Sunday, March 9, 2014

Genealogy Red Flag ... What Next?

There you are ... happily entering in the various census records of a distant relative when you suddenly realize that the listed daughter of the head of household appears too old to be the daughter of his wife. What do you do now?

That was the case when I was recording the 1920 census details1 of Manuel Bell Thorne with his wife Etta and 5 year old daughter Mariam. Only problem was that I had found what I believed was the index to the marriage of Manuel to Etta M. Draper in the Minnesota Official Marriage System (MOMS) that took place on 28 Aug 1919 in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Red Flag

What I did next is fairly simple ... I stopped what I was doing.

OK, there was a little more to it than just that. Here is the process I when through to try to understand what was going on.
  1. I stopped the data entry (recording where I had been in my work so I can pick up where I left off).
  2. I then reviewed the records I had previously found concerning Manuel Bell Thorne for anything I might have missed or had recorded in my research notes (you do keep research notes, right?).
  3. In his US World War I draft registration card2 I had noted a Mae Elizabeth Thorne listed as the nearest relative and she was residing at the same address as Manuel. Could this be a possible wife?
  4. Back to MOMS for a search but nothing was found.
  5. A search on resulted in finding an indexed entry for a marriage of Manuel B Thorne to Mae E McMahon. Yet it pointed to a database on (More of these databases are appearing on the various sites as FamilySearch has been partnering with the other genealogy research web sites.)
  6. So off to to look for that entry. There were two records for that marriage: one that was the index entry in the "Minnesota, Marriages, 1849-1950" collection of a marriage taking place on 15 Jan 1914 in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA3 and the other was in the "Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949" collection with an image of their Application for Marriage License4 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA.
  7. Back to MOMS yet again for another search but this time using Mae McMahon as the search criteria. There I found the index entry for the marriage of Manuel Thome and Mae E McMahon.
  8. The details of that marriage were then recorded in my database since I believe that is the correct marriage.
  9. A To Do item was also added to order the microfilm containing the marriage registration from the Family History Library so I can verify all the details and find out what else was not recorded in the index.
  10. Finally, I linked Manuel's daughter Mariam Thorne not as a daughter of Etta M. Draper but as the daughter of Mae Elizabeth McMahon. A To Do entry has also been created for 2015 to search for and hopefully order Mariam's birth registration to answer the question as to who is her mother.
Yet I had an unanswered question ... did Mae E. Thorne die or was there a divorce? I already had a To Do item to order the marriage registration for Manuel B. Thorne and Etta M. Draper so that would probably answer the question. But it would be some time before I would be placing the order. So I did a quick search on the Minnesota Historical Society's Minnesota Death Certificates Index for a Mae Thorne. There I found the index entry for a Mae E. Thorne that died 20 Jan 1919 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA. Looks to be the right person based on name and county and she did die several months before Manuel married Etta. So another To Do item was created to order her death registration to confirm that she is the right person I am looking for.

Always keep a look out for those "What the heck?" kind of red flags when you are reading and analyzing the records. If it doesn't make sense then stop and think. Don't continue and blindly accept what is written. The informant may not know the truth or the record you are looking at may not actually hold the answers. If you are using an application to record and track what you have found, does it has a potential problem report that you can run? If so, run it periodically. This report can help you identify details such as :
  • missing children, 
  • marriages that take place when either party is possibly too young,
  • wrong years entered in for events, and
  • events that may have taken place after a death (possible wrong record?)
So pay attention to what you are recording. If it doesn't make sense ... STOP!

1. 1920 U.S. census, Hennepin County, Minnesota, population schedule, Minneapolis Ward 13, enumeration district (ED) 237, sheet 9B, dwelling 186, family 222, Household of Manuel B Thorne; digital images, ( : accessed 7 Mar 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T625, roll 838; 
2., "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database on-line, ( : accessed 6 Mar 2014), entry for Manuel Bell Thorne, serial no. 1129, order no A1990, Draft Board 13, Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota; Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.
3. "Minnesota, Marriages, 1849-1950," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 07 Mar 2014), Manuel B. Thorne and Mae E. Mcmahon, 15 Jan 1914.
4. "Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 07 Mar 2014), Manuel B Thorne and Mae E Mcmahon, 1914.

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