By Marian Pierre-Louis
In my Ten Brick Wall Tips for Beginners webinar I talked a lot about reviewing your genealogy data in new visual formats such as charts and lists. I also talked about the more commonly used timeline which is always a great help when doing genealogical research.
Recently I was once again tackling my brick wall ancestor, William Edwards, and his family. I find myself constantly trying to find new ways to look at the same old data. I was thinking about how William appeared in the 1800 US Federal Census but there was no trace of him after that.
In an interesting bit of conflicting data his wife appears in the 1810 US Federal Census in Charleston, Montgomery County, New York under the name of Christian Edwards. The reason I believe this is my Christina Edwards is because the only adult in the record is listed as a white female age 26-44. Christina was forty years old at the time. The enumerator was mistaken either when writing the name or the gender.
I decided I needed to revisit the information about the 1810 census document. I hadn't really looked at it in years. Other than Christina, I couldn't really remember what information was in the record.
This time, instead of using a timeline of one ancestor's entire life I created a new twist on the format. Instead what I did was I took multiple people and looked at one moment in time. My goal was to create a flashpoint for the year 1810 in order to try to determine where Christina and all her seven children were in 1810. Interestingly enough this quest opened up new questions and more mysteries!
I started by creating an excel spreadsheet with the following headers: Name, Relationship (to William Edwards), Age in 1810, Location, Source and Notes. I chose to include age so that I quickly see the stage in life for any given individual.
My first surprise came when reviewing the census record to find that Christina was listed with only two of her seven children! This was going to be more complicated than I realized. In previous years I had been so focused on William and Christina that I didn't take the time to think about where the kids might have been.
I quickly stopped and did age calculations for all the children. The oldest child, Elizabeth, was 22 in 1810. The youngest, Amanda, was two years old. The rest of the children were as follows: William Henry-21, John-18, Maria Barbara-16, Eleanor-14 and Solomon-10.
My next task was to work my way through the chart to try to determine where each person was at the time. I had to rely on any and all genealogical data I had in my possession.
Daughter Elizabeth was married to Elisha Allen in 1807. Elisha Allen is found in the 1810 US Federal Census in Charleston, New York with an adult female and two young girls. This fits with what I know of the family.
Son William Henry is more problematic. At 21 in 1810 he could be anywhere - serving in the military or working for someone else. A name like William Edwards is too common. And he is likely hiding in the census in the household of someone else. Same problem with son, John.
Daughters Maria Barbara and Eleanor pose the greatest problems for me. They are age 16 and 14 respectively. Normally I would expect to find them at home at that age. However, if the father, William is dead by this time as we suspect, then it is possible that they could have been sent to live with other relatives. Or they could have been sent to work in the homes of neighbors. It is known that Eleanor marries William Hubbs by 1817. Maria Barbara marries William Hubbs' brother, Thomas, in Charleston, New York in 1822. Both girls spend their entire lives living in or near Charleston, New York.
The youngest children, Amanda and Solomon, fit with the boy and girl children found in the 1810 in the household of Christian Edwards.
The completed chart looks this (click to englarge):
The process of completing the chart is the most important. First, seeking out the information and then documenting it. In the end the chart serves as a visually appealing reference tool which allows access to specific data quickly.
The process of creating a chart - in this case a flashpoint for 1810 - is what is so beneficial. It makes you review your information and look at it in a new light. It makes you ask questions you've never asked before. And, as in my case, it might create new questions that were never considered before.
Try making a flashpoint-in-time chart for yourself and see what happens. Or better yet try to come up with a completely different chart to visualize your information in a new way. Then share with us your discovery!