If there’s one saying that applies to a particular branch of my family tree, it’s this one . . .
It’s None of Your Business!
Which is particularly ironic . . . because that’s the same line that’s my biggest brick wall.
I can remember both my mother and my aunt telling us over and over again that their father’s oldest surviving sisters, Zetta and Kate, would never really discuss the family with them or answer any of their questions. “It’s as if,” my mom said, “it was none of our business.” Which is a real shame because we feel pretty sure these women had a lot of information to share.
We can’t really blame it completely on the sisters, however. Apparently my great grandmother and my grandfather were also silent on the subject of the Blacker family.
In spite of their efforts, however, I’ve recently had a bit of luck making what I think is another crack in that big brick wall. And I hope Grandma Ada, Aunt Zetta, and Aunt Kate won’t mind too terribly much if I share what I’ve learned.
Our family is fortunate in that we know a great deal about my great grandfather DAVID LYMAN BLACKER – after he settled in Montana in 1864. Prior to that, however, we know very little.[1. If you’re curious, I did write a short biographical sketch about him and you can read it here.]
And his parents, LEWIS BLACKER[1. For the benefit of my BLACKER cousins, don’t freak out yet! But my recent research indicates the BLACKER surname was most likely spelled BLEIKER. Click this link to hear what that name sounds like in German. There’s a little speaker icon in the bottom left corner of the box on the left. Just give it a click for the pronunciation. I think you’ll agree that it’s really not hard to imagine that once the German accent fell away, the name sounded like BLACKER. I’ll cover the details on that research in an upcoming blog post – but for now, you’ll just have to trust me on this. Insert smiley face here.] and MARGARET REBECCA (LOURY)[2. MARGARET’s maiden name is also a bit of a mystery. I have only two records on this account. One is the death certificate of my great grandfather, dated 1911, which states her maiden name was LOURY. And the other is a cemetery record created at the time of MARGARET’s death in 1890 which states her maiden name was LOWER.] BLACKER, are the source of the big brick wall.
I thought it might be helpful to begin by breaking down the steps I took to get to where I am today.
Step 1: Reviewed previously obtained records and information
I reviewed the records I already had and then made a list of what I knew – or thought I knew – about LEWIS and MARGARET:
- 1806 – both were born in Germany (or perhaps Prussia?)
- 1825-1840 – the couple had 14 children, the first seven or so were born in Pennsylvania and the last seven in Ohio
- 1850 – the couple lived with two of their daughters and the husbands of those daughters in Dayton, Ohio
- 1870 – MARGARET lived with daughter ELIZABETH and her family in Macomb, Illinois
- 1890 – MARGARET died in Macomb, Illinois
Step 2: Made a list of questions to be answered
The big questions I’ve been tackling for quite some time are:
- Where were LEWIS and MARGARET born?[1. The few records I’ve located state either Germany or Prussia. But if you’re familiar with German research, you know that’s not very useful information.]
- And who are their parents?
Step 3: Research, research . . . and more research
The best record I’ve located is a cemetery record for MARGARET that states:
- she was born in 1806 in Germany;
- her maiden name was LOWER;
- her mother’s name was MARY ULLERY;
- she had at least 3 siblings: “CHRIS, KATE (SMITH), LYDIA and others”; and
- she had a total of fourteen children, including my great grandfather DAVID.
For more information on this valuable cemetery record, click here.
And so armed with all this great information, my research for the last year or so has been centered on DAVID’s thirteen siblings . . . hoping to run into a descendant of one of those siblings who might have information to share.
I started by looking for the BLACKER family in as many census records as I could locate. To recap those research efforts . . .
1830 The family probably lived in Pennsylvania, because it appears several of their children were born on either side of that census year, one in Huntingdon County and one in Franklin County. I have searched electronically and manually through both counties but to no avail.
1840 According to a few birth dates I have for subsequent children, they should have been living in Ohio by 1840. And after much searching, I finally located what might be a record for the family in Elizabeth Township, Miami County, Ohio.[2.”United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 5 Aug 2017); entry for Lewis Blicker, Ohio, Miami, Elizabeth Township; image 3 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).]
For those of you who are familiar with the 1840 U.S. Census, you know that only the name of the head of household is listed. All other family members (or occupants of the household) are shown as a tick mark in a column that indicates whether they are male or female and in which age range they fall.
So for instance, it appears there are a total of nine individuals living in the BLICKER or BLIEKER household, as follows:
- Three males: one boy under the age 5; one boy between the age of 5 and 10; and one adult between the age of 30 and 40; .
- Six females: three girls under the age of 5; two girls between the ages of 5 and 10; and one adult between the age of 30 and 40.
Given what I know about the family, i.e., the number of children and when they were born, I felt it was possible this census record could reflect the family of LEWIS and MARGARET. Please note the emphasis on possible.
1850 Many years ago, my mother and I located a census record of a small portion of the family living in Dayton, Ohio: LEWIS, MARGARET, their daughters, ELIZABETH and SARAH, and ELIZABETH’s husband NATHAN E. PIERCE, and SARAH’s husband ALONSO FORD.[3. “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 5 Aug 2017), entry for Lewis Blacker, Ohio, Montgomery, Dayton, ward 1; image 16 of 32; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).]
1860 In spite of the fact that I have located several of the children of LEWIS and MARGARET in the 1860 census records, I have to date been able to locate a record for either LEWIS or MARGARET.
1870 I located MARGARET living with her daughter ELIZABETH and her family in Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois.[4.”United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 5 Aug 2017), entry for N.E. Pearce, Illinois, McDonough, Macomb, ward 3, image 1 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).] There is no indication as to whether MARGARET is married or a widow.
1880 I have not yet located a census record for either LEWIS or MARGARET.
1890 Again, no record for either LEWIS or MARGARET. But then again, there are very few census records for anyone in 1890 since those records were destroyed in a fire in 1921. However, I do know from the cemetery record that MARGARET died in September 1890 and is buried in Macomb, Illinois.
Step 4: Think Outside the Box
Before concluding my review of the somewhat questionable 1840 U.S. Census record for Elizabeth Township, I took a quick look at the neighbors to see if there were any other surnames that stood out. Such as LOURY or LOWER (MARGARET’s maiden name) and ULLERY (MARGARET’S mother’s maiden name according to the cemetery record). But no luck.
And then, even though I have an 1850 U.S. Census record for LEWIS and MARGARET showing that they had moved on to Dayton, Ohio, I decided to take a look at the 1850 census record for Elizabeth Township – just to see what was going on in that same area 10 years later.[5. And these are the moments on which genealogists look back and wonder if someone from the past is leading you to a particular record. I know, it sounds a little creepy. But I swear, this has happened to me on more than one occasion. And who knows, maybe Ada, Zetta, and Kate have finally had a little pity on all of us.]
LEWIS and MARGARET were nowhere to be found. But that wasn’t a big surprise. But I did discover a man named CHRISTIAN LOWER, living in the same area where LEWIS and MARGARET had lived in 1840.[7. “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 5 August 2017), entry for Christian Lower, Ohio, Miami, Elizabeth, image 35 of 35; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).]
Step 5: Repeated Step 3 (more research!)
And so I began researching CHRISTIAN. Because don’t forget, I have the cemetery record for MARGARET that states her maiden name was LOWER – and she had a brother named “CHRIS”.
And what I learned is that before CHRISTIAN lived in Ohio, he lived in Pennsylvania. And in some of the same areas where LEWIS and MARGARET had lived.
Continuing my research, I found CHRISTIAN in several Ancestry Member Trees . . . and discovered that the people researching this family seemed to have a great deal of information, not only on CHRISTIAN but on several of his siblings.
The most interesting record I located in these Member Trees was the record of a ship arriving at the port of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1821, containing a list of passengers.[6.”U.S., Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959,” database with images, Ancestry (https://Ancestry.com : accessed 5 Aug 2017), entry for Joseph Lauer. Citing original data: Records from Record Group 287, Publications of the U.S. Government; Record Group 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service “INS” and Record Group 36, Records of the United States Customs Service. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.] Six of those passengers are as follows:
- Christian Lauer, male age 27
- Joseph Lauer, male age 13
- Dorothea Lauer, female age 26
- Maria Lauer, female age 20
- Catherine Lauer, female age 17
- Margaretta Lauer, female age 15
Be still my heart. Could MARGARETTA (born about 1806) be my MARGARET (born about 1806)??
And there were other reasons to be excited about this discovery:
- In addition to “CHRIS”, the cemetery record states MARGARET had a sister named “KATHERINE” (see “Christian” and “Catherine” in the ship record image above);
- According to several Ancestry Member Trees, CHRISTIAN’s son DAVID was born in Johnston, Franklin County, PA, in 1931 (and my great grandfather’s sister ELIZABETH was born in Chambersburg, Franklin County, PA, in about 1833, and he was born in 1829 in Huntingdon County, PA, just north of Franklin County);
- The cemetery record also states that MARGARET’s mother’s name was MARY ULLERY (and several Ancestry Member Trees associated with CHRISTIAN and his siblings state that CHRISTIAN’s mother’s name was MARIA CATHARINA ULRICH).
Step 6: Took action
And so I quickly sent a message to the administrator of the Ancestry Member Tree with the most information and sources.
Step 7: Patience and persistence!
And then one day – several months later – the crack in the wall got just a little bit wider.
Drum roll, please . . .
While reviewing my mom’s recent Ancestry DNA matches, I noticed she had a “New Ancestry Discovery” with the following message –
DNA evidence suggests that you [my mom] is related to a group of Joseph Christian Lauer descendants. And because her DNA matches people in the group, there’s a good chance she’s also related to Joseph Christian Lauer.
JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER is the “Joseph” listed on the ship record and a brother to CHRISTIAN LOWER . . . the man I had been researching.
Step 8: Repeated Step 7, more patience and persistence!
Armed now with the research and DNA matches, I tried again reaching out to the Ancestry Member regarding her tree.
More time passed.
Step 9: Performed the Genealogy Happy Dance!
And then . . . after several weeks – I finally heard back from someone regarding my attempts to reach out. Apparently the owner of the Ancestry tree, who is a descendant of JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER, passed my name on to another descendant of JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER – and she in turn contacted me.
Since then, we have been exchanging emails and information. And a few days ago, I began to examine her very carefully sourced timeline for JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER.
And that’s when the really big crack in the brick wall finally came.
It turns that JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER also lived in Elizabeth Township, Miami County, Ohio, in 1840. And here’s the best part – he lived right next door to LEWIS!!![8. “United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 5 Aug 2017); entry for Joseph Lowvin, Ohio, Miami, Elizabeth Township; image 3 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).]
Step 10: Rinse & Repeat
To be sure, there’s still a great deal of work to be done, and questions to be asked and answered, but I do finally feel like I might be on the right track with this family.
In summary, here are the steps I followed . . .
- Reviewed the records and information I already had, and made a timeline of what I already knew.
- Determined the questions I wanted to answer.
- Performed lots of research!
- Did some thinking outside the box.
- Followed up on new leads, which led to . . . more research!
- Practiced patience and persistence!
All of which leads to . . . the Genealogy Happy Dance + More questions = Rinse & Repeat!
What steps have you followed to break down some of your brick walls? I’d love to hear from you!