this article originally appeared on the Ancestry.com blog on 25 November 2007
Sometimes those disappearing ancestors did not disappear the way we thought they did. Rather they are right there in front of us waiting to be found. This week we look at such a situation. Our search reminds us of several research techniques that any family historian needs to have in their repertoire when the ancestor seems to vanish without a trace.
Sarah Wickiser Calvert’s only known record of existence was an 1862 Delaware County, Ohio, deed where she sold property apparently inherited from her parents. After that, I had concluded she simply evaporated. The question was where she departed as she apparently could not be found in other records. Based upon census enumerations and more detailed information on her known siblings, it was estimated Sarah was born between 1802 and 1810, probably in Pennsylvania. Any other details of her life were unknown, including the name of her husband or her date of marriage (other than the fact that she was married by 1862).
When a relative is “lost,” one place to start looking is near other relatives, former neighbors, and associates, particularly ones who have moved. It is often helpful to have a “family map” handy to assist in keeping the various names straight.
A Little Background
Abraham and Katherine Blaine Wickiser were married in Pennsylvania in 1802 and were the parents of the following children:
- Sarah Calvert (the missing Sarah)
- Ellen Green
- Lucinda Kile
Abraham was the son of Conrad and Rosina Wickiser and Katherine Blaine was the daughter of Elam and Katherine Blaine.
In the interest of space, we have omitted names of Abraham and Katherine’s grandchildren and the other children of Abraham and Katherine’s parents. However, these names are important as they may provide clues as to naming patterns and names that might have been repeated extensively in the family. Some genealogists prefer to use a printed descendant listing from their software package to keep family straight. I prefer to create crude “charts.” The key is to keep the relationships in your mind or readily available as you search.
Off to Find Sarah
Sarah’s brother George Wickiser in 1850 had an interesting enumeration right next door.
1850 Federal Census, Ohio, Delaware County, Harlem Township,
- Elisha Talbot, aged 41 born Virginia
- Sarah Talbot, aged 39, born Ohio
- Silas Talbot, aged 15, born Ohio
- Lucinda Talbot, aged 11, born Ohio
- Catharine Talbot, aged 9, born Ohio
- Hannah A. Talbot, aged 3, born Ohio
Could Talbot be an alternate interpretation of Calvert? Very possible. There are two additional clues here: the names Lucinda and Catharine. Sarah Wickiser Calvert had a sister Lucinda Wickiser and Sarah Wickiser, Calvert’s mother, was named Katherine. Both names were used extensively in the family. The names are a coincidence to be certain, but make the entry worth investigating.
Who Is That in the Cemetery?
There is an Elisha Calvert buried in the Hunt Cemetery in Harlem Township, with a tombstone inscription indicating a date of birth of 10 March 1808 and a death date of 17 August 1850. This age is consistent with the Elisha Talbot census entry. Does this mean I have the right guy? No. It means I have a potential match.
The 1850 census at Ancestry was searched again, for a person with the first name of Elisha, living in Delaware County, Ohio, with a year of birth of ca. 1808. None had a last name even reasonably close to Calvert or Talbot, except for the entry already noted. After reviewing my map of Ohio counties and townships, I performed similar searches for Elishas living in Franklin or Licking counties. No matches. This was done to make certain there were not multiple Elisha Talbots/Calverts living in the same general area. Just because a match is found does not mean the correct person has been located.
There now seems a reasonable chance that this entry is for the desired Sarah, but more work needs to be done. We follow the Sarah in 1860 and 1870. Here’s what I found:
1860 Federal Census, Ohio, Licking County, Monroe Township
- Sarah Colbert, aged 50, born Ohio
- Hannah A., aged 13, born Ohio
These ages are consistent with the purported 1850 enumeration for Sarah and the death of Elisha in 1850. Licking County is adjacent to Delaware County where Sarah was in 1850.
1870 required a little more work. It appears that the family left Ohio, and they were living in Crittenden Township, Champaign County, Illinois. Sarah Calvert was aged 60, born in Ohio, and keeping house in the household of John Barkus, aged 24, with his apparent children (Silas, aged 9, and Laura E., aged 5). Also listed on the same page is Silas Calvert, aged 35 born Ohio. This Silas Calvert is of a consistent age to be the Silas in the 1850 enumeration with Sarah Talbot.
A search of Ancestry World Tree located a reference to a John Barcus marrying a Lucinda Calvert on 20 October 1859. Unfortunately no location is given. This reference most definitely needs to be confirmed with local records if possible. All it really tells me is that someone else at least believed that a John Barcus married a Lucinda Calvert. The date fits our time frame, but that does not prove anything either. It is a good clue though.
Armed with the death date of Elisha Calvert, courthouse records in Ohio should be checked, particularly estate and court documents. His 1850 census enumeration lists him as a laborer with no real estate, so there’s a chance that little was left to settle after his death, but it’s still a good idea to look. The marriage of John Barcus and Lucinda Calvert should also be obtained, looking in Licking and Delaware counties initially and broadening the circle out from there.
Death records in Champaign County, Illinois, should also be checked for Sarah Calvert, as it appears she died before the 1880 census enumeration. It is possible that she or other family members are buried there. Our work continues, but there are a few things to keep in mind as far as the methodologies that were employed in locating Sarah:
- The importance of neighbors and family
- The importance of being constantly aware of the family structure
- The necessity of having relevant contemporary maps
- Being aware of alternate name spellings and pronunciations
Keep in mind, so far my case is circumstantial. It looks reasonable and may very well be correct, but additional work needs to be done. The nice thing is most of the census searching could easily be done on Ancestry and now we can take our framework and head off to additional records, both on- and offline.
The author acknowledges and appreciates the help of Wickiser descendant Mary Wickizer Burgess in tracking Sarah down.