Lesson Learned: Track Down Every Clue

Did you ever have a moment in your research when you realize you made a mistake?  A rather dumb mistake?  Well, bloggers aren’t afraid to publically humiliate themselves by drawing attention to their mistakes, because our dumb mistakes can serve as a lesson to others.  What’s past is prologue, right?

I recently wrote about the sister who disappeared.  She ran off and got married to someone, name unknown, and never contacted her family again.  Or at least that’s the way the story went.  The truth is – she never contacted her brother James again, my grandfather. But she apparently kept in touch with her brother Joseph!

When I heard from Joseph’s daughter, my father’s cousin, I asked if she knew anything about her missing aunt.  She knew very little – except the aunt’s married name!  Where did my cousin get this information? From her father’s death notice.  As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”

Since Joseph, my father’s uncle, died on my father’s birthday, it was one of the few family death dates that my father knew without a doubt.  I used that date to obtain a copy of Joseph’s death certificate, which provided me with his birth date (that was later verified through other records). So why didn’t I ever search for an obituary or a death notice?  Probably because I’ve rarely found one for any of my relatives. Or, I didn’t think it would tell me anything I didn’t already know.  That would be the genea-understatement of the decade.  If I had searched for one twenty years ago at the start of my research, I would have learned the missing sister’s name and place of residence in 1953.  I also would have learned the married names of my father’s two female cousins – something my father either did not know or did not remember.

So now I know.  Finally.  Let this be a lesson to you, kids – search for every piece of information you can. 

As for the sister who disappeared?  Jean Hynes.  More to come on Aunt Jean in the future.  I’ve learned a bit about her life since finding out this vital piece of information, but I still have not discovered anything about her death.  Once I do find her death date, I’ll certainly be sure to look for a death notice or obituary!