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Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 4/14/2004

Framing William Frame

If you combine a divorce, a relative who “evaporates,” and a potential name change, you have the makings for a brick wall. This week we return to a problem from Chicago, Illinois, that involves all these difficulties and more.

In a nutshell, the situation is:

William Apgar and Mary Demar Apgar divorce in Chicago in 1921. They are the parents of four children. According to the divorce record, they were married in Chicago in 1909.

The corresponding marriage record for the couple in Cook County, Illinois, gives their names as William Frame Apgar and Mary Demar, with the bride's father, Louis, giving consent. In the 1910 census, Louis Demar's Chicago household includes a William and Mary Frame (and their daughter).

In a previous column, “Framing the Apgars”, this census entry was analyzed item by item, comparing the known William and Mary Apgar with the William and Mary Frame from the census enumeration.

After concluding that William Apgar was likely enumerated as William Frame in 1910, it was decided that perhaps the reason William Apgar could not be found before 1910 is that his name really was William Frame.

A World War I Draft Registration Card for William Apgar indicated he was born in Chicago in 1888. No Apgar families living in Chicago and Cook County in 1900 were found to have a William listed. While William's family could easily have spent time outside the Chicagoland area, it was decided that before the Apgar search was expanded a similar search for Frames should be conducted.

My search for William Frame began with the information from his 1910 enumeration combined with what I knew about William Apgar from other sources. I made the following assumptions:

- William was actually a Frame, and he used that surname until at least 1910.

- The information on William's 1910 census enumeration was fairly accurate.

- William lived his whole life in Chicago.

I will continue to remind myself of these assumptions as the work progresses.

I began with the following:

William Frame, a painter (at least from 1910 to 1921), was born 1888 or 1889 in Chicago, with parents born in England. I have this information (and my assumptions) written on a sheet of paper with an indication of where each piece of information was obtained.

And So I Started
Part of the difficulty in this case is the lack of an 1890 census, the closest one to William's date of birth. What I needed was a source of residents in the Chicago area as close to William's date of birth as possible. Two potential sources came to mind: voter registration lists and city directories. The voter registration lists are available in microfilm from the Family History Library, the Illinois State Archives, and to subscribers. The directories are available in a number of locations both in print and on microfilm. I chose to use the voter registration lists first because they are easily accessible and they provide the registrant's place of birth. I make a note on my sheet of assumptions that once I have exhausted leads from the voter registration lists the directories should also be checked, as William's father might not have registered to vote.

Searching the Voter Registration Lists
The 1888, 1890, and 1892 Voter Registration Lists included several Frames, but only two born in England—Thomas and Ralph. Since 1888 was approximately the year William was born and in 1910 William Frame indicated his father was born in England, it was decided to follow Thomas and Ralph through as many census records as possible in order to determine if additional research on either of these men should be performed. The voter registrations did not provide the men's ages, so even though Ralph is not listed in 1888 he could easily have been William's father and simply have been too young to vote. Thomas's 1888 voter registration entry can be viewed online.

The voter registration of 1888 indicated both men had lived in Chicago for at least twenty years, so the 1880 Census (you can search this census for free) was checked.

Thomas and Ralph Frame were found living in the same household, with Thomas as the father. Both were of an age to have been William's father. The 1900 census entry for Thomas Frame was most interesting. A partial extraction from 1900 Cook County, Calumet Township, Chicago City, Enumeration district 1121, sheet 11B follows:

Thomas Frame, 62, born England, painter

Elizabeth Frame, wife, 55, born England

Edward R. Frame, son, 22, born Illinois, printer

Frank Frame, son, 15, born Illinois, at school

Willie Frame, son, 10, born Illinois, at school

Lottie Frame, daughter, 6, born Illinois, at school

It was not concrete proof, but at least there was a Willie Frame living with the English born Thomas Frame in 1900 and this Willie's age was consistent with the age of the William Frame listed in 1910 with Louis Demar. Ralph Frame's 1900 entry did not include a son William and it indicated that Ralph's wife had only had one child, apparently the daughter living with them in 1900.

Interestingly enough, Thomas Frame was a painter just as William Frame was in 1910. In 1910 Thomas Frame was living in the same general neighborhood as Louis Demar and William Frame, which is another good sign.

A Potential Loose End
It is possible that there are multiple William Frames in the Chicago area. The 1910 census in Cook County, Illinois, was searched for all William Frames to see if there was more than one with a similar date of birth and background. The only William Frame in 1910 who “matched” the one living with Thomas Frame in 1900 was the William Frame living with Louis Demar.

To recap what I've found:
- Thomas Frame in 1910 is living in the same neighborhood as William Frame in 1910 with Louis Demar.

- The William Frame listed with Thomas Frame in 1900 has a census entry that is consistent with the William Frame who was living with Louis Demar in 1910.

- There is only one William Frame in 1910 Chicago whose information is consistent with the William Frame living with Thomas Frame in 1900.

Our work is far from done. Here's what remains to be done:

- Locate probate information for Thomas and Elizabeth Frame.

- Locate Thomas Frame in as many census records as possible in an attempt to re-create the family structure. Perhaps a record on one of Thomas' other children will shed light on William Frame.

- Search city directories for 1908-10 (at least) for Thomas and William Frame and compare their residences with those of Louis Demar.

Tips from This Case Study
- Learn about the records in the area. In this case, the voter registrations helped get me started.

- Do not grab the first person who “matches.” Make certain there are not multiple individuals living in the same area with similar names, ages, and backgrounds. It can easily happen.

- Remember and annotate any assumptions that were made as a part of your search. It may be necessary to change them as research progresses.

Next week we will look at the census, marriage, and death index entries for the Frame family. We will attempt to piece together the family structure using online materials.

“Framing the Apgars” (making the case that a 1910 census entry had a “wrong” last name)

“Chicago Voter Registration Lists: 1888, 1890, and 1892”

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 but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2004,

Michael's other genealogy articles