And then something like this happens… I was looking for Anna Fisher, the niece of Anna Dean Ruby, you know, Ruth’s mom. Anna Fisher died when she was only 26 in 1918 of the Spanish Flu. All I had on poor Anna Fisher was one census record when she was still living with her parents, William and Clara Dean Fisher, in Montmorency County, Michigan in 1900. Then I stumbled upon a death certificate for a “Mrs. Anna Maxson” in Grayling Michigan. Her father was William Fisher and her mother was just listed as “Clara”. I knew it was her; my gut told me and my genie-senses were tingling. How to prove it, though? Other than that 1900 census record and a death certificate, I had nothing to go on.
The death certificate listed her husband’s name as “Clifford Maxson”, so I started researching him. At first I found him in WW draft records, the first one in Grayling, where Anna Maxson died. That was in September of 1918 and he listed himself as married to “Mrs. Clifford Maxson”. So that was him. (Anna died in December.) Then I found him with his parents in Monmorency County, Michigan in 1900. So they were in the same place at the same time, pretty good circumstantial evidence, wouldn’t you say? Then I found nothing else until I found his WW2 draft registration. But where was he in 1910? And where was Anna Fisher in that year? I found a Clifford Fisher, (born 3 years after Clifford Maxson was born), an Anna Fisher, and a child, Cecil Fisher, born in 1909, all living in Bay City, Michigan. I then found Clifford Maxson living in Bay City in 1920 with a different wife, Mary, who was born in Canada. There were no children living with them. But my gut was telling me that Clifford, Anna and Cecil Fisher were really the Maxsons.
To rule out the possibility that Clifford, Anna and Cecil WERE Fisher instead of Maxsons, I tried looking for Cecil Fisher in the Michigan death certificates on Family Search. Don’t ask me why I looked there first. I didn’t find him, but I found some other Maxsons besides Anna who died in Bay County around the time Clifford was there. Hmm… Then I had the light bulb idea to search for Cecil Maxson and I found him; in 1920 he was living in the State Public School for Dependent Children in Coldwater, Michigan. Ah. Then in 1930 he was in Lapeer County (where Anna Dean Ruby and her sister, Clara Dean Fisher were living) in the Michigan Home and Training School. Then I found Cecil’s death record index for Michigan, dying in 1991 in Lapeer, Michigan, and I found his Find A Grave memorial (in a cemetery in Lapeer County and with no other Maxsons in it.).
And then I found Cecil’s application for his Social Security card and it listed his parents as Clifford Maxson and Anna Fisher, just as I was sure it would. The Clifford, Anna and Cecil Fisher in Bay City, Michigan in 1910 are really Clifford, Anna and Cecil Maxson. And the reason Clifford wasn’t raising his son in 1920 is that on his WWI draft registration card it says this (and remember this is in September of 1918): “Mentally disordered. Patient of State Psychopathic Hospital.” Clifford died in 1944 in Detroit as a single man. He seems to have been unable to sustain an relationship.
I know this has been a long post, but I have a couple of points to make:
1. Take everything in the census records with a grain of salt. If I hadn’t listened to my gut, I’d have never found Clifford and Anna’s child, Cecil.
2. Learn everything you can about the families of the person you’re researching: Clifford’s brother had a child who died in Bay City in the 1920’s. That let me know that there WERE Maxsons in Bay City, Michigan in the time frame I was interested in.
3. Sometimes you won’t find definitive proof of the identity of the person you’re researching. Anna Maxson’s parents names are not given as William Fisher and Clara Dean, which would have helped establish Anna’s identity as Anna Fisher Maxson, but it is part of an overwhelming chain of circumstantial evidence. And sometimes all you will have is circumstantial evidence. Just be sure to document why you believe the circumstantial evidence proves your theory.
4. When you get stuck on someone, try not to dwell too long on them and move on to others. I can’t find Ruth Ruby, Anna Fisher’s cousin, but I found Anna’s story, and that gives me a good feeling of accomplishment which will keep me going until something turns up on Ruth.
Thank you for reading this all the way to the end. smile emoticon I’ve been “doing” genealogy since the 1980’s and have learned to trust my instincts, though of course those instincts can be wrong, which is why you should always go back over your tree periodically to see if new records have been digitized proving or disproving your findings from before.