buried Varner Cemetery born 5/30,1894, died 7/4/1920
-Lester Hileman, buried Varner Cemetery;born 9/17/1903, died 12/23/1926
-Ona Hileman, buried Varner Cemetery; born 4/9/1907 died 3/6/1923
-Roy L Hileman, buried Varner Cemetery; born 10/8/1912 died 7/23/1969 married Maude -Looney born 4/11/1913 died 1/9/2003

Also, be careful to check surname variations and mistranscriptions such as Hillman(n) , Hilleman(n) , Hellman(n) , Hiteman(n) , Holeman(n) - use wildcards to allow for double "l", double "n" at end and vowel substitutions. You may want to see Using Search Engines to Find Ancestors for more ideas for successful searching

One little point - you say in your email "I found Melvin spelled Melvan living with parents 1900 census in Ohio..." Be very careful in assuming an index is correct! Your Melvin is INDEXED as Melvan in that census. But when you check the image, you can see that the name is in fact Melvin and has been mistranscribed. In this case it's not a big deal as spelling wasn't exact and there may very well be small variations in names in different records. But it could be a very big deal and could lead you astray. So always check the original record and verify for yourself what is recorded there.

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