Given Name(s) Last Name

from 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 and Sarah.

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 place.

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 heirs.

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: or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2002,

Used by the author on his website with permission.

Other genealogy articles by Michael John Neill