Typing the information above into Ancestry.com search engine brought up two results. I always start with precise information and then I widen my parameters as needed. So I was eager to see the details on the two results of my search.
Online Family Trees
The first hit was an online Family Tree. I don't use online trees for anything except clues and ideas for more searching, because each tree is only as good as the person who did the research. No sources? Forget that tree! Sources are good and that allows you to double check that the conclusions drawn are correct. Don't be fooled. I have encountered trees that linked to a vital record but clicking on the link revealed that the record was NOT for the individual in the tree!
This particular tree had a John Henry Longstreet born ca 1796 in either New York or New Jersey with three wives: Anne Page, Phoebe Bear, and Sarah Lawrence. Five children were shown with wife #1, four with wife #2, and three with wife #3.
Immediately we see that I need to track down every child shown. That is a total of 12 individuals. This was going to be a very time-consuming research project! But my eye immediately seized on an Abigail Longstreet born 1833 in Caledon Township, marrying a Calvin Snyder. According to the online tree she died in 1894 in Gainsborough Township. This was definitely worth investigating. Could she be the 1851 Abigail?
This Abigail was shown as having a sister named Nancy Ann but there were no details about her birth, marriage, or death. I was really intrigued now! I had to take a little detour over to the death registrations to see if Abigail's details were correct, and what else might be found.
A search for Abigail Snyder on Ancestry.com revealed she died 31 December 1894 at the age of 61 in Gainsborough, Lincoln County and that she was indeed born in Caledon Township, which is in Peel County Ontario. That clue gave me a new location to search for Nancy Longstreet. New information that I knew might prove useful later was that her husband was a miller in St. Ann's Ontario. Remember that the original query mentioned St. Ann's, so this is interesting. Of course there's also the possibility that the original query got this information from the same online tree I found
The Second Search Engine Result
Longstreet, John, gentleman, born New Jersey, Baptist, 65
Sarah, born Canada West, Baptist, 55 <--agrees with the online tree showing wife #3 as Sarah
Matilda, born Canada West, Baptist, 18
Francis, born Canada West, Baptist,16
Erastus, born Canada West, Baptist, no age but a note in the column "residence if out of limits" reads "Township of Caledon"
The family lived in a 1 1/2 storey log cabin. A few names further down the page I saw
Longstreet, Henry, farmer, born Canada West, Baptist, 38 <-- Baptist religion means it will be more difficult, perhaps impossible, to find church records
Elizabeth, born Canada West, Baptist,39
Wm. Alf?, born Canada West, Baptist,18
Erastus,, born Canada West, Baptist,16
Herman, , born Canada West, Baptist,14
Sarah Catherine, born Canada West, Baptist,11
George, born Canada West, Baptist, 3?
My intuition tells me that Henry age 38 could very well be a son of John age 65. I'll need to add that idea to my theory of the family unit.
Forming a Theory
Forming a theory is important when researching a challenging family. But you must be careful to remember that it is only a theory and you are going to try to either prove or disprove it. It should be based on some solid facts, circumstantial evidence or other details that can support your theory. This is where I start writing down all the scenarios that might make sense, and all the resources I might try to find to either prove or disprove my theory.
If you're not used to developing theories, you might want to read my article Never Assume - Develop a Theory Instead
I already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to look for next, and I was excited to get started! There are so many different paths a genealogist could take at this point. Here are the first few that came immediately to my mind:
- Continue gathering records about John Longstreet born ca 1796 in New Jersey
- Track the children we found in this 1861 census record
- Track Henry who I think might be another child
- Track each of the children listed in that online family tree
- Check marriage records for children who list their father as John Longstreet (and use each of the 3 wives' names from the online tree)
- Check death records for any children whose father is recorded as John Longstreet (and use each of the 3 wives' names from the online tree)