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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Finding an ancestor between Census Years

Arlene's Question:
My paternal grandmother was born in Mainz, Germany in Sept. 1865 +/-2 years. In 1900 census she lived at 226 East 4th Street in Manhattan, New York. She and her first cousin William Billau were married in Bridgeport, Fairfield Co., CT on 24 Dec 1901. On 20 Oct.1902 my father, Lawrence Billau was born in Bridgeport. On 13 May 1903 William died and was buried in Park Cemetery, Bridgeport Otillia then put Lawrence in Wartburg Orphan Farm School in Mt. Vernon, New York. She moved back to New York City and from there I can not find anything. I heard that she remarried and then died of breast cancer in 1908 or 1909. She was fluent in French and German and was a teacher for Singer Sewing Machine company for the immigrant women. Can you help?

Olive Tree Answer:
Hello Arlene - If Otilia remarried and died within a few years, (and in between federal census reports) it may impossible to find her. I briefly checked the New York City marriage records 1902 - 1910 and did not find her. She may have married in Connecticut or perhaps in Mount Vernon. Or elsewhere.

Look at New York City (and Bridgeport and Mt Vernon ) city directories. You can use an Free Trial to hunt for census and City Directories.

Check the 1905 NYC census You may be fortunate to find her still as Billau. Look at the LDS catalog for New York state census records for Manhattan Borough and Bronx, 1905. (e.g. Reel 10 FHL microfilm 1433086) 10/7

If you know that they were first cousins, then you must know their parents (and hence siblings). Follow the parents and siblings. Look for obituaries and probate records. There may be a mention of "Mrs X" who is unknown to you, and who might be Otilia's new surname. Where are the rest of the families buried? Check those cemeteries for an "Otilia".

Otillia may be found in a census with one of her siblings or in-laws, but indexed under that surname and not her own.

Why Mt Vernon? Were other family members living there?

The Wartburg orphange building still exists (It is now an eldercare facility). And they do maintain records from the orphanage. I would certainly write them; there may have been recorded visits from Otillia (and perhaps her new last name).

1 comment:

  1. Arlene, Please call the Wartburg! I did about 18 years ago and they sent me my grandfathers entire file. He went in 1911 as a toddler and stayed until he graduated high school. They were wonderful. Ask for Pat in the offices. She or someone else should be happy to help you.

    He was also what was then called a 'half orphan'. In his case, his mother died while father was still living. It was hard to care for a baby and the Wartburg did a wonderful job caring for their children! You can rest easily knowing that he was loved and cared for. You should try to visit there, too so you can get a sense for the place. My grandfather had wonderful memories.