By Lorraine Bourne and Dani Edgar
Alison Marcoff recently won Ancestry’s Branch Out sweepstakes, with a prize of 20 hours of research time from Ancestry ProGenealogists. Alison’s tree had already been thoroughly researched back to a tricky brick-wall problem: who were the parents of James C. Ogden, her 4th great-grandfather?
We knew James C. Ogden was born in 1804 in England and that he married Ann Heap in Prestwick Cum Oldham Parish, Lancashire County, on May 16, 1824. James and Ann immigrated to America, and they had four children in Pennsylvania. James died in 1890 and was buried in the Great Valley Baptist Church Cemetery in Devon, Chester, Pennsylvania. His headstone inscription from Find A Grave gave a birthdate of February 1804. Alison also gave us a list of ten possible baptismal records for James Ogdens baptized in 1804 in the Lancashire area.
When dealing with a difficult research problem, it’s important to start with what you know and build from there. Records from James and Ann’s marriage gave his place of residence as Royton, but no birthplace or names of relatives were given. After that, starting with what we knew meant starting in America.
Learning more about James’s relatives, especially siblings, could help narrow down the list of possible candidates for James’s parents, so we created a timeline of James’s life in America using census records to plot his life every ten years, looking specifically for possible extended family living with or near him. This research revealed that in 1850, a man named Abraham Ogden lived in the same town as James. Abraham had been born in England and was working in a cotton mill. Abraham was only 11 years younger than James, and since he and James were both born in England, both employed in the cotton industry, and living in such close proximity, Abraham was a possible candidate as a brother, cousin, or another relative.
Ten years later, in 1860, James’s household included a young man named William Ogden, age 23, who was born in England. Since James was 35 years old, William was another candidate to be a brother or other relative. By 1880 James had married a woman named Mary; other records placed his first’s wife, Ann’s, death in 1863.
Although Alison’s 20 hours didn’t give us enough time to trace all of these clues, the census records did open the following possibilities for further research:
- Abraham and William Ogden can be traced further in U.S. records to find information on their relatives and places of birth, which may lead to the discovery of any relationship they have to James and the identification of his parents in England.
- The record of James’s marriage to his second wife, Mary, can be searched for to find what information it might include about his birth and relatives. Since James was buried in a Baptist cemetery, searching local Baptist churches for this marriage record could be a good place to start.
Difficult research problems take time to solve, but a careful analysis of the information in records created during our ancestors’ lives can yield many clues to help us break down the brick walls in our own family trees.
We wish Alison luck in her future attempts to identify James C. Ogden’s parents and continue to trace her Ogden ancestry!