I’ve spent the last few weeks tweaking a talk on researching African American ancestors for Western Michigan Genealogical Society—which was a lot of fun!—and the process left me with a number of interesting and sometimes frustrating finds… here’s one that reminded me to keep an open mind in my searching.

Do you ever just want to throw up your hands because it seems that your relatives hid out to avoid the Census takers? I’ve got a few families like that and they’re mostly from my father’s side of the family. I know that I have to be creative in my name spellings, not nearly as tied to location, and imaginative when looking at the indexing… but still sometimes I’m surprised by how far from accurate some of the records are when I finally find well hidden family members. A recent example would be when I was researching my 2nd Great Grandmother Candes Thompson Wheeler.

Detail from the Death Certificate of Sallie Wheeler York

Candes’ name and birthplace of “Codesco, Mississippi” came to me through the death certificate of her daughter Sallie Wheeler  (Her father Moses Wheeler was the informant) and from there, after a lot of searching, I located proof of Candes’ marriage to Moses in 1882—though there she was listed as Candes “Thomas.” But when I checked the census for Candes in Bradley County, Arkansas I couldn’t find her.

So I broadened my search—not limiting myself to Arkansas and using her estimated birth year from the marriage license. I hit on two “Candis” Thompson’s in Attala Co., Mississippi. One was married to a George Thompson and one was a year younger living with her mother, Sally; brothers, Mac, Amzi, and Burlon; and grandmother Mariah in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Sally is my Great Grandmother’s name and her siblings include an Amzi and Kosciusko is a place name made to be misspelled. So I’m tentatively approaching this as the correct line.

Sallie Thompson Family, 1880 Kosciusko, Attala Co, MS

I decided to track them back in the 1870 Census and again found no hits for Sallie and Candes Thompson. So, I decided to just try searching on first names. And by searching for a household with a head or wife named Sallie and her children named Mac and Candes I did get a hit.

I found Sallie indexed as Sallie “Buerebokite” along with Candis, Mack, and an unnamed newborn boy immediately following the household of Maria Thompson (indexed as Nona). But when you look at the original images and the names throughout the township it becomes clear that through bad indexing and a somewhat sloppy hand the family name actually written by the Census taker was Musselwhite—one of the most common names in the county.

Bad Indexing: Sallie "Buerebokite"

Sallie Musselwhite, 1870 Kosciusko Attala Co, MS

Of course all of this has just lead to more mysteries… How, when and why did Candes move to Arkansas? What happened to the rest of her family? How did Musslewhite become Thompson? … Just to name a few. But these intriguing mysteries would have remained hidden from me if I hadn’t slowed down and tried different searches to locate the Thompsons in the Census.

Keep an open mind, be creative in your searching, and get back to the original documents.

Happy hunting,

Jess

102 years ago today the Census takers were passing through Palestine Township, Bradley County, Arkansas. This is the entry for the family of Moses Wheeler, my 2nd Great Grandfather. His wife Josie Avery was his 2nd wife.

Moses was a farmer all of his life. He was born in 1862, the son of Isaac and Sicie Wheeler. In the 1870 Census he was listed with his parents and four siblings. In 1880 he is still at home with his parents but in 1882 he married Candes Thompson. By 1900 he is on his second marriage and the first six of at least 12 children were born. With Candes he had at least four children: Sallie, Louis, Joseph, and Amzi. The eldest child, Sallie, is my great grandmother who became the third wife of Philip Henry York in 1913. Candes died sometime between 1892 and 1894. Moses married Josie in December of 1894. They had at least six children including: Isaiah, Moses, Lizzie, William, Mary, and Simon. He also had two children out of wedlock: Wilson “Buddy” Wheeler and my uncle, John W. Newton (with Miss Becky Newton).

Moses and Josie both died in February of 1948. Josie had “worked herself ill” caring for Moses (who possibly had Alzheimer’s or some kind of dementia) and he died 4 days later. They had a double funeral service and were buried at Palestine Cemetery. It’s something that my Grandmother remembered clearly. She wasn’t able to attend the service because she’d just had her first child.

I was also able to locate the couple in the 1940 Census living with a son–I’m guessing Isaiah? It looks like “Iz” to me.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

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