Michael John Neill – 5/12/2004
Looking for a Bigger Bieger and a Lost Sparrow
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
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 Ancestry.com) did not locate an entry that appeared to
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
--- 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
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 email@example.com or visit
his website at: www.rootdig.com, but h
e regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.