January 25, 2016

Solving a Challenging Genealogy Puzzle: Finding Rachel Part 1

Jess captured my interest with an email she sent to Olive Tree Genealogy
my great great grandmother was a Rachel Ann Van Slyke born 1/23/1850 Joplin Missouri. d. 2//1931. she married Alfred E bridges 11/1/1868. I've hit a dead end as to who her parents might be and am trying to establish a direct link to either Cornelius or Peter.

any ideas of any descendants of peter or cornelius who may have had a daughter named Rachel Ann Van Slyke and who lived in Missouri in 1850?
As many of you no doubt know, I have written three books on the Van Slyke family. My first book was published in 1996 and I put out a revised edition in 2010 called The Van Slyke Family in America: A Genealogy of Cornelise Antonissen Van Slyke, 1604-1676 and his Mohawk Wife Ots-Toch, including the story of Jacques Hertel, 1603-1651, Father of Ots-Toch and Interpreter to Samuel de Champlain REVISED EDITION Coil bound 8.5x11. 287 p.  (If you are interested you can purchase it through an Order Form or Paypal Order) 


My second book on the family is New Netherland Settlers: Willem Pieterse Van Slyke aka Neef - A genealogy to five generations of the descendants of Willem Pieterse Van Slyke who settled in New Netherland (New York) in 1660. 198 pages. 8.5x11 Coil bound . (If by chance you descend from Pieter, you can purchase this book through an Order Form or Paypal Order)

Even though I have an extensive database of Van Slyke material from my years of research, Jess' Rachel Ann Van Slyke was not in it. So I began my research and I'd like to take you with me on this challenging and complex journey.

 The first item that Jess needed to realize is that the surname Van Slyke can be found in many variations - Van Slyck, Van Slike, Van Slack and more. When searching online some search engines require precision meaning that a search of Van Slyke will not result in any hits if the surname is indexed as Vanslyke (with no spaces). Those are just the variant spellings and of course we have to talk about misindexing and errors by transcribers. So an open mind is very important.

Looking back at Jess' email we can see that if Rachel was born in 1850 we might find her in the 1850 census. We should find her in 1860 still under Van Slyke. Then we should find her under Bridges from 1870 on.

Even after extensive and open-minded searching using wildcards and other techniques I found no sign of Rachel in 1850. However I found a possible  candidate for Rachel in the 1860 census for  Jackson, Jasper County Missouri. Rachel Vansback [sic], 9 living with the Wilkerson family consisting of Levin, 43 and William 22, . I made a note to search for the Wilkerson family members with this Rachel to see if they somehow connected to our Rachel later. I should note that I used Ancestry.com and Family Search for my census searches.


1860 Census Rachel Vansback [sic]


1868 Marriage Record Rachel Van Slyke
But first I obtained that 1868 marriage record to see if there were more clues I could follow up on:

1868 Benton County Missouri. Rachel Van Slyke of Benton Co. marries Alfred E. Bridges of Henry Co.

Meantime I continued gathering all records for Rachel so I could get an overview of her movements during her lifetime. Families often stayed close to one another and there was a good chance that Rachel had siblings or her parents or aunts and uncles nearby. Only by methodically researching for her throughout her life could I put together a complete picture. To shorten this lengthy explanation, here is the summary of the census records where Rachel was found :

1870 Census Grand River, Henry Co. Missouri has Edmund Bridges a farmer age 27 born Ohio, wife Ann 20 born Missouri and son Richard 2 months, born April. This is Alfred Edmund Bridges and his wife Rachel Ann Van Slyke, both recorded with their middle names.

1880 Census Windsor, Henry County, Missouri. Rachel 24 (recorded as Reichiel) born Missouri married to Edmon [sic] 37 born Ohio, with sons Dick [no doubt the Richard in the 1870 census] 10 and James 8.

1900 Census Windsor, Henry County Missouri. Rachel A. Bridges, 50, born January 1850. Married to Alfred E. Bridges. Year of marriage given as 1869. Rachel has had 9 children with 5 still living. With them are Timothy Bridges 19, Almon B. Bridges 17 and Harley C. Bridges 12.

1910 Census Franklin Street, Windsor, Henry County, Missouri. R. A. Bridges, 60 years old. Married to A. E. Bridges age 67. Rachel has had 9 children and 4 are still living. With them are their son Tim (mistranscribed as Lim) age 29 and his second wife Helen

1920 Census Franklin Street, Windsor, Henry County, Missouri. Rachel A. Bridges, 69 widow living with Ruth V. Bridges, 11 year old granddaughter and the Allen family listed as “roomers”

1930 Census for Windsor, Henry County, Missouri. Rachel Bridges, 80 year old widow in Windsor, Henry County. She states her father was born in Pennsylvania, her mother in Missouri.

The last record I found for Rachel was her death registration: BRIDGES, Rachel Ann VANSLYKE - b: Jan 23 1850 Joplin, Jasper Co, MO - d: Feb 25 1931 Windsor, Henry Co, MO - bur: Feb 26 1931 L0224 GA - 81Y - sp: Alfred E. BRIDGES. Laurel Oak Cemetery. Clyde Bridges was the informant. 

There are many clues to follow up on, and a great deal of information we can learn when we analyze the various records I found. For example, we can research Alfred Bridges. We can follow the trail of Rachel's children to see if there is any mention of their maternal grandparents. Who are the Allen family in 1920 census? We can look for Van Slyke males born in Pennsylvania (as per that 1930 census) and list them for future research re Rachel's father. That gap in the 1850 census is hanging over our heads and we could start searching it in Jasper County page by page to see if Rachel appears anywhere.

Next: I find possible parents for Rachel in Part 2

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