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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my
third-great-grandmother’s hard-to-read maiden name in her divorce
case file from 1879 to 1881. Many of you offered suggestions for searching for
her family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses—thank you!
I tried those searches and I kept examining the case file for clues … and I’m 98
percent sure I have the maiden name! It shows that cluster
genealogy works. Here’s how it happened.
I saw this in my third-great-grandmother Mary Frost’s testimony:
Her oldest child—my great-great-grandfather—George, stayed with Mary’s sister (unnamed
here) and worked for the sister’s husband, George Hartke, in his grocery store.
I searched for George Hartke on Ancestry.com and
found this in an 1878 city directory for Covington, Ky.:
I then found his family in the 1880 census, under “Harke”:
My great-great-grandfather is listed in the household as “nephew.” Interestingly,
he’s double-enumerated in his mother’s household in 1880:
I turned my focus to George Hartke’s wife and Mary Frost’s sister, Elizabeth. Death
records often name parents, especially in the 20th century (Mary’s doesn’t, though),
so I looked for Elizabeth’s. Lo and behold:
Let’s take a closer look:
Elizabeth’s Oct. 22, 1931, death certificate reports her parents as Henry Wolking
and “Eliz.” Evers, both born in Germany. I did some more census searching and believe
the informant, “Mrs. Henry Harke,” is Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law.
I still haven’t found the Wolkings for sure in 1850 and 1860 census records. My best
candidate so far is this Wolkins family in 1850:
The father’s name doesn’t match, which isn’t great but also isn’t a deal breaker—he
could’ve gone by his middle name or the census taker could’ve talked to a neighbor,
or Mrs. Henry Harke could have been wrong on the death certificate. This family does
have a Mary, Tilda (the divorce records refer to Mary’s sister Matilda) and Lizzie
of the right ages.
Learn more about how to use cluster genealogy in your research from our on-demand
Cluster and Collateral Searches to Beat Brick Walls, presented by Thomas MacEntee. It’s
available in ShopFamilyTree.com.