Re-visiting Brick Walls

Sometimes it is really strange how things work out!! More genealogical information is being added to the internet every day. Sometimes we just need a little nudge to go back and re-look at branches of the family we haven’t looked at for a while in order to find that new information.

Back in July of 2007 I posted a query on a genforum message board. It was in regards to the father of my husband’s 2X’s great-grandmother, Emma Jean Miller. From Emma’s 1886 marriage application, I knew that her parents names were Samuel Miller and Catherine Smith. Unfortunately, I could not seem to get anywhere with Samuel. He does not appear with Catherine and Emma on any of the censuses, and so I don’t know if he died, they divorced, or perhaps they never married.  I also couldn’t find any trace of Catherine after she signed a consent form for Emma to marry in 1886. (BTW, she signed the form as Catherine Smith.)

The one clue I thought I had was that Emma’s 1936 obituary mentioned that her (unnamed) father, step-mother and two brothers were survivors in addition to her own children. I took this to mean that her father Samuel Miller was still alive (even though her 1886 marriage application listed him as dead), and I managed to find a Samuel Miller who lived in the vicinity, died in 1938 and had a wife who died in 1937. My message board query was specifically about that individual.

Just yesterday someone finally answered my query. As he quite correctly pointed out, the Samuel Miller I was looking at would have most likely been too young to be Emma’s father. There were, living in the area however, about 20 others who were more age-appropriate!! He was also kind enough to point out the two who lived closest to Catherine to try to help narrow it down a bit.

To make a long story shorter, between the time I posted the original query and now, I had found a cemetery listing which included the names of Catherine’s parents – Emma’s maternal grandparents. Catherine, however, did not appear to be with them – at least not as either Catherine Smith or Catherine Miller. So I went to find-a-grave to have another look. I found Catherine’s parents and clicked on the home page for the cemetery in which they are buried. There were over 2600 burials listed for it!! I then did a search for Smith in that cemetery.

Now I am almost certain that previously only individuals with the last name beginning with Smith would be found on such a search. Now, however, it also returned individuals with the maiden name starting with Smith!! And there was Catherine, listed as Catherine Smith Ness, wife of Zachariah, died in 1913. Some additional searching has pretty much proved that she is the correct Catherine Smith. I now believe that the “father, step-mother and two brothers” referred to in Emma’s obit are Zachariah Ness, his second wife Ida, and the two sons of Zachariah and Catherine.

Obviously, this does not help me at all with Samuel Miller – but I have now discovered what happened to Emma’s mother Catherine and also discovered two half-brothers! Now I have more to go on. Who knows, maybe one day soon I’ll get a lead on Samuel!

That’s it for now.

~J

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