The Mystery Men in the Family Plot: Turning Genealogy Clues Into Answers
Posted by Diane
More than a year ago, I visited my great-great-grandparents'
family cemetery plot in Cincinnati. I knew who would be buried there: besides my great-grandparents
H. A. and Frances Seeger and six of their children, there were
Frances' parents, Joseph and A. Marie Ladenkotter.
But when I got there, I also found these two guys:
Who were Joseph and John Dierkes?
My search for their identities involved using online and offline clues,
as Lisa Alzo suggests in our Turn
Online Clues Into Ancestor Answers webinar.
Clue No. 1
Lisa advises formulating a theory to explain a genealogical
problem. After comparing the Dierkes boys' birth years to those of
the Ladenkotter girls, I theorized that the boys were A. Marie's sons from a previous marriage. But they also could've been her much younger brothers, or nephews to her or Joseph Ladenkotter, or even nonrelatives.
I noted that a Joseph and a John Dierkes lived
in the Ladenkotter household in the 1850 and 1860 census. Besides
my great-great-grandmother Frances Ladenkotter (really Francisca), born in
1852, there was an Elizabeth Ladenkotter, born in 1846.
My census searches for other Dierkes in Cincinnati turned up
lots of results. I gave up looking at them; there was no way to
tell if any of them were related to John and Joseph.
Clue No. 2
I put on my big-girl genealogist pants and
searched the 1840 census. That census is scary because it names
only heads of household. Everyone else was counted within age ranges, so it's hard to tell if you've found the right family. (We have a video
class about how to research in the 1840 and earlier censuses.)
I found a household for a Joseph Dierkes, containing a male
aged 30-39 (that's Joseph) and a female age 30-39. A. Marie
was born in May 1812, according to her gravestone, so she would be
28 when the 1840 census was taken June 1. That and the faded
census return made this not a slam dunk.
Clue No. 3
Haphazard web searches led me to the Hamilton County Genealogical
Society's (HCGS) online marriage
index, with information found in newspaper notices, church
records, probate court records and reconstructed court records
(there was an 1884
riot at the courthouse). An Anna Maria Dirkers and a Joseph
Ladenkotter married between 1840 and 1849, according to church
The printed book from which the online index came gave the exact marriage date, May 4, 1845. If the Dierkes boys were A. Marie's sons from a previous
marriage, this marriage date would fall nicely into a gap between
the children's birth years.
Clue No. 4
If Dierkes (or Dirkers) was Anna Maria's maiden name, the boys were probably her relatives, not sons.
I requested the marriage record from the church.
A volunteer sent me the information from the record
(the books are too old and fragile to copy)—the marriage place and
date, the priest's name, and the names of two witnesses, Herman
Henrik Meyer and Maria Hinken. No name other than Dirkers for the bride, although those
witnesses could be related.
Clue No. 5
I felt stuck. There was more haphazard
searching. Then I found an entry for Anna Maria Ladenkötter
in HCGS online death
indexes from newspapers. I noticed a name several blank
columns away: Weyer. I held my breath and scrolled all the way up
the page. Yes, this was a maiden name column. I hadn't thought about a
death notice giving a maiden name.
The notice was from microfilmed German-language
newspapers. Through the HCGS website, I found a researcher
familiar with German and hired him to get a copy. Eight death notices (I got other
relatives' notices while I was at it) ended up
costing about $50, worth it for something that would've taken me all day and maybe then some. He could have translated
them, too, but I wanted to try it.
I'm still working on that, but it's easy to tell the notice gives the name as "Anna Maria
Ladenkötter geb. Weyer." Geb. is an abbreviation of the German word for "born."
betting that male witness to her 1845 marriage is really Herman
John and Joseph Dierkes are very likely Anna Maria Weyer's
sons from her first marriage. What would really clinch this—here's
where my strategy for turning
these online clues into ancestor answers comes in—is to find
her marriage record to Joseph Dierkes, death notices for Joseph
Dierkes (naming his survivors) or the boys (I have scoured
the HCGS index for these, to no avail), and/or baptismal records
for the Dierkes boys.
... And More Questions
I also want to learn why the boys died (just a few years before
Cincinnati birth and death registers began). Civil War, I thought,
but I can't find them in the Soldiers
and Sailors Database or other Civil War records. That's
another genealogical problem to tackle.
The recording of our Turning
Online Clues into Ancestor Answers webinar will be available soon in ShopFamilyTree.com.
You'll also find online genealogy research strategies in the book Discover Your Family History Online by Nancy Hendrickson.
Cemeteries | Research Tips | Webinars
Monday, July 29, 2013 11:36:43 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)