Ancestry Daily News
Michael John Neill – 9/18/2002
A Sibling Here . . . A Sibling There
The 1900 census made me think they were siblings but I
had no proof. In 1900, sixteen-year-old Sarah Demarrah heads a household in
Ausable, Clinton County New York. She is living with her three younger
sisters: Margaret, Essie [Elsie], and Mary. Fourteen-year-old Levi Demarrah
is living with a neighbor family two houses down the street. The sisters
were known to be the daughters of Mary and Louis Demarrah. Was Levi a
brother? Speculation is that he was their brother, but I have no proof.*
There were several other Demarrah families in the area and Levi could easily
have been the sisters' cousin instead of their brother.
Regular readers of this column will remember some of these names. Youngest
sister Mary (also known as Marie) is my wife's great-grandmother. By 1909,
she has moved to Chicago, Illinois, with her father and started creating a
whole additional set of genealogical problems. Sister Elsie follows a few
years later. This 1900 census is the last record I have of sisters Margaret
The mother of the Demarrah sisters died in the 1890s. The father Louis has
not been located in the 1900 census, but is known to have lived in Chicago
from 1909 until 1920.
Back to Levi
There are many questions to answer and trying to answer them all at once
is overwhelming. For now, I'll focus on Levi. Even if he is a family member,
Levi is too young to be listed with the family in the 1880 census. The 1890
census is a moot point. Fortunately, there is a New York State 1892 state
census. Unfortunately it is not as detailed as the unavailable 1890 federal
census. Still it may be helpful. During a recent trip to the Allen County
Public Library, I was fortunate enough to access the 1892 census. Louis and
his family were located in the Ausable district (the same place the sisters
were living in 1900). A Levi was listed in the household. The 1892 state
census does not list relationships, but Levi's listing with Louis, wife
Mary, and their other known children seems to establish a connection. I'll
operate under the assumption that Levi is their child unless other records
are inconsistent with that conclusion.
To the Net
I don't spend hours looking for an online site with all the answers, but
whenever I locate a "new" person, I always do a few Internet searches to see
if a quick connection or reference can be found. I was fortunate enough to
make connection with a distant relative who sent me a scan of a document
that really put a hole in my brick wall.
It Was On My List - Just Towards the Bottom
The father of Mary Demarrah was a Nazaire Drollette who died in Saranac,
New York, in 1904. Mary had died before her father's death and her children
would have been heirs to his estate. Searching for records of the settlement
of Nazaire's estate was on my list of goals. However, I had put locating the
estate records low on my priority list. Based upon family tradition and what
little I had learned of Louis and Marie's family, I had not expected to even
locate any probate records. This was a serious oversight on my part
(especially as I'm always "preaching" about using court and probate records)
and makes the point that assumptions are not always correct.
The page from Nazaire's estate listed several grandchildren as his heirs.
Although their exact connection to Nazaire is not specifically stated, it
seems they are all children of Nazaire's son-in-law Louis Demarrah. Three
grandchildren are listed with the surname "Demare" and three other
grandchildren have first names of Louis' known children.
There Was More
The connection to Levi was a big break, but the document provided yet
additional information. The married surnames of three of Marie's siblings
were listed (two of which I did not have) and the residence of each heir was
given. Four of Marie's siblings were "lost" after around 1900 and Levi had
his listed as living in the state of Wyoming, some distance from upstate New
York. This was a gold mine. But . . .
I Didn't Do the Happy Dance
That's right . . . I didn't (and I don't) do the "happy dance." In this
case, getting the probate document was probably the biggest link in the
entire chain of events. Every other "find" was a little one that kept
leading me to further records and further clues. For many family historians,
once you get to a certain point in your research, the "mother lode" is not
often found. Instead research progresses in small increments and data must
be constantly analyzed in light of new information to determine if patterns
or consistencies emerge. After a certain point the "happy dance," if it is
done at all, is done when analysis points to a specific conclusion. However,
there are times when that one document makes all the analysis fall into
1) Don't make assumptions about generations that have not been
researched. I assumed Nazaire would have no probate and I was incorrect.
2) Don't change your traditional research practices - normally I would have
put probate records high on my priority list as soon as I realized someone
died with deceased children who left children of their own. I might have
saved a great deal of research time if I had searched for the probate as
soon as I realized the grandfather had grandchildren who would have been
3) It takes time. Our ancestors lived for more than five minutes (if any
readers descend from someone who lived for less than five minutes, there's
probably a weekly "newspaper" that would love to hear your story). It may
take us more than five minutes to research one ancestor.
4) Look for probates. Now I'm hoping to find an aunt or uncle in this family
who died without any descendants and just enough money to probate.
Note on Surname Spellings: I decided in this article to use the
Demarrah spelling as it appeared in the 1900 census documents. The surname
is actually Desmarais - however, that spelling did not appear on any of the
documents in this study.
* In this case, the situation is recent enough that there are likely records
to help me establish proof. If this were a problem in seventeenth century
Virginia, the quantity of records would likely be lower and my "proof" would
likely be less direct.
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
and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at:
visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/,
but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Copyright 2002, MyFamily.com.
Used by the author on his website with permission.