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October 25, 2009

O Where O Where Has My Ancestor Gone?

Does this sound familiar? You've hunted everywhere. You've searched online. You've checked, Footnote,comicon, the GenWeb sites. But you can't find the marriage (or perhaps another event record) of that one elusive ancestor - your great grandfather's sister.

I was recently looking for a marriage registration online. I had the exact date (as per family records) of 24 June 1909. I had a pretty good idea of a fairly precise location (Perth County Ontario). I knew the names of both parties - Harry Ford and Sarah Icelia Foerch. I know Sarah's parents' names - Andrew and Susan.

Sounds pretty easy. has the Ontario Marriage Registrations online for the years 1869-1924. I know from experience that a surname such as Foerch can be mispelled a variety of ways so I decide I'll look for the groom, along with the first name Sarah as the bride. I'll also use wildcards for Sarah's name to allow for the spelling Sara. So my hunt will be for groom Harry Ford and bride Sara*. I'll look in Perth County in 1909 in case the day and month are slightly off.

Nothing. Okay, remove Perth County - perhaps they married elsewhere. Nothing.

Okay, add a year or two on either side of that 1909 date. Now I'm searching for Harry Ford and Sara* marrying in Ontario 1908-1910. Still nothing!

I try searching for any child (no name) of a couple named Andrew and Susan in Perth County in 1909. Nothing found.

I try several other methods - first names only. Using ages (birth years plus or minus 2 years). Nothing.

Finally I decide to search leaving all fields blank except for the County (Perth) and the exact date June 24, 1909. I get a list of hits - not very many - and one looks slightly promising - the marriage of

William Mannington Ford to Julia Touch in Perth County
Julia Touch could be a mistranscription of Sarah Foerch using her middle name of Icelia..... Touch for Foerch is not a leap. And Sarah's father is listed as Andrew. Looks promising....

I have to chuckle at Sarah's mother's name in the index. It is "Lamber Merchant" which is obviously a mistranscription of the occupation of "Lumber Merchant", no doubt Sarah's father's occupation!

I load the image and bingo! Clearly visible is the marriage of William Harrington (not Mannington) Ford to Icelia (not Julia!) Foerch (not Touch). And there is the father Andrew Foerch, Lumber Merchant and his wife Susan.

So my Harry Ford went by the nickname Harry which of course is short for his middle name of Harrington! And Susan used her middle name of Icelia.

My search had a happy ending. Because I knew the date of the marriage and had a reasonable expectation of finding it in Perth County, I was able to find the marriage registration I wanted.

But lesson learned - expand that search! Drop the names. Use wildcards. Use other fields and leave the names blank. Search just under one field and be creative, think outside the box - and don't give up!

Remember, human error can easily creep in to make your search more difficult. So don't assume you will find every indexed database online is correctly done.


Miriam said...

OH, have I had these kinds of searches before! They make life interesting, don't they? :-)

Sir Thomas said...

Columbo couldn't have done it better. You've given me some really good ideas on two brick walls I've got. Thanks, Tom

Missy Corley/Bayside Research Services said...

Thanks for sharing this story! Great ideas for thinking through brickwalls.

whgraham said...

I found this posting with a search on Andrew Foerch.
Your Harry Ford is my great grandfather.
Andrew Foerch married Susanah on Sep 26, 1879. Registration # 50644