Sunday, June 22, 2014

Looking For Family
in All the Wrong Places

If it weren’t for the powerful search capabilities of genealogy tools like, I suspect a lot of us would have many more brick walls stalling us than we do now. I know I sure was stuck with my Kelly descendants, the Homer Fulk family of Monroe County, Indiana. With the exception of her son Lyman’s 1920 census entry, after the 1900 census, I could find little of Homer’s widow, Ella, until Find A Grave revealed her place of burial in Tippecanoe County in 1933.

Thankfully, spending a little time leisurely ambling through all the possibilities suggested on Ancestry yielded some direction. Granted, there are times when I seriously doubt the thinking behind the algorithms employed for the purpose, but yesterday was, delightfully, not one of those days.

My first discovery revealed that I had made an erroneous assumption: that Ella had died in the same town in which she was buried.


Remember her son Lyman’s move to Tennessee? Apparently, not only did he and his wife move to Memphis, but his mother had joined the couple as well. For whatever reason, though he hadn’t shown up in any census records there—at least, none that I’ve been able to find, so far—Lyman lived at the same address given in his mother’s death record for her own residence at time of death: 1762 Overton Park Avenue.

Speaking of Lyman, his whereabouts were divulged a little more fully by Ancestry as well: city directories for Chattanooga revealed that he was living there as early as 1923, prior to moving to Memphis.

But it was marriage records for Lyman’s older sister—alternately listed as Marie and Mary—which gave up the location of their mother for the 1910 census. Apparently, as revealed by Ancestry, Mary had married a Chicago man by the name of Charles Slater on January 31, 1906. Charles, his bride Mary, and his mother-in-law Ella "Faulk" were all living together, still in Chicago, by the time of the 1910 census—a handy record that divulged the additional detail of both women’s total number of children.

In Ella’s case, I now have confirmation—in direct opposition to the Bloomington, Indiana, news report at Homer Fulk’s passing—that she was mother of four children, three of whom were still alive in 1910. I’m presuming those three would be the Marie, Robert and Lyman who were with her in Lafayette, Indiana, for the 1900 census, thus resolving the dilemma of guessing which two were the “real” children, if the newspaper report had been correct.

In Mary’s case, the total number of children given in that 1910 census was zero. Perhaps, this was only because they were relatively newly married. Perhaps, however, this signaled a more serious underlying cause—something borne out by the revelation of the death record, only four years later, of this thirty two year old woman.

Though the Ancestry search capability allowed me to find Ella and her daughter in Chicago, it was not a completely easy trail to follow. One index had the spouse’s surname as Slater, but the other one rendered it Seater. The addition of the non-phonetic alternative meant twice as many searches for someone with as common a given name as Mary. I hadn’t made much headway punching in the two alternatives, so I took a detour to that handy resource, the Indiana GenWeb index of the Lafayette Journal and Courier newspaper, to find any mention of a Mary with either of those two surname possibilities. Sure enough, a death notice for Mary F. Slater on January 23, 1914, provided the confirmation I needed to select the right documentation for a number of these life events.

Now that I had enough information on Mary’s married name, I took a look at the Monroe County Public Library index, where I had previously found Ella’s obituary entered—though I’m still awaiting arrival of that news clipping—to see whether Mary would also be mentioned in Bloomington, Indiana, her childhood home. And there it was—an obituary on the front page of the Bloomington Evening World, published on January 24, 1914. Though the website carries some papers from Bloomington, unfortunately that date was not among their holdings. That leaves me wondering whether I should request yet another obituary from the Monroe County Public Library, when I’m still awaiting the one I had ordered over a week ago.

While pondering that little quandary, I did poke around the Bloomington newspapers at, because I’ve yet to locate Ella’s third child, Robert. What did I find there? A possible clue, besides the marriage of Ella’s daughter Mary, linking the family to Chicago—from the Bloomington Evening World on November 2, 1920:
Mrs. E. Fulk has returned home after spending the summer with her son, Robert Fulk, at Chicago.

I’m sure that, given more time, I would have unearthed even more clues as to the winding trails of this Fulk family. Search engines do have a way of supercharging our search capabilities, for which I’m thankful. But I also am mindful that genealogical research is like untangling an immense chain: the farther you go, the more the secrets unravel and the mystery unwinds. If only I had eternity to unlock all of these hidden resources the unraveling chain leads me to—but I don’t, so the daily peeks at what lies in the near future will have to suffice the curious mind for now.


  1. This is such a good example of the value of broadening our research to include every member of the family. I see so many beginning researchers focus on one individual to the exclusion of everyone else in the family. Great post.

    1. Thank you, Michelle! I've hit so many brick walls in my research history, I couldn't imagine trying to do genealogical research without keeping tabs on the whereabouts of all the siblings. They are the key to unraveling the mysteries that get us tied up.

  2. Replies
    1. It's fantastic what those historic newspaper collections can do for family history research--well, at least for those whose relatives lived in small town America.

  3. You ought to get a library card from that library.... :)


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