Friday, November 1, 2013


In an earlier post I wrote about my great-grandma Louise.  She has always been the subject of some consternation in my extended genealogical family for several reasons:  She was a second wife, marrying a man twice her age who was widowed and had two smallish sons.  Between the time of his first wife's death and the remarriage, he had placed both boys with other families in the farm community to care for.  The present day family believes that Louise was the one who farmed the kids out.  It still makes them mad.

Another reason is that she WAS very young when she married and this didn't set well with them.  She was born in 1863 and married in 1878, which made her 15, although a few days after she married she turned 16.  Apparently she was not a perfect stepmother and tended to favor the son she had with her husband over her stepchildren ... at least if you believe the remnants of stories the present day family tells.

A third problem grew out of whether or not she wrote a book about Caldwell, Kansas.  Her husband said she did, but the present family believes, in spite of a letter to the contrary from her husband, that he himself wrote it.  This book's writing was slammed beyond belief by a local professor, and I have always wondered why the present day family wants to claim it if it is so horrible -- purple prose, this fellow calls it!

Anyway, given that this condition exists, there is also a strictly genealogical problem that has been around as long as I have been researching this family. From early on, new genealogists are told to prove every fact.  It is easy to think that a death certificate is proof, and often "newbies" use that as their proof.  But as an example, the informants who give the information put on death certificates often are simply wrong about what they put down.  They may believe it with every fiber of their being, but that still doesn't make it so.  My issue with Louise "Lou" Hall has been her birth year.

The earliest year she shows up on a Federal census is in 1870.  At that time she and her family were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  Here is what the family looked like at that time:

1870 Census – Warrensburg, Johnson, Missouri

John A. Hall       34
Martha Hall        36
Abner Hall         12
Charles Hall       10
John Hall             9
Bessie Hall          7
Lou Hall              5
Roger Hall           1

That census showed that sister Bessie was two years older than Lou, and by deduction, Lou would have been born about 1865.  Since I had no reason to think the informant (probably either her father or mother) would be incorrect, I just assumed this was accurate.  Thus, all the research I did from that point on was predicated on the assumption that Lou was born in November of 1865.
The major problem this presented to me was that she would not have been close to 16 when she was married but rather was close to 14.  


By 1880 Lou was happily married with a new baby - and at least as far as Federal Censuses go, she never again appeared enumerated within the context of her birth family.  And I didn't get around to researching her siblings for a long, long time.

However, for an entirely different reason I decided to see if her family appeared intact on the 1875 Kansas State census.  Although the name Hall did not appear in the index, (making me assume they were not in Kansas) by browsing through the various townships in Sumner County, Kansas, where I knew the family had moved, I was able to find them.  And I got a big surprise:

1875 Kansas State Census

John A. Hall    40
Martha            34
Abner             17
Charles           15
John                13
Lou                 12
Bessie             10
Roger               6

In this census, Lou and Bessie have exchanged positions; Lou appears to be the older of the two girls, making her birth be in 1863 rather than 1865.  That meant that all those other documents where her year of birth is shown as 1863 were correct.  She had NOT knocked a few years off her age like so many women did (and still do!).  Whoever in 1870 gave that bad information to the census taker (and it could have been either mom or dad OR the census taker himself!) was in error.  

I had built up a whole story that would make sense for using 1865 as a birthdate; it never occurred to me to question its veracity.  The story I fabricated made sense, but it was wrong.  Finding this new census information  solved a big problem I had, and made me once again realize how necessary it is to check and double-check what one is using for "truth."  

I do not want wrong information as a legacy of my genealogy!