Tips from the Pros: They Went Home, from Michael John Neill

One good rule of thumb when an ancestor “disappears” at an older age is to look and see if they are living near any children who might have moved a distance away from the family home. One of my ancestors “disappeared” after her husband died in Indiana in 1861. The end result was that she moved further west, into Iowa to live with one of her children. As a matter of course, I always check near all the adult children of an ancestor to see if Grandma or Grandpa went to live with them as they got older.

But once in a while you’ll find one who moves back to where they used to live, even if they have no family left there.

Louis Demar came to Chicago, Illinois, from Clinton County, New York ca. 1905, probably looking for work. He seemed to evaporate after the 1920 census and could not be located in city directories or other records after the mid-1920s. Where was he? He had moved back to Clinton County, New York. There he was enumerated in the 1930 census and that is where he died a few years later in the mid-1930s.

George Trautvetter and family immigrated to the United States in 1853, settling in Illinois. In 1869, at the age of seventy-one years, he returned to Germany, leaving his family behind in America. The pastor writes in his burial entry in the church register that George returned “to live as a retiree.” He was not just making a short visit back home to see family.

Not everyone was happy in their new home, and sometimes instead of moving further west into new territory, they simply moved back to where they were from, where they possibly felt more comfortable.

So if someone disappears, consider the possibility that they went home, rather than seeking newer pastures somewhere else.

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2 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: They Went Home, from Michael John Neill

  1. How right you are! In 1884 My Gt.Grandfather Philip Shannon,his daughter Mary Alice aged 22 (who became my grandmother) and one of his sons (another Philip, aged 16)emigrated to Boston from Stockport,Cheshire, England sailing from Liverpool on the SS Pavonia in 1884 leaving behind my Gt.Grandmother and five other children. Clearly they were going ahead in the hope of making a new life for all. However, Mary Alice met my grandfather, Frank (Francis) Hurley (who had been born in England)and they were married at the R.C.Church of the Most Precious Blood, Hyde Park, Mass. in July 1886. By November 1886, they were back in Stockport. Mary Alice was pregnant with a boy (Philip!) who was born in March 1887 and sadly died aged 3 months. Philip Jnr. may have returned or had re-emigrated at a later date becoming a naturalized citizen in the 1900s. My mother (born 1890)had left me with only basic details (all she herself knew) from which I built the above and to which I have since added having visited the Church in 1999. Such a sad story of blighted hopes but at the same time one showing the strength of family ties. Frank Hurley proved less staunch as by the time of the 1891 census he had deserted his wife and daughter – never to return and has remained elusive ever since. If anyone has any history of Hyde Park in the 1880s I’d love to know more about the town. Both Mary Alice and Frank were employed in the Wool Factory – possibly Bleakie Bros. who I undestand though not Roman Catholics were benefactors of the Church.
    Sheila Walsh – of Stockport but now living in Suffolk England.

  2. I have wondered, for some time, if that is what happened to my g-g-grandparents (Hermann Jaeger and Mary Barg[q]) who were Prussian (no town name known). Supposedly they came to Ohio, near Cleveland, but they missed the 1870 census, 1880 census and 1900 census. I have checked the Catholic cemeteries in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties for their names — no luck. I began to think that they returned to Germany, but didn’t find any passport applications for either of them at Ancestry.

    Both sons stated they were born in Ohio on censuses until 1930 when the older one admitted being born in Germany and coming to the US in 1871. Now I know why a search for baptismal records for the sons failed.

    Any suggestions for locating records of returnees?

    This is my major brick wall. I know that if I could find their place of origin and the records were not destroyed, I would be able to stike gold because of the preciseness of German record-keeping!

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