Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 5/12/2004

Looking for a Bigger Bieger and a Lost Sparrow

In last week's article we discussed how multiple marriages for parents can create research difficulties. This week we look at two similar yet different situations where multiple marriages were involved. In both these cases, the children were young when the mother remarried.

Frances, Born in Illinois, 1851
The 1868 marriage of Frances Haase to Michael Trautvetter includes a letter from Conrad and Barbara Haase indicating
Frances was “their daughter.” The relationship seemed pretty clear cut. A marriage record ought to be a reasonable source for a maiden name. The only problem was that Frances' obituary and her children's marriage and death records indicated her maiden name was Bigger, Beiger, Berger, Bieger, Pecker, Pickert, or Bickert. While these names were at least phonetically consistent, there were not similar to Haase. While the sources that provided the Bickert variants are decidedly secondary sources, the fact that none listed Haase was slightly troubling and indicated further research was necessary.

There were two additional clues that something could be amiss. Frances had been deceased for over ten years at the time of Conrad's death in the early 1900s. Her heirs would have been heirs of Conrad's estate if he were her father. However, her heirs and her sister Louisa were not mentioned. While Conrad easily could have left any child out of his will, Illinois law in 1900 required all heirs be mailed a notice of the pending probate. Why were the families of Frances and Louisa overlooked?

The 1860 Census
The entry for Conrad and Barbara Haase also indicated further research was warranted. The extracted entry from dwelling 4236,
Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois, follows.

Conrad Haas, age 43, born in Hesse Cassel
Phillip Pipher, age 26, born in Bavaria
Barbara Haas, age 33, born in Hesse Cassel
Frances, age 12, born in Hesse Cassel
Louisa, aged 8, born in Hesse Cassel
Lena, aged 5/12, born in Hesse Cassel

One interesting thing about this enumeration is the age gap between Louisa and Lena, approximately seven years. If all the children in the household are Barbara and Conrad's, it is slightly unusual (although possible) to have a seven-year gap in children. Since the two older children, Frances and Louisa, are not listed among Conrad's heirs, one may wonder if they were actually his children.

A more complete search of the local records revealed a marriage for Conrad Haase and Barbara Pickert in 1859, eight years after Francis was born. Additional records and research revealed that Barbara's first husband was a Peter Bieger, the actual father of Frances. No actual record of Frances or Louisa's birth have been found, but an 1856 guardianship record for the children of Peter Bieger clearly indicates he is their father and not Conrad Haas.

Lessons from Frances
Had the marriage record been the only record used, the wrong father would have been researched. In this case, additional records created after the mother's marriage and death provided significant clues as to her origins.

Susan Sparrow, Born in Missouri, 1844
The first actual record for Susan Sparrow was her 1862 marriage to Lemuel Akright in
Brown County, Illinois. Census and death records on Susan all consistently indicate an 1844 birth in Missouri. No record of Susan before her marriage could be found.

Her 1929 death certificate indicated her father's name was unknown and her mother's name was Cynthia Wedlock. It seemed as if Susan Sparrow had just flown into Brown County from an undisclosed location.

Searches of Sparrows (including all reasonable variant spellings) in the Missouri and Illinois 1850 and 1860 censuses (using the online indexes at did not locate an entry that appeared to match.

Susan would have been approximately eighteen at the time of her marriage. It seemed reasonable that she would have had family living near the location of her marriage. Why can't she be found in the 1860 census?

There are several reasons why Susan Sparrow might be difficult to locate in the 1860 census (and earlier enumerations). The main reasons are:
--- Spelling/transcription difficulties.
--- Sparrow was not her maiden name, but was the last name of a husband she married before her 1862 marriage.
--- Sparrow was her maiden name, but she is enumerated under her stepfather's last name.
--- Sparrow is her stepfather's name, but she is enumerated under her father's last name.

Each reason indicates a slightly different research plan. The spelling variants had been covered and the other problems all indicate initial work in marriage records. Thinking of why a person might be difficult to find may lead to other research options.

The omission of Susan's father on her death certificate made me wonder if he had died before any of his children actually had a chance to know much about him. This would perhaps explain why Susan's death certificate did not list a father. This is why the research next turned to locating a marriage for her mother, Cynthia Sparrow, before Susan's 1862 marriage.

A search of the Illinois State Marriage Index located an 1845 marriage in Pike County Illinois between a Carl William Parrick and a Mrs. Cynthia Ann Sparrow. A search of the 1850 and 1860 census for Illinois located this couple living in Richland Township, Adams County, Illinois. Included in both enumerations was a child named Susan Parrick with an age consistent with that of Susan Sparrow. It appears that the family of Susan Sparrow has been found, but further research needs to be done to make the connection more concrete.

In this case, maps of the area under study were also an important part of the research as the family lived near the county line and apparently moved several times.

Lessons from the Sparrows
In Susan's case, there were no blatant clues indicating someone had married more than once. Thinking about why Susan might not be enumerated with the name of Sparrow was the key to jumpstarting the research. Each reason suggested a slightly different research plan. These reasons, and all subsequent research, should be tracked as the research is done so that efforts are not duplicated and sources are not overlooked entirely. This tracking can be done on paper or electronically.

Summing It Up
In some families, there will be no family history indicating that an ancestor was married more than one time. The details may have been forgotten or no one may want to admit an ancestor was married more than once. While our discussion has focused on marriages during a woman's childbearing years, keep in mind that a marriage in the later years of a female ancestor's life can make locating her final records more difficult if the name of her last husband is not known.

Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at or visit his website at:, but h e regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

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