Friday, September 30, 2022

Wrapping up September


It's the last day of September. So much for my family history research goal for this month. I am still chasing clues and running in circles. Time to recap and lay down a research plan for the next time I wrestle with questions about John Stevens' second wife Eliza Murdock and her family.

The tight loop that has held us captive for the past two weeks was chasing after signs to determine whether we had found Eliza's younger sister Sarah—or stumbled upon her genealogical doppelganger. Just as her brother John's will had indicated, we found a married Sarah Nolan and her family in Indiana briefly for the 1860 census. And then she disappeared, only to resurface twenty years later for the 1880 census in Kansas—I think.

Following that discovery, I had hoped to find some documentation on the children named in that later census to pinpoint their mother's maiden name. Sounds easy enough—until we discovered that long-distance access to death records in either Kansas or Oklahoma, where the family moved next, could be spotty.

I haven't given up on this quest yet. But instead of pursuing end-of-life information in Kansas or Oklahoma on the Nolan children listed in the later census record, why not turn this problem on its head and look for records back where the younger children were born?

That's right: it's time to explore what can be found back in Indiana. According to the FamilySearch wiki, there is much to access. Though the wiki for Tippecanoe County doesn't quite beckon me in—it notes that most church records are held by the local church, and sagely advises, "check a phone directory"—thankfully, there is more than one way to find an answer in the FamilySearch wiki.

It's a good thing I've looked at microfilmed records before from Tippecanoe County—where the Irish immigrant Murdocks settled in Indiana—so I already know they can be accessed again. Sure enough, a separate wiki entry, specifically on Indiana Church Records, confirmed my memory of accessing Diocese of Lafayette records through the FamilySearch organization. In fact, records from all four Indiana dioceses can be accessed through the FamilySearch Library or at a local Family History Center.

Now, my plan will be to take a little field trip to a nearby center where I can explore those Lafayette baptismal records. Goal: find the mother's maiden name for any of the Nolan children listed in Sarah's 1880 household in Kansas. If those listed as born in Indiana—Samuel, Tony, Peter, Sabina, or Sarah—were indeed children of our Sarah Murdock, they likely would have been baptised in Lafayette.  

Of course, there is the great possibility that this was yet another Sarah Nolan, wife of another John, who settled in Indiana from 1862, when Samuel was born there, through baby Sarah's arrival in 1874. If that is the case, I need to know that, too. It's better, in family history research, to discover our mistakes than to perpetuate an error that we merely thought might be a shrewd guess.


Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Trouble With Kansas—
and Oklahoma, too


With six routes to a possible confirmation of a woman's identity, you'd think the answer would be nearly within grasp. But no, thanks to a particular restriction in the state of Oklahoma, I may never find my answer.

I had found a possible answer to my question, "What became of Sarah Murdock Nolan of Lafayette, Indiana?" when I located an 1880 census enumeration in Wichita, Kansas, which included the names and correct locations of birth of the oldest of her children. The only ones missing from that 1880 record were her husband John and two children. Those children we later confirmed had died before the family left Lafayette.

To confirm that those whom we later found in Kansas were actually children of the right Sarah Nolan, the next step seemed easy enough: follow the children through their life's history to obtain their own record of death. If any of those children died after 1900—after 1910 would be preferable—his or her death certificate should include a confirmation of the mother's maiden name. Easy peasy.

Not, apparently, if the child died in either Kansas or Oklahoma.

Yesterday, we explored the possibility that any of Sarah Nolan's children died in Kansas after that magic date heralding the "modern" death certificate. Despite Sarah being mother to at least nine children, that list of possibilities was narrowed down to a weak "maybe" for only one descendant: Samuel. Even at that, I can't determine where Samuel died; I only can see that he possibly was buried in Kansas. Like his mother Sarah, he could have died while visiting family in Oklahoma, then was returned for burial back home in Kansas.

Looking for death records of ancestors in Kansas is not a streamlined matter. Although there is access to some online information on deaths in Sedgwick County where the Nolans once lived—or for anywhere else in the state, for that matter—there are gaps in the series of available dates. Besides, the collection on providing such records is considered a "Legacy Collection" and, as it turns out, doesn't include the information I'd be seeking in Sedgwick County.

No matter. That was the chance to trace only one out of six of Sarah's children dying after the early 1900s. Onward to the rest, who all moved to Oklahoma. And that becomes the crux of the problem: Oklahoma, it turns out, is quite particular about who can seek copies of their residents' death records.

While Oklahoma mandated statewide registration of deaths by 1908, that requirement was not consistently achieved before 1930. Worse, as the FamilySearch wiki notes, "Records before 1940 were placed on file inconsistently." So much for the deaths of all but Sabina Nolan Martin, whose passing occurred in 1945.

But there's more. Should I want to obtain any of those Nolan descendants' death records—assuming they did make it into the state file—the state of Oklahoma imposes restrictions. A 2016 state law considers deaths occurring more than fifty years ago "open records." While that may sound encouraging, the law also requires a genealogist to obtain written permission of a descendant of the deceased to order a copy plus document the relationship between the descendant and the deceased.

All for the simple step of confirming what Sarah Nolan's maiden name might have been.

Granted, there are some Oklahoma death records available online. However, like those we discovered for Kansas, the Oklahoma records on are considered a Legacy Collection—containing, at best, a partial index of records.

Keeping that now impossibly distant research goal still in sight, I realized there may be another way to achieve my purposes. With our last post on this September research goal tomorrow, we'll take a look at that option as well as determine next steps for resolving this research dilemma.  


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Moving Over to Oklahoma


Does it sometimes seem as if the record-keeping powers that be are conspiring to keep us genies from discovering the answers to our family history questions?

Here I am, still grappling with this month's research goal, now finding myself in a wild chase to identify whether the Sarah Nolan I've found in 1880 Wichita, Kansas, is one and the same as the Sarah Murdock Nolan who disappeared from Lafayette, Indiana, after 1860. In the process, I stumbled upon a one-paragraph acknowledgement of the passing of someone by that same name. Only problem: this Sarah Nolan's death was not in Kansas, not even back in Indiana, but in Oklahoma.

Same person? I'll give it to you in a nutshell, but the pathway to personal assurance for this researcher is far from straightforward.

Apparently, one by one, each of Sarah Nolan's children left their home—and, in some cases, business—in Wichita to move to Norman, Oklahoma.

Oldest of Sarah's surviving children—John, one of her children born in Wisconsin—left Kansas originally for Garfield County, Oklahoma, along with his wife Mary and their three children. By the time of the 1930 census, though, John, by now widowed, had moved to Norman.

Younger brother Tony, having met Louisa Sandelback in Norman, along with his bride became the first couple to celebrate their wedding in the new Saint Patrick's Church in Norman on December 27, 1898. By then, Tony had been a resident of Norman "for years."

Tony's younger brother Peter, a lifelong confirmed bachelor, was a holdout in Kansas—as was older brother Samuel—but finally moved in with his sister Sabina and brother-in-law Owen Martin in Norman by the time of the 1930 census, adding one more to the tally of Nolan siblings who moved from Wichita to Oklahoma.

And baby of the family Sarah—nicknamed Sadie—followed her September 1900 wedding in Wichita with a move to the home of her husband, William Synnott, in Norman.

With that, we have a tally of every Nolan sibling  moving to Oklahoma and eventually settling in Norman—except Samuel. But even in Samuel's case, I can't be entirely sure where he died; all I can find is that he was buried in Kansas, not Oklahoma, according to what appears to be his 1924 headstone.

There is a reason for being so particular about where each of these Nolan siblings died. Remember, my goal in tracing these lines of descent is solely to locate a death certificate for one of the children of Sarah Murdock Nolan. I'm looking in particular for that document entry stating mother's maiden name. I still want confirmation that this Sarah Nolan whose similarly-named children showed up in Kansas was one and the same as the Sarah Nolan who left Indiana.

That, as it turns out, is not a goal easily accomplished. You see, there are some limitations to accessing information on deaths in Oklahoma. And if you think the easy work-around is to pursue information on the lone descendant who was buried in Kansas, think again. We'll take a look at the research pitfalls for accessing this information tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Not Quite to the Endgame Yet


If there is an endgame in this quest to connect Sarah Nolan in Wichita with the Irish immigrant Murdock family back in Lafayette, Indiana, I have yet to strategically eliminate the excess playing pieces on this genealogy game board. Here I've traced the suspected Sarah Murdock Nolan from the adopted city of her brothers in Indiana to a new home in Wichita, Kansas. But the trail doesn't end there.

The next step in my strategy to confirm this Sarah's identity was to find the death record of one of her children with mother's maiden name included. Just one. Apparently, that is not to be had—at least, as far as I can see from this point.

I began this secondary maneuver with Sarah's oldest son, James—until realizing his untimely death in 1892 would not achieve our goal.

The next step was to trace the timeline of Sarah's second surviving son, John Nolan. As you can probably guess by now, that tactic is not turning out to be any more successful than my first attempt. And we have three more sons and two daughters yet to go. We've hardly begun to clear the game board.

After all, keep in mind Sarah's oldest son was born in Ohio, the next few children in Wisconsin, before the Nolans moved to Indiana, presumably to live closer to Sarah's siblings.

And then, there was Kansas. At least, that's what I presume was the next move for our Sarah Nolan, sister to the successful Murdock brothers in Lafayette, Indiana. Yet, finding confirmation for such an assumption is still not within our grasp.

Taking a step backward—though not yet in retreat—I looked for any mention of the death of Sarah, herself, in Wichita newspapers. I was rewarded with a single, paragraph-long, entry in The Wichita Daily Eagle on Thursday, June 3, 1897:


Mrs. Sarah Nolan died at Norman, O. T., Tuesday night. Her remains arrived in this city last night at 8:30 over the Santa Fe and were taken to the home of Owen J. Martin, 509 Campbell avenue, West Side. The funeral services will be held at the Pro-cathedral at 9 o'clock Friday morning. Funeral was postponed for the arrival of relatives from St. Louis.

From Saint Louis? What relatives? Suddenly, with this announcement, I'm wondering whether I have the right family at all.  

Newspaper images above from page 6 of  The Wichita Daily Eagle, Thursday, June 3, 1897, as found via GenealogyBank.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Still Seeking Signs


Sometimes, we can find ourselves researching a family whose members we think are related to our line, only to discover we were on the wrong track all along. That's how it's been this month as I try to connect the Murdock sisters back to their parents in Lafayette, Indiana, and then, hopefully, to the generation before that, back in Ireland. No matter what records I've found, I'm still left seeking more signs to clarify family connections.

The youngest of the three Murdock sisters, Sarah, had married a man by the name of John Nolan. As we've seen, John and Sarah moved around the midwest quite a few times, judging from the birth location for each Nolan child, as recorded in census records. Still, it was somewhat of a surprise to me to find Sarah's family—if, indeed, this was the correct one—once again appearing in another state by the time of the 1880 census.

This discovery in Sedgwick County, Kansas, was one I wasn't entirely confident about, as I mentioned last week. That, of course, launched me on yet another search—this time, to find any documentation to confirm I had found the right Sarah Nolan, instead of another Irish immigrant with the same name. By the end of last week, we had tried following the story of Sarah's oldest son, James, but that ended with the discovery of his sad demise at his own hand in 1892, when he was not quite forty.

This week begins the search all over again, this time with the next-oldest remaining son, John Nolan. Referring back to the 1886 city directory where we had found listings for Sarah and her family, it is reassuring to see the note, for those Nolan family members living at 745 South Main Street, that they had arrived in Wichita from Indiana. Likewise, a Kansas state census, taken in 1885, confirmed the Nolan family's arrival from Indiana.

The only drawback: by 1885, there was no sign in Sarah's household of her son John in the census or the city directory. However, by the time of the 1889 edition, there is mention of John Nolan in the Wichita city directory.

Take that back—there was not one mention of John Nolan in that city directory, but two. Though we are provided with the helpful information that, like his Murdock uncles before him, our John worked as a grocer—same as his brother Tony—we still need to proceed cautiously to ensure we don't end up researching the wrong line.

The bottom line is our hope to discover a death record for one of the Nolan children, identifying the maiden name of their mother, Sarah. We'll need at least one of the children to have lived into the beginning of the twentieth century, when states began issuing death certificates with such identifying information as parents' names. Let's see what we can find on Sarah's son John tomorrow. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Step by Step


An enormous goal can sometimes seem too formidable to accomplish. When faced with something huge like that, I like to borrow from commercial mottoes like "Just Do It." That "doing" of a big project means taking the first step. And then another one. And another.

After being flummoxed by the thousands of names in my DNA match list—who were all these people?!—I decided, years ago, to embark on a project to build a tree of all my ancestors' descendants. My goal was never to give an impressive answer for that inevitable genealogy question, "How far back have you gone?" In my case, the goal was simply to figure out where all those DNA cousins fit into my family tree.

It occurred to me, today, to see just how far that step by step process has brought me over the years. After all, I have kept a biweekly count of my progress for years. What if I zoomed back to Step One to see where I started?

Easy enough to do. The first DNA test I requested was for my husband's Y-DNA in March of 2014, followed by my brother's tests later that spring, and eventually my own. To say those lists of matches were overwhelming is quite the way it felt when I began the process.

Right now, my tree stands at 29,772 individual, thoroughly-documented names. Although I began my biweekly count prior to the point of saving those records on my computer—the value of switching from handwritten notes is evident here—the earliest record I can access dates back to December of 2017. Then, that same tree contained documentation for 12,419 relatives. Growth of 17,353 names is not bad for a time span of four years and nine months. Over the long haul, that's working at an average clip of 304 names per month.

It has not been much different for my husband's family tree. Back at the end of 2017, my in-laws' combined tree represented work on 15,322 individuals. Now, that tree has grown to 30,145. That growth of 14,823 people represents an average rate of 260 names added per month.

True, that step by step process may have meant a daily average of eight names added per day (in my husband's case) or ten per day (for my own tree). Some people may not find it advantageous to keep up such a pace. The point, though, is that with steady work, guided by a specific research goal, a family tree eventually takes shape.

What system you choose for attaining promising results may vary from mine. After all, when I was teaching school full time, my research time was limited to semester breaks and summer vacation trips due to calendar restraints. Despite those considerations, the online access to records we now enjoy can overcome even the most restrictive schedules, including those with latitude only for progress in baby steps. It's not the size of the steps, after all, but the fact that the first step gets followed by the second one. And then another. And another. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

You Weren't Imagining It


If you've tried to post a comment on a blog hosted here at Blogger in the past, and afterwards, it never showed up in the comment section, well, I just discovered something: you weren't imagining that.

One of the behind-the-scenes tasks for bloggers is to secure the virtual floodgates from spam attacks. Google's Blogger system does a pretty decent job of barring intrusions, but every now and then, some misdirected person does manage to slip by the spam radar. I'm not sure how profitable it is for those thinking that posting a "comment" selling their wares on a five year old post here would boost traffic to their own site, but you know how it goes. Spam is the digital version of graffiti: if you don't clean it up right away, it spreads.

Though I've been at this blogging project for over a decade, it still seems a challenge to keep up with changes in how to manage the admin system. Today, in chasing down an actual spam warning, I accidentally discovered a change at Blogger which sequestered not only those pesky spam comments, but also comments from bona fide readers. In fact, some of the comments were posted—and sequestered—not just once, but multiple times. Talk about an overzealous bot.

The funny thing is, I've gotten notes from readers in the past, saying, "I tried to post my comment, but it never showed up." Right. And I never could find those comments. Until now.

Yes, in Comment Jail, the holding cell for suspected spammers included multiple posts by well-meaning (and real) people, including some regulars among my readers.

To say I was surprised to find this would be an understatement. I had no idea there even was such a place as this virtual holding cell. All spam-flagged comments used to be kept in one, easily-found place for blog administrators—until this top-secret spam purgatory system snuck in.

Hopefully, that little detour in an otherwise functioning system has worked its little dysfunctional self out by now, and all genuine readers with applicable comments will be free to post them here once more.


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