St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

If You Don't Know It, You Could Blow It

Questions. It's a way of life for genealogists who are always
searching for answers. Quite often, we stumble right up against a
brick wall. It seems as if no matter how hard we hit that wall, we
can't find a way over it. Here are some thoughts for you as you try
to blast your way through your brick wall.

You have to know the information. In other words, don't assume
anything! If you can't document the family lore about where grandma
and grandpa came from, where they lived, how many children they had,
etc., you risk blowing right past the truth.

Think about it. Do you really know if great grandma or grandpa were
married only once? Do you really know if they were divorced or
widowed? Do you really know if all their children were born on the
right side of the marriage certificate? Does grandma really remember
when her parents were born?

One of my brick walls was with a grandpa of mine. I had been told by
my father that his father had been married twice. Funny how no one
else in the family had ever heard that tidbit. I asked my father how
he knew. It was simple. He was at a train station with his mother
and siblings back in the 1930s and there was another lady with a son
sitting close by. He heard the other lady tell her son not to speak
or look at my father and his family because they were the results of
"that woman" who stole your father away from us. Now my father was
never able to glean what the name of his older half brother was. He
spoke of it to me and his younger brother soon before my father
passed away.

So everyone who knew the truth was gone. I tried searching for a
divorce record in the county where my grandfather lived with his
parents. Nothing. I tried the surrounding counties. Nothing. It
has been suggested I try neighboring states. Way back in the early
1900s, divorce was not a common event, but it did happen. To date, I
have yet to find his divorce. Of course, I also haven't been able to
document the other son's name. The census records haven't been of
much help. Did the lady remarry?

I did locate the marriage license for my grandparents. On the
application, my grandfather had stated he was previously married and
provided the date of the divorce. So, now I have legal documentation
of the divorce. But from whom? And where?

I have also located his World War I registration in which he lists
his status as single. This, too, correlates with the date of the
divorce, which was 1917. It would appear he joined the Army soon
after his divorce. He also went overseas to fight for his country
and came back wounded. He had known my grandmother since he was a
child. I have pictures of her sitting with him at the hospital while
he endured the surgeries necessary to help him walk again. She
didn't marry him until 1920, so I'm going to go on a limb here and
say the distraught woman with her son at the train station gave false
information to her son. Marrying someone three years after your
divorce doesn't quite add up to a "stolen" man.

Take home message is simple. You have to be able to document,
document, document. You can't just blow past information if it
doesn't fit in with your carefully constructed tree. Sometimes our
assumptions become the truth. Sometimes, it's only in our minds.
Don't blow it. Just make sure you know it!!

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