Some ancestors are easy to find. It seems like you can plug their name into a database and their records just pop right up, one after another. You can document them virtually from the cradle to the grave. Others are coy, they move around a lot, get their names changed because of misspellings at county clerks offices and by census enumerator. But if you work on them long and hard enough and don’t give up when you want to, they can be found.
And then there are…THE OTHERS. They don’t want to be found. They play hide and seek and leave you feeling like you want to tear out your hair. We call them “brick wall” ancestors, and I have a few. I’ve made my peace with them…kinda. They’ll be found when they’re ready to be found and not one moment before. And maybe not even by me. “Okay,” I tell myself, “have it your way.” And I move on.
Seems like some want their stories told and others want you to keep your nose out of their business. I like both types, even if I don’t always respect the wishes of the latter.
Linda, my daughter-in-law, got very excited about the genealogy work I’ve been doing on her family. She pulled up a chair and we went through her family tree, she took notes and made plans to visit elderly relatives and talk in depth with her parents. She also got into an argument with her cousin over things I’d found. Her cousin was right to argue. I had made a rookie mistake and combined two families with the same name. I fixed that and everything was all right again. Then the cousin came to see me and wanted to know about his other side of the family. Could I find his father’s side of the family? Well, yes, I could. And I have. And there are stories there to be told. Here’s one of them.
Francis Thomas married Ellen Burrows in New York sometime before 1861 in New York when their first child was born. That first child was a daughter and she was one of Linda’s cousin’s paternal ancestors. But, being me, I didn’t stop at her. I went ahead and started researching the whole clan of Thomases because they moved from New York to Michigan, and Michigan is my genealogical happy place.
Ellen Burrows mother’s name was Cynthia. To honor her, Francis and Ellen named their 2nd child, another daughter, Cynthia. According to the 1900 census, Cynthia Thomas was born in New York in June of 1865. I had trouble finding records for her at first, and the public trees on Ancestry that have her in them gave me no clues. To be honest, I thought she’d died before 1890, but I kept looking. What I found was that she’d married at least 3 times, and quite possibly, a 4th time as well because I can find no death record for her with her last married name. Here’s what I’ve been able to learn about Cynthia Thomas Phelps Jones Jordan.
Cynthia married Edgar Phelps in Lakeview, Michigan on the 7th of December in 1880. Their only child, a son, was born in 1882. Edgar died on the 19th of January, 1890, in Hinton Township, Mecosta County, Michigan. His marital status was listed as “single.”
NAME: Edgar Phelps
BIRTH DATE: abt 1855
BIRTH PLACE: Canada
DEATH DATE: 19 Jan 1890
DEATH PLACE: Hinton, Mecosta, Michigan
DEATH AGE: 35
MARITAL STATUS: Single
FATHER NAME: Edgar Phelps
MOTHER NAME: Sarah Phelps
Cynthia and Edgar’s son, John Emery Phelps, is found in the 1900 census living with his father’s brother William’s family in Hinton Township. Cynthia had remarried in 1885 a man named Oren William Jones. In 1900, she’s living in Cato Township in Montcalm County, which is 5 miles from Hinton Township. She’s listed as married and the head of the household, Oren is not with her, but she has 6 children, all with the last name of Jones with her:
- Francis, male, age 14, b. March 1886
- Emma, female, age 12, b. April 1888
- Bennie, male, age 10, b. May 1890
- Ella, female, age 6, b. May 1894
- Merrill, male, age 3, b. July 1896
- Cecil, male, age 10 months, b. Aug 1899
She had one more child with Oren, a daughter, Evelyn, b. about 1902. I have not been able to find Oren in any census after 1880.
In 1906, Cynthia married Albert Jordan in Lakeview (which is Cato Township). In the 1910 census, she is living in Mecosta County where she’s widowed and the mother of the head of household, which is Francis. She’s added another child to her family, Rollo Jordan, age 3, born about 1907. In 1920, she’s still living with Francis and has 3 of her 7 children besides Francis living with her. In 1930, she’s 65 years old, living in Belding, Michigan, with 3 adult children: Cecil, Evelyn, and Rollo Jordan.
And then she disappears. I would love to find out what happened to her, when she died, where she’s buried, and I’ve followed her children trying to see if she was with any of them in 1940, or if she’s buried near one of them, but I haven’t had any luck. I search for her about once a week, hoping something will show up, maybe one of her children with Oren Jones will have a descendant who will find her in my tree and have information on Cynthia I don’t have. I plowed through the lack of records on her in other people’s trees and found out a lot about her that other people didn’t know. I’ll have to be happy with that for the time being.
Literally moments after I published this post, I found Cynthia’s death certificate. She didn’t marry Albert Jordan, she married Albert Jurden, which explains quite a lot. After finding her son Rollo’s grave site and seeing the spelling of his name on his headstone, I did another search on Family Search and she popped right up:
Name: Cynthia Jurden
Event Type: Death
Event Date: 09 Feb 1935
Event Place: Greenville, Montcalm, Michigan, United States
Marital Status: Widowed
Birth Date: 25 Jun 1868
Birthplace: Utica, New York
Birth Year (Estimated): 1869
Father’s Name: Francis Thomas
Mother’s Name: Ellen Barrows
She was just waiting to be found. 🙂