Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on September 26, 2013 in Ask Ancestry Anne

Question: My great-great-grandfather’s name was Curtis Null, born about 1856 in Missouri according to the 1880 census. He died in 1887 in Jefferson County, Missouri. I have been unable to find him in any other census. His parents’ names aren’t listed on his death record. I had my brother take a DNA test for me and have spent countless hours searching every spelling variation in every state with no luck. Where do I go from here?

Thank you,

Regina Null, Missouri

Answer: Some ancestors just fall out of the records nicely, and then there are those infamous brick wall ancestors.  Challenging? Yes.  Fun? Sometimes. Frustrating? Absolutely!

Let’s start by taking a look at Curtis in the 1880 census.


In this census, he is listed as Curt Null, born about 1856 in Missouri, his parents’ birthplace as well.  He has a wife, Emmaline, born about 1857 and a daughter, Rosalie, born about 1878.  Also living in the house is a Julia Tillotson, age 14, who is a servant.  Notice that Curt is listed as not being able to read and write.

His death record is in the Missouri, Deaths and Burials Index, 1873–1976, database and tells us that he was born in Jefferson County, Missouri, and died in House Springs, Jefferson County, Missouri.


We can also find Curt in Missouri, Death Records, 1834–1910. This record confirms that he likely lived in Jefferson County all his life.  Also, that he was 30 years and 2 months old when he died on June 25, 1887, which means he was born sometime in April 1857.


We also know from the death register that he was buried in Kidd Cemetery, and there is a Curtis Null with no defining information in that cemetery on Find a Grave.

I checked the wiki  and found that Jefferson County did not start keeping birth records until 1883.

Next, I looked for Curt in the 1860 and 1870 census records. Just as you said, there are no Curtis or Curt Nulls to be found, even with a variety of spellings.

Maybe he was left off both the 1860 and the 1870 censuses, though I seriously doubt it. Maybe the information in the death register is wrong. And maybe he went by a different name in his youth, possibly a nickname or a middle name.

So what to do next?

  1. Sort out the Nulls buried in the Kidd Family Cemetery.  It’s a small cemetery and there may be a relation or two buried there.
  2. Contact the historical society in Jefferson County and see if they have a list of churches in the area that might have records.
  3. Study the Null families that lived in Jefferson County in 1870.  Start with the ones that lived in Meremac, which is where Curtis lived in 1880, and it’s likely he lived there in 1870. Look for males born between 1855 and 1859 and try and find the ones that you know cannot be Curtis. Then you are left with the maybes to examine.
  4. Check the message boards.  It appears you aren’t the only one working on this project. (See the message board post:  “Kirk NULL (1854–1928) and Curtis NULL (1856–1887).”   Contact the others and see what they know.
  5. Search for online trees with Curtis Null in them or his children and try to contact the people who created them.  Maybe if you combine information, you will be able to piece together the answer.
    1. If your brother took a Y-DNA test, consider taking a new autosomal test like AncestryDNA, which will look at all lines of your family. You can take the test yourself and then see if any of your DNA cousin matches can help.
  6. Research Emmaline’s family thoroughly as well.  You have a death certificate for one of her children that lists her maiden name as Tillotson, and a Julia Tillotson is living with the family in 1880.  Research both of them.
  7. If you have access to wills or land records from that area, or can hire someone who does, start looking for Curtis or Emmaline or the children and see if you can find any related Nulls.

You ancestors have presented you with a tough one; there is no doubt about it.  But keep looking and keep connecting with people who are also researching this problem.  Someone is going to turn up the critical piece of information sooner or later.

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Anne Gillespie Mitchell

Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at She is an active blogger on and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.


  1. Just in case you haven’t tried it, you may just want to try searching by initials. I’ve had that happen before, where I had an entire family only be listed by their initials. Terribly frustrating, I still don’t have the names of all the children.

    Another possibility is that you need to set wider search parameters. It isn’t to say your information is wrong, but perhaps the info as it was transcribed or recorded was THAT wrong.

    They may have also moved, and then returned. It isn’t that uncommon.

    The counties may have also split or changed their boundaries–meaning your ancestor didn’t go anywhere, but how the information is being categorized is different. I would do some research on the counties and area where he’s last seen, and the counties there close.

    However, your best solution is to focus on researching the other members of the family who aren’t your direct line ancestors. They fill in the gaps that our ancestor’s trail leaves empty.

  2. John Foltz

    I have been looking for my father parents information before they came to the US. I have all of infor on them when they came to NJ and Pa. They were from Austria Poland.A city called Sambor,Przemysl,Sanok Father John J Foltz B:1876 came to US 1890. D:1918 Marcus Hook Pa. Mother Katherine (nee, Brown) Foltz B:1873 Came to US 1802 D:1931 Marcus Hook Pa.What I am looking for is information before they came to US. Their family Mother Father Siblings.

  3. Kathy Simkins

    With a name like NULL I would look at all the HULL families in the state. I have often found my families by looking for the possible ways to mis spell the names. For example: My husband has a 2nd great grandmother named Rachel Hawthorne. Not all that unusual. But when you factor in the fact that these people were not educated enought to read and write, and the local tradition was to not pronounce some letters and you come up with problems. So when I finally found her marriage record her name was written by the vicar as: Rachel AUTHEN. I have found similar problems with names that are a bit rare. Sometimes it takes finding the family where you know that they were living and then sort out the names. My grandfather is the only name in his large family that is usually written as it should be. All the other names are usually scrambled. My rule of thumb is: Just how many ways can they scramble the name or names that you are seeking? The other trick is to look at all the other people living around the area where your person should be with the same or similar surnames. The more unusual the names the more apt they are to be related to your person. Just never give up! We all hit the brick walls.

  4. MBH

    My ancestors name is so rare that the transcribers rarely get it right. So, I’ve found it helpful to find a neighbor in the previous or subsequent census. Often I find the object of my research still living next door. Sometimes I’ve had to try 2 or 3 neighbors, but I eventually find them.

  5. Angela O.

    My question is what do you do when you finally find a paper trail but your ancestrydna test seems to suggest it is wrong?

  6. John Roberts

    FWIW, theres a Curtis Null living in Meramac, Missouri (same place as the 1880 hit) in the 1900 census with a son also named Curtis Null. His wife is listed as Hannah. This Curt was born in February, 1854, making him older than the death record and – most likely – a cousin. It could also mean that the Find-a-grave listing is not for the guy you’re after.

    The similarity in birth dates also means that you may want to recheck to see if the dead Curtis is the Curtis you’re looking for and not this guy. 🙂

  7. edna hampton

    I am having a similar problem trying to find information on my grandfather. he is listed on the 1910 census an all after but not before I thought I found him in 1880 but found out after he was born around 1884 so the one I found is not him at all. I have checked various spelling of his last name which is reid and still no luck. my mother says he never spoke of his parents ever not even a name nor did his second wife my grandmother mention her inlaws either but I am still looking. all I know is he was born in Lincoln county Georgia and his first wife died about six months after their younger daughter was born.

  8. I have had a run in with MANY brick walls. I am trying to locate my mother Betty Myra Clark’s mother Rachel. It’s as if she was a made up name other than my mothers Birth Record. Which only states Rachel Clark which more than likely was a married name. My mothers father is recorded as Robert L Clark died 12/29/1995. If you could help in any way we ( my family and I) would be forever grateful. It was told to us that Rachel was of Native American Blood… Not sure..

  9. Leslie Wyman

    The MO State Archives are also located in Jefferson City, so you might also look on their website ( – they have some digital offerings and lists of what microfilm they have for each county – you might be able to find him in some Cole County records.

  10. Leslie Wyman

    Oops – I just re-read that he’s in Jefferson County, not City. But, same source – state archives for Jefferson County might turn up something!

  11. Scott Southwick

    I would see if you could get a copy of the death certificate or if possible the birth certificate. There is usually a small fee to obtain these but it is well worth the money. Sometimes not all of the information gets transcribed to digital and there are little bits of info that will give you a hint in the right direction. Call the city or town clerks office, I’ve had pretty good luck over the phone finding out if they have the record that I’m looking for and then send a self addressed stamped envelope with the correct info. Good luck.

  12. BEE

    John # 2 do some research on Sambor, Przemysl, Sanok and you might find someplace to write for birth/Baptismal records. I’m assuming you searched immigration records? Naturalization records??
    Not many Foltz on the ancestry immigration list, but ellisisland has 60.
    Some you can skip just by where they are from, but open and read about all the possible ones that came from the same area to see where they came from and where they were going. John would most likely be Jan, unless he went by whatever his middle initial stood for. If it was Joseph, then it would be Jozef, or Josef. Good luck!

  13. Pamela Marie Galvan Tamez

    I know my maiden name is Galvan, an Hispanic name and I found my family in the California 1940s census listed as Galvin. I also found on my Coldwell side that note takers often spelled it Caldwell or my Thompson as Tompson. So yes Surnames often get misspelled even in this day and age it still happens. That is why I make sure that when I fill out something or if someone is typing my info I ask or look at what they are filling out and make sure the information is correct.

  14. Linda Marie Wetzel

    I had almost exactly the same problem, including the lack of birth records. It took me over 15 years to crack the case but I finally did. What I discovered is that my the mom (Gr-Gr-Gr-grandmother) had remarried (twice!) and the youngest children were listed under her married names. The oldest children were living with family and were listed in the census with them. So they were actually there all along. I finally managed to unravel everything – using probate records and wills that gave me enough info that I was able to go back to the skimpy records I had and connect the dots. It all made complete and total sense when I had the entire story plus I was able to find more holes that were very easy to plug by that time. So the lesson is, never give up! Those hidden family members really can peek out at you when you least expect it.

  15. Nancy Derickson

    Nulls in Jefferson County, Missouri! I recently connected the Jefferson County Nulls to my McCoy ancestors who settled in St. Charles County, MO before 1800 through the marriage of Michael Null and Margaret McCoy in Harrison County, KY in 1798. Michael and Margaret Null as well as several of Michael’s brothers settled in Jefferson County, MO in the Hillsboro-House Springs area before 1808. I believe that Margaret died shortly after they arrived in Missouri. Your Curt/Curtis Null may well be connected to this large Null family. The Kidd’s are also early settlers in that area and it is likely they are connected through marriage. Another connected family name is House.

  16. Just last night I was wondering if a old friend had died. I couldn’t find her anywhere, but knew she would be 101 years old. So I started looking in family trees. It was under her maiden name on one tree…sometimes it takes a bit of looking to find the answers

  17. Lynda Moseley

    I would love some help breaking through my toughest brick wall. My great great grandmother, Angeline Craft, was born about 1845.

    Craft is Angeline’s married name. She appears on the 1870 Census in Orangeburg Co., SC with her husband Joseph Craft and two daughters. She next appears on the 1880 census for Orangeburg Co., SC as a widow with 4 children and a servant named Clarissa Holmes under the name Angeline “Krafts.” The 1880 census was taken June 21, 1880.

    My great grandmother, Julia Elizabeth Craft, was born September 17, 1880 in Charleston, SC.

    In November of 1882, Angeline took five of her children to the Orphanage of Charleston in Charleston, SC. She left four there, one of whom died of typhoid a few years later. The one she did not actually leave there was a girl named Sue, age 2.

    That is the last record I can find of Angeeline. She never went back to visit her children or rescue them from the orphanage. On the admissions record, she listed her maiden name as Johannes and stated the children’s father was Joseph or John, who was deceased.

    On Julia’s death certificate, her mother is listed as Angeline Wannamaker. Her father is listed as Joseph Craft.

    I do know Angeline had at least two sisters, one named Margaret who married 1st Edward Rousseu and 2nd Billy Charlon, a policeman during the Charleston Earthquake.

    Another sister, Mary Ann married Philip Gerlach, a German immigrant who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Mary Ann and Philip are buried at Ebenezer Methodist Cemetery in Bowman, Orangeburg Co., SC. Her tombstone/obit indicates her maiden name was Johnson.

    Oral family history is that Angeline was one of 16 children, 9 of whom died in infancy. There is also oral family history that Angeline married again and her second husband stole their son and went West, but I do not know his name or the son’s name.

    I have been a genealogist for 35 years, and this mystery has been with me that long. I would love it if you have any suggestions or can help me solve this ancestral mystery. Thank you.

  18. Mary Dekors Williams

    Brick walls are so frustrating. If someone in the years ahead tries to find me in the 1940 census I am not listed. I was born in Feb. Census was taken in April. My parents are listed but I am not. Apparently I don’t exist and I am leaning towards that thought with some of my elusive ancestors.

  19. Leana

    I have found census records where the 1st name of the father is actually substituted for the surname and one ancestor whose occupation was bonecutter was found under the substituted surname bonecutter instead of his real name.

    I run searches on exact husband’s 1st name and exact wive’s 1st name (married to each other-use both exact 1st names no surnames) in exact county and state.

    I have found children with unusual names (find a member of the family with the most unusual name) by running a search with only the exact 1st name and birth year in exact county and state with no surname.

    I also leave out surname and 1st name of husband or wife and exact the birth year and exact the place of birth and exact county and state and found family members.

    Try a line by line search in the exact same place as either a before census or an after census especially if the place was small.

    And one more thought maybe the father died and these children all carried on the name of their stepfather which is what happened to one branch of my family–we are not really who we thought we were. Null may be the stepfather’s last name.

  20. Jeff Sweeney

    My biggest brick wall is my paternal gg grandfather Patrick Sweeny. According to his Civil War record, he is from Donegal, Ireland and he came over somewhere around 1846. He married Grace Catherine McBride in 1851 in Herman, Butler County, PA. They had 12 kids, all but three died before Patrick and Grace. The problem is, I can’t find him definitively in the 1850 census. Don’t know if he had any brothers or sisters or who came over with him if anyone. Plenty of Sweeny/ Sweeney’s in the area but no definitive connection. Any ideas?

  21. Marti Amaral

    I couldn’t find an ancestor in 2 different census’ but all indications were that he lived where I was looking. I had to go page by page of each census, but I found him in both. His name seemed clear enough to me but evidently whoever was transcribing the documents did not enter his name correctly.

  22. BEE

    Marti #22, some times that is the only way. I have searched whole census in small towns, and whole wards in places like Pittsburgh, PA!
    Leana #20, I agree. I have often found families by searching with the most unusual name. The most frustrating is having to deal with ethnic names, and not knowing what they would have used for an “americanized” version, but that is why I like “old search”!

  23. Elizabeth (Franzer) McCafferty

    I have been working on my family tree for thirteen years and have done well using the census. My mothers side was not to difficult however my great grandfather, John Frederick Franzer,b. 1824 d. 1886, married a Wilhelmine Kunh, I cannot find anything on her after 1860’s census, they had two children one had also died abt. 1867. Same year Fred Franzer married a Charlotte louise (Tiesmeyer) Griese. Can not find Charlotte and Henry Griese in Rolla, Mo census, Henry died in civil war. Charlotte and Fred in St. Louis, MO. Charlotte died after 1920 and before 1930 census. Have no idea where she is buried or when she died. What a family. Anyone with information on the family in the family is now deceased. I keep looking hoping something will show up. Death certificate, burial site.

  24. D.S. Allen

    One of my dead ends is my 3x great grandfather and his mother, Lewis Tom Clemmons and Sarah Littrell. I’ve been researching them for 10 years to no avail. Another is my 3x great grandfather, Scottard Roach, in a different line. I find one instance of the latter in the 1860 Bad Axe Co., WI. census. Very frustrating!!!!

  25. Noreen Sherwood

    My brick wall is my paternal great-grandmother. I can find her in the census after she married my great-grandfather, but I cannot find anything with her maiden name. It’s also frustrating that her given name was Harvie. She was born in Georgia as were both her parents. She was born about 1873 and died in 1931. She didn’t pass on any information about her family.

  26. Dee Grimsrud

    Regina: I second the suggestions made by Linda Marie Wetzel (1) and Leana (2)nand add the following specific recommendations:

    (1) Check the Probate Indexes for Jefferson County for Nulls (and Hulls and Mulls, etc). Then follow the citations to the original records, which might still be in the county courthouse or in the state archives, and possibly on microfilm to borrow from the Family History Library in Salt Lake.
    In the FamilySearch online catalog are a number of references to Jefferson County court records, including an (Index (to) volumes 1-4 of Jefferson County wills covering the years 1872-1921). Click on the Search link on their home page and then search for the Location of “Missouri, Jefferson” (without the word “county”).
    Check the free WorldCat online union catalog to see which libraries have this index, then a) go there (Regina lives in Missouri, so there should be a library within driving distance that has the index; I would always rather look at a source myself than trust someone else to do it for me), or (if you can’t go there) check that library’s website to see if they will do lookups or make photocopies or scans of the pages with those names, and/or b)post a lookup request to the Jefferson Co message board on Rootsweb:

    2) Search Ancestry (& other dbases) WITHOUT using a given name or surname; just use the date (+/- 1 or 2 years) and place of birth and gender. Also, try searching Ancestry using *ull to allow for mis-readings of the first letter by indexers, as well as trying *all, *oll and/or the “sounds like” option.

    Good luck!

  27. L. Paintner

    Try checking for any Military records. Pension records specifically. I found information that I never had any idea even exhisted. Burial records at the cemetery will be helpful as well but keep in mind it is secondhand info so do not carve it in stone. It will be helpful as a starting place.

  28. R Davis

    I have a similar situation, except that my gg grandfather Davis was born in Kentucky and moved to Missouri. At least your last name is not one of the top ten most common in the US.

    My first suggestion is to locate his obituary. The Missouri SHS will locate it for you for a fee since you have the date of his death if you can’t get it from the library. Obituaries are often a wealth of genealogical information. I have also obtained information from a funeral home and from cemetery records, such as who paid for the plot and next of kin.

    My second suggestion is to check for his marriage record. On my gg grandparents record, the names of the witnesses are listed. One of them is a neighbor, but the other is the father of the bride.

  29. Kenneth P Calcut

    What is the best way to start search on Native American Blackfoot Tribe I have two names Wagner and Upham, Thank You

  30. Leslie Blankschen

    Another possible avenue to try is to page through the entire Census for a given town and year.. I know this can be time consuming, but it is often fruitful. I have often found ancestors this way. Sometimes when the names were transcribed they were misspelled because people could not read the handwriting. Another trick I use is to do a search of the Census entering just the first names of the husband and wife. This will generate a list of those people with their last names, some of which may resemble the family being researched. You can then look more closely at the family.

  31. Marilyn

    I would just like to add to what Leana said. I knew my great-grandfather had to be in Marshall Co., IN for the 1870 census but could not find him in the census no matter how hard I looked. I finally found him totally by accident. My gr-grandfather’s father (a Smith) had died after the 1860 census, and his mother had married again (to a Taylor) shortly thereafter, but was widowed for a second time by the 1870 census. In 1870, the census enumerator correctly recorded her name as Taylor, but mistakenly recorded her three Smith sons as Taylors as well. The way I finally found my great-grandfather was by searching for him by his first name. I looked for all the Orlando’s of the proper age in the area. There were 11 of them. I went through them one-by-one. Mine was the 11th one, of course. So, if your gr-gr-grandfather was a Curtis Null, try searching for him by using only his first name and proper age, and make a list of all the Curtis males that you find. Then try checking marriage records for a female who surname was Null but married some other surname after 1856 (when Curtis was born). See if you can match the new married surname to any of the Curtis males on your list. Good luck.

  32. Elton Stroud

    I need to find anything on the death and burial place of my ancestor, Thomas Thompson Watlington who was killed during the War Between the States after being gravely wounded in battle in northern Virginia. He died during a march from Farquier county Virginia to Culpeper, Va as was listed on his widows pention. There is no record of his death or burial place even tho his death must have been certified in order for a pention to be issued. I have a copy of the pention which lists his death as April 3, 1863. I also need info on his parents, etc. He was from Caswell County, NC but enlisted in the 5th Va. Cav. in Danville, Va. Any help appreciated. Thank You.

  33. Adele J Page

    I have found inverting the black-on-white to white-on-black option AND enlarging the page to be very helpful in determining handwriting or spelling of all information. (A copy of the Reid Bible, obtained from mother, was a negative. I found this considerably more legible!) This is under Tools on

    Those overlapping letters really can mislead transcribers. I spend much of my time ‘correcting’ the obvious errors~ and we all make them!

  34. Rick Faulkner

    That was truly an informative article with many educational replies adding to the search, thank you.

  35. For thirty and more years I have been searching a great grandfather.
    John Gaskins.His marriage information in the ancestry international marriages list, has him as” En”. But in other sources he is said to have been born in Bourbon, Ky.
    His birthdate is Sept 1,1761 He died in Clermont, Ohio in Sept. 1814. His wife, Sara Fee Gaskins died in Clermont Ohio in 1813. They married in Green County Pa. in Feb. 1787.But this is from relatives listings and may be guesses. Their second son was born in Bourbon Ky1788, and he is named John Gaskins.They may have him confused with his father.
    His parents may be Thomas Gaskins and his mother may be Ann Eustace,.both from Va.They married in 1758 in Va.(if they are his parents is the question). He may be related to well known Va. ancestors, if that is the case.Thank you, sincerely.

  36. charolette

    This is very interesting information or should I say research. I’ve been trying to locate documents for my grandmother Iceola Walton/Becknell born 4/16/1891, Red River County Texas as to her mother’s name. The one listed is not correct, we believe the name should be Sallie Tushka/Pisahuakubbi/Pesahikabi which is found on the Choctaw Roll.
    Cannot find the birthcertificate of Iceola Walton/Becknell which is her daughter.Name showing on the death certificate is Sallie Becknell with her parents as Viney Carters/Wiley Anders which is not correct or either the certificate is incorrect al together. They show Iceola born 1891, then her mother Sallie Becknell 1884 and Viney Carters 1890, how could this be correct. Any help you give would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  37. Tina

    As mentioned by someone earlier, I would try looking at the neighbors in 1880 and try to find them in earlier census records. If this Curt Null lived his entire life in Jefferson County he ought to be there somewhere.

    I have an entire family that I cannot find on the 1870 census. So I know how frustrating it can be! Searching their neighbors & siblings haven’t helped me… Good Luck!

  38. Dawn King

    I also have hit that “Big Brick wall” regarding information on my grandfather William Randall Jordan (Jan 8, 1886).

    I have searched everywhere for his Marriage to my Grandmother, Lucille Marie Allmann/ Vance. They had 1 child, my father William Daniel Jordan (June 11, 1934- May 3, 1983 in Dayton Ohio) I also found that the marriage was the second one for both. His 1st Marriage was to a Florance F. 1892- . I know they lived in Dayton Ohio till the early 1940’s from the census then Moved to Azusa California. He passed Oct 5, 1955. He was a retired Dayton Ohio City fireman.
    I have searched also as to where he is buried in the Los Angeles County area to no avail.

    I don’t know if he had any children from the first marriage to Florance
    Any help would be appreciated

  39. Robin Deems

    Regina, I found a trail for Emma[line] Null, the wife of Curt in 1880. In 1900 she is found in St. Louis, MO; 43, b. Jul 1856, widowed; she has had 7 children, 5 of whom are living. Children are Eley, b. Aug 1883; Mabel, b. Jan 1890; Charlie, b. Aug 1892.

    In 1910, she is living with daughter Rosa, also in St. Louis. In 1920, she is with son Eley in St. Louis. Her death certificate (online at Missouri secretary of state) states that she was born 5 Jul 1856, and was the wife (widow) of Curtnal Null. The informant is Mrs. E.B. Roberts.

    In 1870, Emeline is in Meramec, Jefferson co., MO; it appears that she is the daughter of Melinda Tillotson, 40, who appears to be the daughter of August Tillotson, 67, and Margaret, 65. In 1860, Melinda appears in the census with August & Margaret as “servant” and is probably the mother of “Margaret” age 4, and Amanda Jane, 1. It doesn’t look like she was ever married. Emma Tillotson Null’s death certificate does not name a father or mother. An online family tree has August & Margaret as Emeline’s parents, but Margaret was clearly too old to have been her mother.

    The St. Louis City directory has Emma listed in 1893 as the widow of Curtis; also in 1916 as the widow of “Kirk.” From all of the records available, it looks like she did not remarry. SO, the bottom line is that Emma had children until at least August 1892 with the surname Null. Everything points to this being the same Emeline in the 1880 census, so it doesn’t look like the Curtis Null that died in 1887 was her husband.

    You also have an interesting problem as to who is the father of Emeline Tillotson! Perhaps DNA testing will solve that one.

    Curt[is] could have been a middle name, and in the older censuses, he was enumerated with a different name, or just initials. I find that to be very common.

    I hope that I’ve helped. Good luck in your research!

  40. Samuel Key

    Re: “Curtis Null, born about 1856 in Missouri according to the 1880 census. He died in 1887 in Jefferson County, Missouri.”

    Since Curtis NULL seems not to appear in the 1860 & 1870 US Census records, there is another search technique I would add to the list.

    In the 1880 US Census record choose two or three neighbors next to Curtis NULL with names less likely to be misspelled and/or transcribed incorrectly, and look for these neighbors in the 1860 & 1870 US Census records. If they are next-door neighbors in the 1880 US Census they likely will appear as next-door neighbors in the earlier census records. (Names were obtained phonetically and accents can have a very bad effect on what the census taker writes down.)

    I have found this technique very fruitful for the German surname “VOLLBEHR” found in Clinton County, Iowa during the the late 1800 time period.

  41. Faye Parker

    My GGGrandfather was William Pratt who is believed to have died during 1860 in Clay County, GA. Does anyone have a death record or place of burial? Not sure of the widows name, but could be Louisa, Eliza, A.E.E., Ann or Willie Williams.
    This couple’s children are: Eliza Jane, William M. Pratt, Samuel Pratt, John C. Pratt, Andrew Pratt, George W. Pratt, and Hauam or Harram Pratt.
    Do you have info. to share?

  42. Nancy

    Definately look for neighbors in other census records. The transcriber listed my Grandparents under the neighbors last name despite it very clearly showing their correct last name on the image. Also, if someone were to look for my mother in that same record, they wouldn’t recognize her. 7 years later, when she turned 18 she changed her first and middle names to honor a friend who died.

  43. Paul Brown

    Check county deed records of Jefferson County for real estate circa late 1880’s under the name Curtis Hull or other permutations of the name.

  44. Robyn Randles

    It took me four years to find the Family Randles living in Wrexham Wales. The 1841 Census listed them as Randler but in 1851 they appeared correctly. Ebenezer Randles (1935) my families GGGrandfather is my next mystery as I am sure he didn’t swim to Australia but do you think I can find him sailing to Australia on any known lists. He was a carpenter so assuming he hitched a ride then left the ship to gold prospecting in northern Victoria where I can track him again in Talbot-Maryborough buried at Carisbrook Cemetery. My family will benefit one day from this fascinating research as he was the pioneer adventurer. Happy researching everyone.

  45. Jack Keller

    I am looking for proof that Magdalena Keller born 24 Sep 1787, d/o Johan Jacob Keller (28 Jul 1743 / 18 Dec 1824) and Anna Maria Humbert (05 Dec 1747 / 05 Sep 1809) is the same person as Mary M. Keller Spohn, w/o Elias Spohn. Magdalena was baptised in the Christ Reformed church, Middletown, Frederick County, Maryland on 11 Nov 1787. There is a marriage in Frederick County, Maryland for Elias Spoon and Polly Keller on 27 Oct 1812. In her father’s will, he mentions her as Magdalena again. A few months back, someone posted a tree on rootsweb showing Mary Keller and Elias Spohn as married and living in Ohio. This Mary showed the same parents as Magdalena. That tree showed both Elias and Mary dying around 1850. I contacted the tree owner about this and several other marriages, relationships and dates pointing out several errors. I looked into Mary and Elias Spohn. In 1850 they were living together in Ohio. In 1860, they had separated, possibly divorced, and both still lived in Ohio. Mary M. Spohn died 04 Nov 1864 in Logan County, Ohio. Age on tombstone is 77 years (no mmonths or days) in East Liberty Cemetery, Logan Co., Ohio. Do you know how I can prove that Mary M. Keller Spohn is the same as Magdalena Keller?

  46. Allan Arnold

    Another possibility is the death certificates for any siblings, if you know of any that he had. Even though your direct ancestor’s death certificate may not list the parents name, a sibling’s death certificate may.

  47. My great grandfather, Joseph Anton Erny was born in Switzerland on July 8, 1850. His father was Joseph Anton Erny, his mother was Anna Tabler. I cannot find any record however to tell me where he was born in Switzerland and consequently, nothing about his father and mother. I did the world ancestry membership thinking that would give me my answers, but I am not finding any sites with information. I also have not found immigration records that would give any info on this. He immigrated around 1880-1881 and resided in Louisville, KY.

  48. Eleanor Land

    #26 Noreen
    A little more info would be helpful. In which census (year & location)did you find your great-grandmother? What is your great-grandfather’s name and names of children and where were they were born?

  49. debbi siebert

    I have also found that last names can be changed or mis-spelled, or changed on purpose by family for whatever reason. At some point my Irish surname had “n’s” and “L’s” dropped to simplify spelling. My husband’s maternal French last name was simplified by a teacher, because a letter in the name wasn’t pronounced and so dropped out of the name. Consider the last name in a different way. The first name could be a middle name, or nickname not related to his real name. Good luck; it is interesting to track down. I accidentally found my husband’s French line through an obituary listing his grandmother as a survivor which started me down the correct path for that family line.

  50. Deanne

    When I am stuck an can not find parentage on a death certificate and no birth record is available, I search the local newspaper. While not to be used as factual, often parent names are listed in an obituary or in the social section when the come for visit or meet new grandchildren. That can provide additional information to use in searches.
    I have also found contacting the cemetery can be beneficial as they often have names if family members and even the name of the individual that paid for the plot. Often the funeral home information is available and I the business is still operational they often have information related to family members or copy of the obituary available.

  51. Robin Kerwin

    Often the census records can be frustrating and the people transcribing it often have a difficult job.

    Here are 2 examples. My great great grandmother is listed in the 1860 census as being in a separate family from her mother and with her brother, Henry Jackson (his middle name) as head of house so her last name showed up as Jackson instead of Hobbs.
    Another relative, Loren Rising,who in 1930 had 2 daughters and in the 1940 census they were gone. I knew from family papers they hadn’t gone anywhere. So I looked at every page of the 1940 census which fortunately was only 20 pages. I found the Rising girls on page 17, their parents were on page 2, they were listed as children of the page 17 parents, Hutchinson, even though their last name was different and the same as their parents.
    I have found many variations of this and although time consuming I would look at a previous census and try to match up “strrets” and some name, Tilotson in this case.

  52. MQueen

    I have been trying to find my g grand aunt, forever. I find her two marriages and her children and then she disappears on me in the 1800 census after I see one saying she is working as a servant but yet why am I finding her children living with my gggrandparents and not her. I tried the initials thing and both married names and maiden name. It was Sarah E. Lyons,(1970-?) married a Wilson Lloyd(or just had two kids by him)I find they carried her maiden name and his last name in some documents and then her other marriage to George W. Downings(Dowlings). I am at awe of what to try next.

  53. Ann Hunt

    I would check the names of the children whose age is close to Curt. I believe it is possible the first name was used on the census, i.e. William or Frank Null, which are the children of Josiah, Sr. and John W. Null.

  54. Robin Kerwin

    There have been excellent suggestions made here and this has been a good diversion from Matt Kupczak who “appeared” in 1920 and was easy to track until his wife, Irene died in 1940. I found when he remarried the 2nd wife changed his name on the death cert to Cooper.
    But back to Null. Robin #42 has a lot of info on Emeline which is the direction I went in. 2 things I see Miranda in the 1860 census was probably a daughter in law and The Tilotsons are on pg 5 and there is a Sophia Null with kids on page 4 but where is Emeline?

  55. I have been looking for Simon Morse, my g g grandfather. He was in Madison Co. , ill. And was married to Anna Schaefer, had two children, Ferdinand and Charles, can you help me? She later married John Hockett.

  56. Robin Kerwin

    Deanna, both your gg grandfather and mother are buried at Sugar Creek Cemetery in Madison County, IL. They are on Find a Grave. Charles is there as well. It doesn’t look like Ann remarried.

  57. Teresa Lewis

    I meant to add that sometimes people deliberately fall off the map. They didn’t want to be found at the time (for whatever reason) and now they can not be found. They did a good job of hiding 🙂

  58. Amy Peterson

    We have hit a brick wall trying to locate the immigration of my husbands great granparents John and Sophia Bjorik Swanson and grandmother Ella Cecelia Swanson . Thanks to a cousin that lives in Sweden she was able to locate the church and records of their births and pending departure from Sweden to the US, but we can’t find the records here. We’ve tried looking at the immigration from Canada just in case, but otherwise they arrived in the US and ended up in Shelton, WA. Then great uncle Charlie Swanson moved about the same time as his grandmother Ella to Wisconsin, but we can’t find the correct one.

  59. George J Jones

    I put in Null, Missouri, census, 1860. I found Wm. C Null living with a sister named M J. They are in Texas, living with J P and M J Dobbs and a son named T M Dobbs. Wm. C Null is 11 yrs. old and his sister M J is 12. The lady M J Dobbs is 33 years old married to J P who I found in the 1880 census as Joseph without the two Null kids. It is possible that this is your Curt Null ancestor. The question would be how did they get there. M J Dobbs could be the birth mother of the Null kids and married for the 2nd time. Also possible that the parents of M J and Wm. C died or something thus the Dobbs (related in some way, took them in). It appears that all involved were farmers and back then, most did not own their own farms. Hopefully I found something for you and it helps.

  60. Randy Melody

    I am looking for descendants of Franz Caloud born Austria 1845, lived in Hall County, Brown Lee County Nebraska 1870’s til about 1891 then on to Oklahoma; Kingfisher County (Hennesy) then to Washburn and Chippewa Counties, Wisconsin where he died in 1904.
    e-mail or phone 262-968-4197

    I live in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin and am Grandson of his daughter Eva who was born in Oklahoma 1894+/- and was daughter of Josey Hart Caloud who married Franz in Hall County Nebraska in 1886.

  61. Aida Campbell

    I have been looking for a Juden/Judene that was born in Finland, but his parents were french?? This is my son’s great grandfather. His great grandmother was from Sweden with the Edstrohm, Edstromn name?? Not sure, but she remarried and put her mothers name down in which I cannot read, but am not sure if this was a town in Sweden or her real name. I am finding this confusing as well and somehow, don’t know swedish!

  62. I am having trouble finding any info on the parents of my 2x great grandfather. His name is Norman Taylor born in 1824 in Crawford Co, PA. The only hint I have found is that both parents were born in New York. I believe that Norman was a bit of a rounder. I found a couple of things that shows he was arrested for small things, nothing as serious as murder or the like. His brother (I think) is Reuben A Taylor born in 1819 same place. They married cousins and each raised a bunch of children and always lived next door to each other. Also lived in Missouri for almost all their adult lives after marriage. Their wives were from TN. Any help will be appreciated.

  63. delsie voorhies

    my brick wall is grgrgrandparents MARTHA JANE BASSETT B. 1854 Md. and CHARLES E MESSICK b. 1854 MD on 1900 census in Baltimore shows charles states both his pRENTS WERE BORN IN GERMANY and Martha states her parents born in Maryland. Charles was a CARPENTER I think i found Martha in S. Carolina in 1910 with son James who is now in his 20s and a grandson Harry Wells. I am not sure this is my Martha. I have exhausted all paths. all of their children are listed including my gr grandmother Mary Elizabeth Messick. i also have 1880 census with my Martha and Charles and their young family.and my gr grandmother Mary Elizabeth so i do know this the correct family but I cannot go further back. Mary Elizabeth MESSICK between 1900 and 1910 had 7 children in Baltimore not listed anywhere. supposedly married to HENRY A FONTZ . my grandmother is one of these children. there is no trace from 1900 to 1910. you would think there would be a paper trail somewhere. of marriage or childrens births or school. my grandmother lilly did go to school in Baltimore.
    in 1910 census I have Mary Elizabeth and Henry Fontz in AVERY ISLAND LOUISIANA with their children.

  64. A. Cassidy

    My husband is looking for mom, dad and siblings. Mom Lora Vann(Clausen) dad Bennie Vann. Married Los Angeles . Jeff T. Vann son is my husband. He was adopted. Any way you can help us ?

  65. Violet Shrewsberry

    I am having trouble finding out the parents of my Great Grandmother. Martha J. Perdew, or Perdue or Shrewsbury. Most information states that she was the daughter of Allen Phillip Shrewsbury & Elizabeth Blankenship, born probably in Wyoming County, West Virginia. Some information states she was born about 1863, others about 1874. Allen Phillip Shrewsbury was also married to an Arena Jane Perdue in 1877. My concerns are : If Martha J. was the daughter of Allen Phillip Shrewsbury why is her name listed on her Marriage license in 1895 Wyoming County, WV, to William Riley Mills as Martha J. Perdew? 1900 & 1910 Census for William Riley & Martha J. Mills calculate her to be born 1874, and so does her marriage license. So if she was born in 1874 why is she not listed on Allen Phillip Shrewsbury’s census for 1880? She would be only 6 year old. Her son, William Charles Mills Death Certificate lists her Maiden name as Perdue. Why are there so many discrepancies on her last name? How can I determine who her parents really are? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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