How Do You Research Someone Who Left No Trail?

I am working on a research project for a friend because I can’t seem to get my genealogy fix with my own lines ;)  I like working on other people’s trees since it gives me experience in a research area that I wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with.

This line has me a bit confounded.  I’m not going to give details as I’m not sure the person wants them public.  However, I thought I’d present my dilemma and see what folks might come up with.

1.  Alot is known about the bride’s side, but nothing about the groom–the side I want to locate.

2.  The groom might have been born in Cabell County, West Virginia.  Then again, he might not have.

3.  The groom might have been orphaned at the age of 13.  Then again, he might not have been an orphan at all.

4.  The couple was married in Arizona, but it’s unknown where in Arizona.  From my research, I found that marriage records for Arizona are kept at the local level.  There is no state index (am I wrong on that?)

5.  Though the death notice gives information about the groom’s birth, the informant isn’t considered reliable.

6.  Though the groom was born in 1903, he doesn’t seem to be in the 1910, 1920, or 1930 census under the name we know him by in anywhere within West Virginia.

7.  The groom was a screenwriter.  While much can be found about his movie credits, little can be found about his personal story.

There are many possibilities here.  The place of birth is wrong.  His name has been changed.  If he really was an orphan, he may appear in the census records under the last name of the family member’s who took him in rather than the last name he was known by. His first name might be recorded wrong in the census completely throwing me off.

One thing is for sure.  He did live.  I was able to find him in the voter registration indexes for California in the 1940s.  Possibly the 1940 census when released will tell us more about his early beginnings depending on what information was collected that year.

He is in the Social Security Death Index as well.  So, that’s another option for research.

Can you see my conundrum?  Without a firm place of birth, it’s difficult to know if I’ve found the right families in the census.  Without known what cities he was married in, I’ve got no clue where to look for the marriage record in Arizona.  Though, I suspect this will be the record that tells me what I need to know.

Some research makes me ask why some ancestors were so good at covering their tracks.  While some people left behind volumes which are easy to locate piece by piece, others seemed to deliberately hide their footprints so no one will know they were here.

If anyone has suggestions on where I might look next, I’m open to suggestions.  This is a confounding research project!

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Comments

  1. In the 1940′s and 1950′s a huge number of screen writers were forced to either changed their names or have another person submit their work for them. Joe McCarthy was on a roll during that time and Hollywood, screenwriters in particular, took a hard hit.

  2. My only suggestion is to check newspapers, maybe there was a blurb about their wedding or even something about an anniversary that might give you a clue. It’s also possible his name could pop up as a survivor in someone else’s obit.

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