Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Most Recent Unknown Ancestor

This week Randy at Genea Musings asks us to write about our most recent unknown ancestor.  I didn’t even have to think about it.  It’s my Great Grandfather, Harry Kenneth Jackson, who is #14 on my Ahnentafel chart.

Harry, what can I say about Harry?  Almost nothing!  I know about as much about him as the day I started research almost 20 years ago.  His daugther, my Grandmother, told me he was one of 18 children.  He was born in Bristol, England 24 Jan 1871.  When his Father remarried after his Mother’s death, Harry stowed away aboard a ship.  He was alledged to be 9 years old.

He traveled the world for a few years.  He settled in port at San Francisco and there he stayed.  My Great Aunt added to the story by telling me he was married before he met my Great Grandmother and that he did something that prevented him from being a US citizen.

I don’t know if either of those stories are true.  All I know is that Harry Jackson was damn good at covering his trail.  The 1910 and 1920 census show the family in Oakland.  There are a smattering of city directory entries which show where he lived up until my Great Grandparents divorced around 1929.  He was an employee for Key System and the Ferry boats for most of his life.

And, then he vanishes until 1943 when he is given as the informant on his son, John Jackson’s, death certificate.  It’s quite possible he was in prison during that time.  During the divorce he was accused of trying to burn the house down so my Great Grandmother wouldn’t get it.

He died in Oakland in 1950.  His death certificate is full of blanks.  The informant is an unknown.  A neighbor, a landlady, a lover, who knows.

I have never researched anyone so dang blasted frustrating as Harry!  His documentation trail is almost none existent and what there is leaves no clues to his parentage.  I tried to locate my Great Grandparent’s divorce records but didn’t have any luck.  I tried a Freedom of Information Act request to see if there was a file on Harry since his daughter said he was prevented from earning citizenship.  The search came up empty.  The dummies married in San Francisco sometime between 1900 and 1906.  That means the marriage certificate poofed away during the earthquake and fire.

I did recently do some research online in Bristol, England and found a possible family in census records.  But, without a document linking them to a Harry Kenneth Jackson in California, I’ve got nothing.  Despite having a birth date, I have not been able to locate his birth certificate.

If I could find his prison records (if he did in fact go to prison for attempted arson), I might find a clue there.  Or, if I could locate an obituary in a British newspaper showing a connection with my family and Harry in Oakland, that would be most helpful as well.

For now, Mr. Jackson is big fat blank on my chart.  A name with a death date and a place of employment.  Maybe someday that elusive clue will come my way.  I’ll be waiting for it.  In the meantime, Harry Kenneth Jackson remains an unknown.

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Follow Friday: Kevin Berdan’s genealogynews on Twitter

There are so many interesting genealogy tweeters on Twitter (say that 10 times fast).  One of the ones I follow and read regularly is Kevin Berdan who tweets under the moniker genealogynews.

Kevin posts all sorts of interesting links to articles, blog posts, and websites.  The cover a wide range of genealogy, history, and heritage topics.  His latests are Child Apprentices in America from Christ’s Hospital, London, 1617-1778, Dear Myrtle’s Reader Feedback Docu Challenge #1, Genealogist to Hold Free Conference Saturday, Hunt Begins Today for that Perfect Christmas Tree…and more!

If you’re on Twitter, check out Kevin’s profile and give him a follow.  You are sure to find some interesting things to read.

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These Death Certificates Complicate Things

I thought it would be a nice addition to my brother-in-law’s Christmas present if I found his Higgins line.  So many databases have been added to the web since I last tackled this line two years.  I might get lucky.

What I know:

1.  His great grandmother was Margaret Higgins

2.  She was born in Ireland about 1840.

3.  She married Dennis Patrick Murphy around 1860, most likely in New York.

4.  In 1870 and 1890, the family lived in Queensbury, Warren County, NY

5.  Margaret is a widow before 1880.

6.  Margaret is living with daughter, Mary in 1900.

7.  A photograph dated 1906 says “Margaret Higgins Murphy, South Carolina”.  This coincides with a family tradition that Margaret went to South Carolina to live with family.

8.  Margaret died in South Carolina in 1913.  Her body was shipped back to Glens Falls, Washington (Warren) County, NY to be buried with Dennis.

I had already tracked Margaret through the 1900 US Census.  I could not find her in NY or SC in 1910.

I decided to see what familysearch.org had on South Carolina.  Aha!  They have the South Carolina death certificates.  I searched for Margaret Murphy and found a certificate which I believe is hers.  There are problems though (aren’t there always?).

First the similarities.

It says that Margaret was living in Charleston for 2 years.

She was 82 years old and was born in Ireland.

She was buried in Glens Falls.

She was a widow when she died.

Perfect…right?

The problems…

Margaret’s death date is 10 May 1917–not 1913.  I can live with this.  Families often get dates mixed up.

Her parents were Enneas O’Leary and Mary O’Connor.  O’Leary? O’Connor?  What happened to Higgins?

It’s possible the family got confused on her maiden name.  Maybe she was married between 1900 and 1917 to someone named Higgins.

I would need corroborating evidence to figure this one out.  The informant on the death certificate was Mrs. Wm. Leach on 25 Mill Street.  If I was lucky, this would be Margaret’s sister.

I found Mary’s death certificate but it only makes things cloudier.  Mary’s daughter is the informant.  She gives Mary’s parents as Jerry O’Leary and ??? O’Connor.  Hmmm…Jerry might come from Gerald or Jeremiah, but Enneas?

I did do some research in 1850 and 1860 to see if I could find the O’Leary’s in the census.  I wasn’t successful.  It’s possible that Mary and Margaret came over as adults, so I’m not even sure their parents were in the US.

I do believe these are my people.  Now I have to figure out how to link them together and how to figure out the true name of their father.

I think my best bet is to find Margaret’s obituary.  I’m not sure how to find an obituary for Charleston or Glens Falls, so I’m going to have to research that.  The obituary may reveal other siblings who may clear things up or confuse them further.

Next, I need to see if marriage certificates exist for Queensbury to see if either Margaret or Mary married there.

I also should search the census for all of Margaret’s children to see if finding their records might lead to an answer to Margaret’s parents and her association to the Higgins surname.

It can be great finding new documents.  However, sometimes they add more questions than answers.  I think I have my work cut out for me if I plan to put anything together by Christmas!

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