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.