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Monday, December 10, 2012

Give All Information When Writing a Query

 Teddi sent a request for help to Olive Tree Genealogy. Here is her email to me:
I have been searching for my grandmother, Theodora Marino Pensyl, for several years now. She was married in Elkton, Maryland, on August 31, 1939 to Charles Wilbur Pensyl from Bedford, Bedford County, PA. They lived in Philadelphia, Pa near Jackson Street and my mother was born on September 18, 1940.
My mother's names is Dorothy Alice Pensyl; she was christened at the Catholic Church in the early part of December, 1940. My mother never had a birth certificate.
She never met her mother and she was raised by her grandmother, Alice Pensyl, until she turned five; at which time she was able to live with her father and his new "wife" (although they never legally married).
We do not know if Theodora was dead, or living and not able to see my mother due to my grandfather's ability to keep her hidden. I have tried and was unable to reach anyone for assistance. Any ideas you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
Dear Teddi

Sometimes when a reader asks me for help, I immediately have questions. In this case I'm wondering how you knows these exact dates of marriage and birth of her mother. Why am I wondering? Because if you have the marriage record it must surely show an age for Theodora - and that would at least give an approximate year of birth. The birth record of Dorothy may show more details. Both are worth sending for if you do not already have them. If you do have them, you should consider sharing the information found on them when writing a query on a message board or privately (as you did to me)

Even though you say your mother never had a birth certificate, it is quite likely that one was filed and can be obtained. It's worth requesting it. 

Next question - have you found Charles and Theodora on the 1940 census? That would be very helpful to know because that will give you an age for Theordora and a location of birth.  It will also give the place of birth of her parents plus more detail.

Being curious, I had a quick look on Ancestry and I also googled the names. I found several queries you posted over the last several years. To my surprise you gave tidbits of information with each one - different each time - about Dorothea. I suspect you didn't realize how important and helpful each of these little pieces of information could be.

For example in one query you said Theodora sometimes went by Dottie. So that is another name under which to search, and I suspect Dorothy is yet another. In another query you mentioned you thought she had a sister Annette and a brother or father named Leo - these are names you can also search for online. It's crucial to provide these bits and pieces to anyone whose help you want whether on message boards or via email. Even family lore can prove helpful when facing a challenging research puzzle.

So please send for the birth and marriage records and let us know here on the Ask Olive Tree Genealogy blog if you have any other details (plus that all-important 1940 census record!)

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