to the Rescue!

Sometime ago I received this letter from a former client of mine, with permission to share it with my readers.

About 10 years ago you did some work for me in an attempt to learn about my grandfather Turner Consil Hatfield.  At the time you asked me to let you know if the problem was ever solved.

You might call this a “Whats in a Name” Story.  A story that has taken 50 years to solve…

I received an email from a friend of mine.  She has mid-western coal miners among her ancestors.  Looking for a particular miner she was doing a line-by-line reading of the Colorado 1885 Census:  Mary E. Hatfield, f w age 29 bn Miss;  T. Hatfield m w age 10 bn MO.  “Could this be your elusive Turner Hatfield?”

This census is on Just above their entry I found an H. Murray m w 43 bn NY.  From an analysis of the entries, it was clear that the census taker was not sure about state abbreviations.

Next I called Donna Nevens, a local historian at the local library in Salida CO.  She has another transcript of the 1885 census–her copy reads Mary E. Hatfield f w age 29, born Missouri; Turner Hatfield m w age 10 born Missouri and Hobert Murray m w age 43 born NY.

I went around with a smile for days.  The only information I had was from my grandmother who said:  “Turner’s father died when he was 4 and his mother died when he was 10.  His mother re-married a man named Murray.”

I also remembered that about 1938, my mother was notified she had inherited a fruit farm in Colorado.  The age was off, but the story fit.

I won’t go into all the detail but a marriage was found of Mary E. Hatfield and Hobert Murray was found.  A newspaper article about the death of her husband Con S. Hatfield and an IOOF tombstone marker in an early cemetery–badly cared for and vandalized–was recorded as Con____ S. Hatfield.  Actually he died in March 1882 when Turner was 8 and his mother died when he was 14.  Hobert Murray became his guardian.

What’s in a Name? We think Con Hatfield was Conover Stiles Hatfield.  When Turner was born he was given his mother’s surname as a given name and Consil is a combination of his father’s name.       Yvonne Brewer, AZ

As we get access to more and more records, family traditions and stories get slipped to the back of the file–because they tend to have errors in them.  When used in conjunction with the actual records, hard-to-find answers are found.

The addition of state and local censuses to the census data already available on is a real help–it fills in the middle of the decade and often supplies critical evidence to match your family stories.

Please note that the key to this story is the reading of the census “line-by-line” in search of a missing ancestor.  Reading the original census is becoming a lost task–you have a tendency to depend on indexes to data that are not precise to begin with.  So you have to out-guess the enumerator and how he spells names, interprets states of birth, records the information given him by the family or nearby neighbors.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Success stories supply the emotional payment for working on a genealogy research problem.  So I love these stories.  And especially the permission to share it with you.

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