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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Evaluate your Sources, Think Outside the Box!

Jim's Question:
My great grandmother was Frances Elizabeth (Fannie) Phillips. She was born 3 Apr 1868 (I believe in Wayne Co., TN) She died 21 Jan 1955 at the home of her youngest child, Grover Cleveland Phillips, in Lauderdale County, Alabama. I have run into solid dead-ends in trying to determine who her parents were, or her siblings, or any of her ancestors. I believe Phillips was her maiden name even though she married Solon D. Phillips. Solon was born in 1863 and died in Lauderdale Co., AL in 1902. Solon and his mother Hester moved to Lauderdale Co., AL from Wayne Co., TN sometime during the 1890’s. Any clues anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated.

OLIVE TREE ANSWER: Hello Jim - You've got some very good clues and details for your family.

You haven't said if you've found Fannie on census records. These should provide many clues for you - for example where her parents were born. I would start with 1930 and work backwards until the time of her marriage to Solon. Then use location clues to trace Fannie before her marriage. In other words look for the couple after marriage (location) then look for Solon before marriage to see where he was living. It is likely that Fannie was nearby. I use for census records

Also, have you looked for that marriage record? I see from the 1900 census that they married circa 1885.

Another clue could be the naming of their children. Look to see if there is a pattern, perhaps they named children in honour of their parents. Speaking of children, have you looked for birth records or baptism records for them? They may provide their mother's maiden name.

Also death records. Find the death records, not just of Fannie but of her children. Any one of them might give her maiden name.

My next suggestion is to look carefully at the census records. Often families lived near each other. See who else is living near them in 1900.

My last caution is to be careful with those names! You call your ancestor Frances or Fannie but I see in 1900 she is indexed as Annie.

How do you know Fannie was born April 3, 1868? That's a very exact date of birth? The 1900 census says April 1871 so presumably you have a better source for your date? Be careful to evaluate your sources for each bit of information you have.
How reliable is your source for her date of birth?

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