If I’ve learned anything from the countless classes, webinars, and presentations I have attended/watched over the last six years is that you need to branch out to get the full story about your ancestors. Branching out includes researching your collateral relatives and even researching the town(s) where your family lived.
In case you are not aware of what a “collateral relative” is, it is your aunt, uncle and cousins, however distant they may be. It may seem strange to investigate these non-direct relatives, but sometimes you can learn things about your direct relative as researching their sons and daughters can find missing pieces of your own genealogical puzzle.
As I was looking up information on my Grandma Blair’s older brother, Charles Edward Morgart, referred to by my Grandma as “Eddie”, I came across both his birth certificate and a delayed birth certificate that they went and applied for on 11 January 1943. I don’t even have to look the date up, as I thought it was funny that they went and got this delayed birth certificate the same day my Grandma gave birth to my dad in Indiana. But that isn’t the only interesting thing I found out, when signing her name to the delayed birth certificate, my great-grandmother, Margaret “Maggie” Wise signed her full name, Margaret Dora Custer (she was married to her second husband, Earl Custer, at the time). Until this document I was unaware of what the “D” stood for.
Another reason searching for information on your collateral family members is a smart thing to do, sometimes names are spelled incorrectly, and people don’t always show up in search results. By getting as many documents as possible for your extended family you may find missing relatives intermingled with others. For example, parents and grandparents can be found living with their children or grandchildren.
Cities and Towns
You can indirectly learn information about your ancestors by researching the cities and towns they lived in. If they were farmers, you can get an idea about what type of farm your relative had by researching the area where they lived, which comes in handy for someone like me whose relatives live in a state where the agricultural index for the census has been destroyed.
Sometimes you may be lucky enough that your family was important enough to be written about in a book about the history of the town. I was lucky enough to have the Morgart Tavern listed in a photographic book about Bedford County. My elation when I recognized names when I came across the book, simply trying to find out more about Bedford County, I wanted to jump up and down for joy. It’s a shame one has to be quiet in a library. (I thought I had taken photos of the book to share with others, but apparently I didn’t – presently hanging my head in shame).
Branching out in your genealogical research is essential to finding everything you need to know in your family tree. I always research all siblings and children of my relatives. I don’t always research parents of spouses of extended people because sometimes you have to stop, but there are times when I still do, like siblings married siblings so sometimes when you can’t find where a person is the answer may be with the other set of associated parents (I have done this with George Washington Blair, son of Andrew Blair and Susannah Akers, as he is married to his younger brother, Samuel Alexander’s wife’s sister).
Have you found out any interesting facts about your direct line ancestors by researching collateral relatives or where they lived? I would love for you to share in the comments.
With Amy Johnson Crow having a prompt like “Brick Walls” for week 15 you all probably think I’m going to write about Andrew Blair and Susanna Akers. Well you’re right. And I’m going to throw their son, George Washington Blair into the mix as well (though to be honest I contemplated writing about someone else, but then I started to laugh).
Andrew & Susanna
Andrew Blair and Susanna Akers are my 3rd-great-grandparents on my paternal side of the family. When I began working on my family history again in college, Andrew and Susanna (also found as Susannah, Suzanna, and Susan) were also the brick wall of my cousin, Darlene. So here is what we have, because when her daughter sent me the gedcom file for her research, we had the same information.
Andrew and Susanah show up out of nowhere on the 1850 Census living in Conemaugh, Cambria, Pennsylvania. He is a laborer aged 35, she is a housekeeper aged 25, and neither can read nor write. They have 2-children at this time, Sarah Catherine age 4, and William age 1 and they were all born in Pennsylvania (I have boxed their information with a red square).
Our next document is the 1860 Census. They have moved to Huston Township, Blair, Pennsylvania and there are more of them. Andrew is still a laborer and is suddenly 50 years old (yes, he is 15 years older in just 10 years), Susanah is 34 (which could be possible as 1850 census was taken in November, and the 1860 census was taken in June). Sarah is 14, William is 10 while we have three boys to add to the family: Andrew J (my direct descendant) is 9, George Washington is 6, and Samuel A is 4. With 4 out 5 children attending school, we now only have Andrew being unable to read and write (I’ve often wondered did Susanna learn as her children did?). The value of his personal estate is $50 and again, everyone was born in Pennsylvania.
In the 1870 Census Andrew, Susanna and family are once again in a different town and county, Broad Top Township in Bedford County Pennsylvania. Andrew is still a laborer and is 59 with a personal estate of $800, Susanna is “Susan” and is 44, the oldest child living at home is now Andrew who is a wood chopper and is age 19, next is George who is an apprentice shoemaker and age 17, and lastly is Samuel who is 13 and still in school (outside info: Sarah has married and is the next family listed under her parents and siblings; William has passed away, but I don’t know from what). I question the marks for Andrew and George about being blind, deaf, dumb or idiotic (being a direct descendent of Andrew, no one wants to see that of their ancestor, it also says they can’t read or write but the previous census did have them in school).
Our last census is 1880 where Andrew and Susanna are living in Coaldale, Bedford, Pennsylvania. It is just the two of the now, all of their children have married. Andrew is still a laborer but has been unemployed for 8 months of that year, and he is 68 years old. Susanna is 54. Both are listed as having been born in Pennsylvania, and both are listed as having their parents being born in Pennsylvania too. Their son, Andrew, and his family are living 2-households away (oddly enough a non-direct descendent on my grandmother’s side lives between them, with another member of my Wise branch living on the other side of son Andrew).
After this I have nothing on Andrew and Susanna other than the death certificate of their son, Samuel Alexander Blair in 1932 (or as the death certificate states, SA Blair). This is the only document I’ve seen with Susanna’s last name of Akers being identified.
My Search for Andrew
Since multiple census proclaim that Andrew and his parents were born in Pennsylvania, I have tried to use previous censuses to find his parents. But with having the hash ticks and just the head of house hold available on the censuses from 1790 through 1840, I have not been successful. It probably doesn’t help that Andrew has had a wider range of ages on the different censuses from 35 in 1850, to 50 in 1860, to 59 in 1870 and lastly 68 in 1880, so with tick marks it could end up being in a wide variety of columns throughout his life depending on what year is the correct year.
I did come across a family tree on MyHeritage where it was noted by someone that Samuel (Blair) had told one of his son’s that his dad was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Of course I am unable to find this statement on MyHeritage at the moment but I’m going to guess that I read it somewhere as I wouldn’t have it in my mind otherwise.
Sarah Permelia Blair
My biggest puzzle is that while using the MyHeritage Library Edition (I can use it free at home using my library card) I found someone’s tree that lists a Sarah Permelia Blair as Andrew’s sister.
And then last year when I began playing with my DNA and grouping people into 8 groups and lo and behold I have a match with a person. Below is my Thrulines with her on my AncestryDNA (she is represented by the red square box), and she is related to me via Sarah Blair. When you click on Sarah she is married to David Points same as the above Sarah from MyHeritage.
I have done my due diligence researching Sarah Permelia Blair but more than half of the records I have come across state she was born in Maryland, Washington County to be exact. What makes this somewhat interesting? North of Washington County, Maryland is Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
I decided to then look to see what Blair’s were in Washington County, Maryland in both 1810 and 1820 census, on the chance they were there 6-years before Sarah was born, or 4 years after. There were 2 suspects: James Blair who is aged “over 45” in both, and Andrew Blair. Obviously with so many other Andrew Blair’s in my tree, I’m sure you have guessed who I liked for a possible person (that, and I honestly think that Andrew is one of James’ older sons who married and moved out first, in the 1830 Census there were many more Blair’s in the area and less in James’ house).
In the 1820 and 1830 Census, there are children (even with Andrew’s wide range of birth dates) that line up for this to be a true person of interest to be Andrew and Sarah’s dad. I will go on to further check out this Washington County, Andrew Blair, who disappears by 1840 (at least from Maryland, and I’m not having any luck in finding him in Pennsylvania either).
But I feel I’m on a good track so I’m really liking that I had this prompt. Fingers crossed that maybe I can tie people together once I work on more of the tree, maybe I have another DNA match that could wrap everything together in a pretty little bow.
Okay, I am laughing again.
My Search for Susanna
The elusive search for my 3rd-great-grandmother has been a slightly more difficult journey than Andrew. At least with him I’m fairly confident of his last name. Trouble with Susanna is that most census records indicate she was born in 1826 repeatedly, so I truly feel that is her birth year. But all the Akers that I have found in the Bedford County area don’t have a daughter that matches up to Susanna’s age. This is how I have begun to doubt her maiden name.
This is where my search for her second youngest son, George Washington Blair, comes in to play. Like his parents, George and his wife, Julianne (July Ann, possibly Julia Ann) disappear after the 1880 census. His daughter, Amanda, married John Lear and I have records for her, and the death certificate for his youngest daughter, Elizabeth born in 1882, but nothing after 1880 for George, Julia or their sons, Harry and Alexander.
I came to realize that George was also a brick wall when it came to my recollection that if I found his death certificate, it would give me either the same name for his mom’s maiden name, Akers, or give me another possible lead.
When Andrew Jackson Blair of 1851 passed away, the death register at the Bedford County Courthouse just has listed “Susannah Blair”.
My only real lead for thinking that George survived the 1880’s and as still living in Pennsylvania was his younger brother, Samuel’s, obituary (by the way, George and Samuel married sisters – Julia Ann was the sister of Samuel’s wife, Margaret). If you notice the second paragraph, it says, “He came to this city to live with his brother 18 months ago after the death of his wife, Mrs. Margaret (O’Neal) Blair”.
At this point in time Samuel’s only surviving brother was George. William passed away in 1865 and is buried in Hopewell Cemetery, and Andrew Jackson Blair in 1899 of a paralytic stroke (he is buried in Duvall Cemetery, which is also where Samuel and his family are laid to rest).
But I have yet to find any record of George Blair living in Blair County, Pennsylvania at this time. It does not help that there is another George Blair who is living in Blair County with a wife named Annie, but I am 99% certain this is a different George (though it is coincidental that my George’s wife’s middle name is Ann).
A Census Search for Akers
Another logical step I’ve done is do searches for male Akers in the 1830 and 1840 Census that would have females in their homes of the proper age with a basis of Susanna being born in 1826 (3 out of the 4 census documents that I have from 1850-1880 insinuate 1826 being the year of her birth). Only 1 individual in the greater Bedford County area seems to match up and that is a gentleman by the name of John Akers. But seeing as these census are only the tick marks and no names, it is hard to know for sure. Add on that I am not even 100% certain that her last name is Akers and it makes me doubt things that much more.
I have found some probate records for when John Akers passed away in 1866 but it is primarily just inventories. Oddly enough, when I did my searches on Ancestry someone does have a middle name of Andrew listed for John Akers (all the more reason my great-great-grandfather could have been named Andrew).
Making Some Cracks
I know I still have a great deal of work to do on my search for Andrew and Susanna’s parents. But each day I feel I am making more progress. If I ever begin to knock it down it will be such a happy day. If you remember the tv show “Perfect Strangers” I imagine it will be similar to Balki’s dance of joy.
But that day is not today. But hopefully I will get my dance, whatever it is, and share if that blessed day ever comes.