Saturday, April 23, 2011
It's been a while, I know. I was recently thrown a little off track when I found out that my great-grandmother, Elizabeth, had been adopted by the Briner family instead of them actually being her birth parents. I wasn't really sure what to do with her information. Well, I can finally answer some questions, although I may not be able to go as far back as I would like.
I finally got Elizabeth's death certificate, and let me say that although I never met him, I am certain I would have really liked my great-uncle, Samuel Gerke. He was the informant during the time they were filling out her death certificate. He gave her exact birthdate, confirmed she was remarried to another man after Simon, gave her birth place, and although he did not know Elizabeth's mother's name, he gave her father's name: Edward Bartholomew. Yep, I would have liked Samuel.
So I got his name, threw caution to the wind, and ran full speed ahead with said info, when I inevitably hit a very large brick wall. There was only one Edward Bartholomew in the whole of Illinois in 1870 that would have matched the requirements of being her father. Elizabeth was living with the Briner family by 1880, so I would not be able to find her with her birth family at all, being she was born in 1873. There was not one match for Bartholomew in the entire area of Quincy where she was supposedly born in 1870 and 1880. I checked hundreds of records personally, twice, just to make sure the last name wasn't spelled differently. I was interested in her birth record only to find out that she was born just years before there was a requirement to have those records. Figures.
So,for the heck of it, I decided to do a little research on the one Edward I found. Turns out he was easy to track, and if I am related to him, virtually all genealogy is done until about 1400. He was living with his wife Jennie, and his mother in Chicago (she was a widow) in 1870. Although his mother was in the 1880 census, Edward, Jennie, and their young son, William, disappeared off the face of the planet and cannot be found ANYWHERE after 1870.
Edward was born in Connecticut, and she in Ohio. His father, from a long line of Bartholomews in Connecticut (we're talking generation after generation) was even easier to find. His name was Philander Bartholomew. He had a lot of money and decided to moved to Peoria, Illinois to be near his brother and other family. I found all this info in less than an hour. For the record, there are a lot of Bartholomews in the Peoria area throughout the census years. I decided to take this information and work out a little map. Edward would have had to go from Connecticut to Peoria, Peoria to somewhere in Ohio, Ohio to Chicago, Chicago to Quincy, and Quincy to Stephenson County, Illinois. It's a mess, and just didn't make much sense.
Why would Edward leave Chicago and move to Quincy, and how did Elizabeth end up in Stephenson County? I couldn't find much for the surname Bartholomew in Stephenson or Jo Daviess County. So I went back to the Illinois marriage records again. An Edward Bartholomew married a Miss Jennie Barber in Peoria, Illinois. So, I decided to check for the Barber family in the same two counties, and that's when I found a possible connection. There was a Barber family, a very large one in fact, that came from Ohio and settled in Jo Daviess. It wasn't just any township, however,but the one right next to where the Briner family lived in 1870. In 1880, one of those Barber children was living in Jefferson Township (where most of my family hails from) in Stephenson County. He was a blacksmith. And according to the census, he lived very near the Briner's and practically right next door to my great grandfather's brother, William Gearke, also a blacksmith. Trying not to get ahead of myself, I decided to write the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) in hopes they could track down some sort of birth record or index of Elizabeth in Quincy.
I received the info today, and was disappointed to learn that only one Bartholomew was born even remotely in that time period according to index records, and that was in 1880. So now I am at another aggravating standstill with a lot of questions. Was Elizabeth really born in 1873? Was Edward really my great grandfather's name, or was it a middle name? Who was Elizabeth's mother? Was it Jennie Barber? I am a person that follows my instincts, and my instincts are telling me that I am so close and staring right at the info, but I am just missing that one little thing....my instincts are also telling me I am on the right track. I can't explain it, but I just feel like I'm right. I don't know why.
So there's my book for the day. Lots of questions and not too many answers. Will I be celebrating and putting this all down in my family tree? Absolutely not. I have no concrete proof that my instincts are correct and have a very long way to go. But I hope that someday, I will be able to find that concrete proof, although I fear that I have pretty much exhausted my options and am not sure where to go from here. I've checked birth, marriage, and death records. I've gone through hundreds of pages of census records in Adams, Jo Daviess, and Stephenson Counties. I've contacted IRAD and Stephenson County Genealogical Society, newspapers, and obits. Quite simply, without Elizabeth's mother's name (even just a first name) or more info on her father, I'm a little stuck. Well, not a little, a lot. I have more respect than ever for people that were adopted or have adoptions in their family.
Friday, April 1, 2011
The first thing I noticed: that particular page was in awful shape. It was very faded, and you could hardly read the names; it was the only page that really had this trouble. I magnified it to about 400% and got the surprise of my life.
The 1880 census is the first census I found in my earlier years as a researcher. It was a good price-free, and it had the info I needed. I had seen the index many, many times before, and in the back of my mind, I always questioned why her father was listed as born in Illinois. I figured it was a typo, because Anthony and Elizabeth (Handschuh) Briner were both from Germany. I never gave it much more thought.
Well, to my surprise, when I magnified the census record, it clearly showed that my grandmother was adopted. I was stunned. It had never been talked about, and no one ever gave any hint that someone else had been her parents.
I checked her marriage record and found she was born in Quincy, Illinois, not Stephenson in 1874. It made things more difficult, because I could not check 1870 census records for possible matches to her family. I went back to the 1880 census records to see if anyone else had been adopted at the time in the area. I found four other children, but only one matched with her information. Another girl, Mary, that lived near Elizabeth. Maybe a sister?
I feel bad for Elizabeth, because she seemingly lost her family. However, Anthony and Elizabeth Briner treated her like a daughter. I am grateful that she went to a good home. I am also frustrated. This isn't a little wall; there may not be any record anywhere of her birth parents. The aggravation I feel for possibly not knowing completely where I come from is well beyond high. One thing I will say, whether or not I find this information, is that I will go down every avenue to try and find my ancestors. I'm going to at least be able to say that I tried my best.
So a new mystery unfolds. I'm looking forward to the challenge.