Sunday, January 30, 2011

Busting Brick Walls

Sometimes I wonder what drives me to untangle my knotted family history.  I think it must be the satisfaction of solving a puzzle that no one else has cracked before. 

I wrote before about my quest to find my great grandmother Maud Silliman on a census record before she was married, and the surprises I found along the way (different surname than I had thought, a first cousin for a second husband, and a bigamist mother).  I uncovered lots more than that, some of it heartbreaking, some of it heartwarming, all of it satisfying.

My great-grandmother Maud Silliman was not the only brick wall on my dad's side of the family.  My dad knew so little about his family history, that anything I found was news to him.

When I started filling in the tree with what I knew, all I had on my father's father was a first and last name, the name of his first wife (my grandmother Zora) and his kids Floyd Jr, Bob, and my dad.  I had no idea how old my dad's parents were, only that my father was the baby of the family and his mother was only 16 when she married my grandfather.

The first census record I found for Floyd was the same one I'd found for my grandmother, in 1930, when they'd been married just a couple of years and Floyd Jr was a baby.
The census indicates that Floyd's father was born in Illinois and his mother was born in Montana.  That seemed odd.  If Floyd and his father were born in Illinois, but his mother was born in Montana, how did his parents meet?  It seemed unlikely that his mother would have migrated east at that time.   I had an approximate year of birth, 1904/1905 and a middle initial, E.

The next step would be to find him as kid, living with his parents. I searched for anyone named Floyd Richardson born around 1904/5.  I spent an entire weekend thinking I had hit pay dirt, finding obituaries of his supposed mother and father and was very excited.  In the middle of all this, I had found his social security death index record, which listed his birthdate as 1 Nov 1905.  The Floyd I had found in 1920 and 1910 was born in 1904 and was too old to be my grandfather.  While my grandfather was listed as age 25 on the 1930 census, he was actually only 24.

Back to the drawing board.  Knowing his actual birth date, I did another search on Floyd Richardsons born in Illinois in 1905, and found one in 1920 in North Dakota.
The record indicates that Claude Richardson and his parents were all born in Illinois.  Anna, it seems, was born in Minnesota, and both her parents were from Germany.  Floyd was born in Illinois as was his father, and it says his mother was born in Minnesota. 

I wasn't 100% sure this was my grandfather, but there weren't a whole lot of Floyd Richardsons who were the correct age that were born in Illinois, so I was hopeful.

In the mean time, I kept bugging my dad about what he might remember.

About this time, three things happened.  I found a family tree on Ancestry that included Floyd and Zora and their kids.  It looked like someone on an uncle's wife's side of the family had put it together.  There was no information about the previous generation, but it did have a middle name for Floyd: Ekman; I discovered IRAD, the Illinois Regional Archives Depository, which has a marriage record index; and my dad sent me this email

My dad's life was, to me, quite confusing.  In 1951 dad took Bob and me to Wyoming to meet his mother.  It was rather unclear to me if she was his actual mother or a step-mother.  (All I know is that her husband was not dad's father.)  At different times, she was referred to by both designations. As far as I know, dad only had a younger half-brother.  I met him at dad's funeral, but I can't remember his name.  I always thought Dad was born in Elgin, Illinois--at least he had lived there for a time. 
At the end of the email, he said this:
I believe dad's middle name was Ekman, but I'm not sure.  To me that sounds like a possible maternal family name. I wish I could be of more help! 

With this confirmation about Floyd's middle name, and the idea that Ekman could be a maternal surname, I searched the IRAD marriage index and found this:


I immediately began a search for Edith Ekman in Minnesota, guessing she was probably born around 1885, give or take a few years.   I found this, which is from the 1895 Minnesota State Census:

Very exciting.

I also found this 1910 Federal Census record, for a family living in Custer County, Montana:

At first, I was convinced the two Edahs had to be the same person, but when I added her to my family tree, I found other family trees with the same Edah Ekman on them.  There was a mother lode of family photos, including a scan of the letter her husband Lew Jay wrote to the family back in Minnesota when she died.  Lew Jay?  None of these trees showed Claude attached to Edah as a first husband, never mind Floyd.  Curious.

Lew's full name was George Lewis Jay.  I did a census search, for Eda and Lew Jay.  I found this 1920 census record.
Who were these three girls? They couldn't be Edah's, they had to be Lew's from a first marriage.  I wondered if Edah/Edith and Claude had done what the Sillimans had done on my dad's other side of the family: split up and each taken one kid.   Had George Lewis Jay played musical spouses, too?  An afternoon spent searching the Wisconsin Historical Society's Genealogy database showed that Lew had a first wife, Birdine Amundson, who had died within a couple years of Marvel's birth.

I wondered about what Floyd and Glen had understood about their parents and each other growing up.  It didn't sound like they knew they were full brothers.  Still, I didn't have any confirmation that this Edah Ekman was the same Edith Ekman who had married my great-grandfather Claude Richardson.

I dearly wanted Edah Ekman, wife of Lew Jay, to be the same Edith Ekman who had married Claude Richardson, if for no other reason than being able to claim all those great family photos.  I sent away for Claude and Edith's marriage record.
I screamed out loud when I read this.  Not only had I confirmed that I had the right Edah/Edith, I also got the names of Claude's parents (William Richardson and Ernie Howard) and where he was born, as well as Edah's mother's maiden name, Bassett.

Ekman children: Edna, Charles, Edah, Victor, Hester, Edgar, abt 1898

This still left a few mysteries, such as how did Claude and Edah meet?  What was she doing in Illinois? When and why did Claude and Edah split up?  Did they actually get a divorce? Did they actually remarry, or did they just pair up with other people?  As I dug deeper into this branch of the family, I got some answers, but also had more questions.  Regardless, discovering this marriage record opened the door to many more generations of family to investigate, both on Edah's side and Claude's.  The brick wall had been blown apart.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - the Bogenrief children

When he was about 11 years old, my great-grandfather Fred Buss moved with his family  from Wards Grove, Jo Daviess County, Illinois to Douglas Township, Sac County, Iowa.  Their friends and neighbors from Illinois, Solomon and Sophia (Phillips) Bogenrief had moved there a few years before and apparently encouraged them to come, too.

Fred mentions the Bogenriefs several times in his life story.  The first is in the opening, which I quoted from the other day.
This day I will write the history of my life to my four children: Elsie, Ella, Edith, and Hubert-all born on the farm in Douglas Township on section fifteen (15) south-west quarter, Sac County Iowa. Your mother was born on the north-east quarter of the same section in the same township, in 1877. I went to school with her brothers and sisters in Illinois seven or eight years before she was born. She had one sister about my age whose name was Elizabeth. We were in the same class and studied from the same book and I thought she was the nicest girl in school. But she died of typhoid fever October 3, 1880 in Iowa on section fifteen (15) in Douglas Township and I waited seventeen years and then I married her youngest sister, Maude Bogenrief in 1897. We spent forty-one years of happy life together and then she passed away and left me alone in this wide world like I was the first thirty-four years of my life.
I discovered the University of Iowa has some wonderful online digital archives of county maps.  I hadn't discovered a land patent in Iowa for the Buss family, so I thought I'd take a look at the 1907 Sac County Atlas, which included plat maps for each of the townships.  I found the Buss farm, just where Fred said it was, in the SW corner of section 15.

Fred helped build the church in section 16. My grandmother went to the school in section 9.
Fred had acquired more land by then, as you can see. The Peter Adolphsen farm, sandwiched between the two chunks of land Fred owned, actually belonged to Fred's little sister Lizzie. Lizzie and Peter Adolphsen, an immigrant from Sweden, had married in Dec 1897, but Peter died in 1905, leaving her a widow with three children at age 32.  In the 1870s, the Bogenriefs lived in the NE quarter-section owned by Ernest Markley in 1908, and that's where my great-grandmother, Maud Bogenrief was born.

By 1885, the Bogenriefs had moved south to Cedar Township.

I happened upon photos of Sol and Sophia's headstone this weekend as I searched Sac County cemeteries on the  FindaGrave website.

Photo by Sheila Bunting
There were also links to related individuals.  One was for a daughter, Amelia, who I had seen on the 1870 census (when they were still in Illinois) and who had just turned a year old. I hadn't seen her after that, so until I happened upon this photo and the links, I hadn't known anything else about her. Amelia apparently died in 1874, and there is a note that the headstone was broken.  No photo was supplied.

Then I saw a link for Elizabeth.

Notice the crooked, broken headstone
Elizabeth Bogenrief, 1864-1880
The information I got from FindaGrave got me filling in some dates for these two Bogenrief sisters.  That's when I realized there was a Bogenrief boy, Adam, b. abt 1867, who had also disappeared off the census before 1880.  I did another search for any Bogenriefs buried in Sac County and found that Adam was apparently buried in the same plot, but has no marker.

Solomon and Sophia Bogenrief had at least nine children, only six of whom survived to adulthood.  I don't know why it makes me especially sad to see the three who died were consecutive children.

John, b. Jul 1855
Catherine b. Jan 1857
Benjamin b. Dec 1858
Samuel b. Oct 1862
Elizabeth b. Aug 1864 d. Oct 1880
Adam b. abt 1867 d. bet 1870 and 1880
Amelia b. abt 1869 d. Mar 1874
George b Mar 1872
Mary Maud b. Jan 1877 (my great grandmother)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Case of the Evasive Ancestor

Yesterday, I talked about the path toward finding my great-grandmother (and her mother).  I had finally found a big clue, which was that my great-grandmother's maiden name was probably Silliman, not Stillman, but I still hadn't found her on a census record.

After searching a bit, I discovered my great-great grandfather, J.W. Silliman, was Jervis W. Silliman.

Finally, I found this 1887 Washington Territory census:
Emma Silliman, with her four children: William, Olla, Frank, and Maud
They were at the top of the page, so I looked at the previous page to see if Jervis was there.  I found him at the bottom of a page, but not the previous one in this batch.  He was in a different census book (enumerated two days earlier).  Both Emma and Jervis were enumerated in Spokane Falls, so I am unclear about why he was in a different location.

In 1889, they're all in the household, except the oldest boy, William, who would have been 16.
J.W., Emily, Ollie, Frank, Maud Silliman
Now that I had established Maud's parentage and found that she was in Washington shortly after she was born, I took another look for her on the 1900 census.

I didn't find Emma.  Instead, I found this:
Jervis Silliman, Widowed, and his son Frank.
Emma was dead?  What happened to Maud?  I knew she wasn't dead, because if she were, I wouldn't be here.  So where was she?

I consulted the Washington State Archives Database, looking for Emma's death record.  I couldn't find one, but vital records were spotty in the early days of the state. I tried searching under different last names, and then I tried searching for Maud's marriage record, thinking maybe that would help me figure out who her guardian was.

Searching marriages and the last name Silliman, I found this:
Say WHAT?!?!
The first line links to an image of the marriage certificate.  The highlighted line links to an image of the marriage return, which is much more interesting.
Most of what Emma claims on this form is true.
While it's true that Emma was widowed, that was when she was married to Thomas Plews.  Since we know Jervis is still alive and kicking in 1900, and this marriage return was filled out in 1898, and we know that this will be her THIRD marriage, not her second, we can see that she was lying to the state, not to mention William Griffin, her future husband, a farmer and MINISTER.

At last, I found Maud on the 1900 census:

There she is, listed as Maud Griffin, Step Daughter to William Parter Griffin
What I haven't figured out yet is this:
For some reason, I forgot to specify I was searching for death records for W P Griffin, and instead searched on marriage records.  "Lilliman" is a typo.  It turns out the two records for 1901/02 are another marriage return and certificate for Emma and William.  It appears the two of them got married again in 1901.  I don't know why.  I emailed Lincoln County asking if they have divorce records from that time period, wondering if perhaps Emma had been caught in her lie, a divorce was obtained, and then a "real" marriage took place, but I haven't heard back from them, so I don't know yet.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Persistence Pays

While my mother's family has been fairly easy to track down, particularly those people in the past 150 years, my dad's family has been a challenge.

Part of what has made my mother's family fairly easy to trace is that we had so much to go on from the start. Plus we had names like Fink, Rood and Bogenrief to help us out.  My dad doesn't  know much about his family (or didn't before I started down this road), and on top of that we had fairly generic surnames like Richardson and Miller to work with. 

The first record I found (and it was easy) was the 1930 census of my grandparents, Anna Zora Miller and Floyd Richardson and their first son, my Uncle Floyd ("Junior").
Zora was only 16 when she married Floyd
 I was fascinated to see that my grandmother's mother had been born in Minnesota, where I live now.  Other than my brother, who has since moved back to Michigan, I hadn't known that any of my family had ever lived in Minnesota.

After finding out the names of Zora's parents, I found the 1910 census.
My great-grandparents William H. and Maude E Miller. Anna Z is my grandmother, age 1 yr 1 month.
As you can see, there are several neighbors named Miller, but it doesn't appear that they are siblings, as their fathers were born in different states (or countries!)  The census adds a level of certainty that my great-grandmother Maud was born in Minnesota.

I emailed my dad and asked if he knew Maud's maiden name.  He thought it might be Stillman.  The census showed Maud was 34 in 1910, so that meant she was born in 1875 or 1876.  I searched the 1880 census and found several Stillman families, but none that had a daughter the right age.  I looked for her on the 1900 census, when she would have still been living at home, and couldn't find her there, either.  I also couldn't find the Millers in the 1920 or 1930 census.  Very frustrating!

After searching his memory for a while, my dad was able to come up with the names of his mother's siblings, but had no idea what their birth order was.  Still, I could not find William and Maud Miller, so I started searching on the kids names.  Eventually, I hit pay dirt.

My grandmother's father was going by his middle name, Harry, which explains why I had trouble finding him.  Maude, it seems, is still 34 years old, ten years after the previous census, which explains why I couldn't find her with her original estimated birth year.

With this information, I had an easier time finding the 1930 census record.
Maud and Harry with their youngest children
At this point, I could see the age on the first census record had to be wrong.  In 1930, Maud is listed as 44 years old, and her youngest child is 3 years old.  The record says she married at age 18.  It makes far more sense that she was producing children from age 19-40 rather than 29-50.  I was fairly sure by then that Maud's birth year was 1885/86, not 1875/76.  This actually made searching for census records more problematic, because she was born after the 1880 census.  I was not able to find her on the 1885 Minnesota census, either. 

I decided to work forward, instead, and find the death records for Harry and Maud.  My dad thought Harry must have died when my father was young or before he was born, because his grandmother (Maud) came to live with them.  I could find no SS death index record and no California death index, either.  The California index begins in 1940, so my guess is that Harry died some time between 1930 and 1940.  That left finding Maud's death index record.  My dad wasn't sure when she died, but my mother remembered meeting her, so she had to have died some time after my parents graduated from high school.  I searched in two year increments and still came up with nothing.

Finally, my dad sent me an email saying he thought I was looking for her under the wrong last name.  Some years after his Grandpa Harry died,  Grandma Maud had married again, to a man named Earl Abbott.

This proved very interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, I found her death record immediately, but I also found her mother's maiden name.  Forder.  Next, because I can't let a shaking leaf just sit there unattended, I discovered I could follow Earl back through census records very easily.  And what I found was that he and Maude were both born in Minnesota, both migrated to Washington state at some point (he when he was just a few years old), and they even lived in the same county when they were both young and newly married to their first spouses.  When they married each other, they were both living in Northern California.

I emailed my dad.  It's weird how they lived in the same places their whole lives.  I wonder if their families knew each other in Minnesota and Washington? I mused.

My dad emailed back.  They were cousins!

This is the point where I sigh and think, Why didn't he just tell me that to start with?! But I've realized that it often takes presenting my parents with a detail before they remember something important, especially when those details are something they last heard or thought about 50 or 60 years ago.

Knowing they were cousins, and knowing Maud's mother's maiden name, I thought I might be able to find out who my g2grandmother (Maud's mother) was, and then work forward in time to find my great-grandmother in Minnesota. Through his death record index, I discovered Earl's mother's maiden name was also Forder, so I knew Earl and Maud's mothers were sisters.  From census records and other Ancestry family trees, I could see Earl's mother was Charlotte Forder and that she was born in Indiana, just as Maud said her mother had been.

Soon I found the entire Forder clan in Indiana, headed by William and Maria (Wells), immigrants from England.  Their ten children were born between 1838 and 1862.  The five oldest were boys: William, James, Albert, Robert, and Milton.  The five youngest were girls: Emily (or Emma), Mary, Charlotte, Susan Alice, and Anna, born between 1849 and 1862. One of those five girls was my great-great grandmother and all were within the appropriate age range to make any of them possible.  The only question was, which one was she?

Until the 1870 census, William and Maria Wells were in Indiana, but in 1880 they are living in Meeker County, MN.  Since I knew my great grandmother had been born in Minnesota around 1885, I could assume my great-great grandmother had moved to Minnesota with her parents.

I began looking for marriage records of the five sisters.

Emma, the oldest, was born in 1849.  In 1871, she married a widower with two children, Thomas Plews, in Indiana.  I couldn't find them on any census record after that.

Mary, born 1851, married William Hutchins in Minnesota in 1873 in Meeker, MN.  Mary and William had five boys and eventually migrated to Spokane, WA where they lived together until William died in 1921.  Mary could not be Maud's mother.  The Forder family must have moved some time after 1871, when Emma married Thomas Plews, but before Mary's 1873 marriage.

Charlotte, born 1855 married Francis Abbott in 1874 in Meeker, MN.  They had 8 boys and girls.  They migrated to Spokane, WA and then by 1910 had moved to Arizona.  Their son Earl married Rosealga Silsdorff in Washington in 1903, eventually migrating to northern California.  After Earl's wife died, he married Maud, his first cousin (my great grandmother).  Charlotte could not be Maud's mother.
Susan Alice was born in 1858 and married John Johnson in 1876 guessed it...Meeker County, MN.  They had four boys and migrated to Washington where they lived until at least 1930. Alice could not be Maud's mother.

The youngest Forder was Anna, born in 1862. In 1884, Anna gave birth to twin girls, Ellen ("Nellie") and May.  She was not married.  Eight years later, she married Winfield Clark, but soon divorced him.  In 1905 she was living in Minneapolis with her daughters in an apartment not more than 8 blocks from my first Minneapolis apartment.  She and her daughters continued living in Minneapolis for years.  Anna was not Maud's mother.

At this point, it looked like the only sister who could be Maud's mother was Emma, who had vanished. Since Maud's maiden name was supposedly Stillman, not Plews, Emma's husband must have died and then she remarried.  Based on the migratory and marriage habits of the rest of the Forder family, it looked like they had all moved to Minnesota a year or two after the 1870 census. Since I couldn't find Emma and Thomas Plews on any census, I decided to look for anyone named Plews in Minnesota.  I found no one on the 1880 census, but I did find an 1885 Minnesota state census record.

Could this be them?
Maud isn't on this record, but she was born in 1885 or 1886, so that doesn't eliminate this family.  The main thing I noticed was the name of the parents, which was Silliman.  It wasn't Stillman, but it's close.  Second, there is evidence that the wife has been married before, since there are two boys with the last name Plews.  Also, I notice that J.W. Silliman was born in New York, while M.E. Silliman was born in Indiana, birth places that Maud lists for her parents on every census record.  I was slightly thrown by the initial M for Emma, but the middle initial was E, so I was hopeful.

When I searched the Minnesota marriage index, I found them.  J.W. Silliman and Emma "Clews" (likely a typo) had married in McLeod County (the county south of Meeker) in 1878.  That fits within the gap between the Plews children and Frank Silliman.

I still hadn't found Maud.
 (To be continued...)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Start with what you know

When I dove into the genealogy pool last March, that's exactly what I did. After entering myself, my brother, our parents and grandparents, I started with my mother's maternal grandparents.

Edith, Ella, Hubert and Elsie Buss, children of Fred Buss and Maude Bogenrief
abt 1910, holding their most prized possessions
My mother's grandfather, Frederick James Buss, dictated his life story to my grandmother, Ella Louisa Buss, on his 77th birthday. Several years ago, my mother and I took that typewritten copy and re-typed it into the computer so we could all have a copy of it.

February 9th, 1940. - National City, California
By Fred J. Buss
Maude and Fred Buss on their wedding day30 Jun 1897
This day I will write the history of my life to my four children: Elsie, Ella, Edith, and Hubert-all born on the farm in Douglas Township on section fifteen (15) south-west quarter, Sac County Iowa. Your mother was born on the north-east quarter of the same section in the same township, in 1877. I went to school with her brothers and sisters in Illinois seven or eight years before she was born. She had one sister about my age whose name was Elizabeth. We were in the same class and studied from the same book and I thought she was the nicest girl in school. But she died of typhoid fever October 3, 1880 in Iowa on section fifteen (15) in Douglas Township and I waited seventeen years and then I married her youngest sister, Maude Bogenrief in 1897. We spent forty-one years of happy life together and then she passed away and left me alone in this wide world like I was the first thirty-four years of my life.

In many ways, Great-grandpa Buss's life story was full of specific details.

We lived fifteen years on this farm and there were nine children-six live ones. Henry was four years older than myself; John two years younger than Henry; Louis four years younger than me; Sophia seven years younger than me and Elizabeth ten years younger than me. Father found plenty of work on the little farm for all of us and enough to eat. We never were without bread and potatoes and cabbage and all kinds of garden stuff. We had six or seven cows and some young cattle that we let run all over in the timber that didn't cost anything for pasture. The land belonged to a speculator who didn't fence it. Father would go to the neighbor's and stack straw for half of it. That way he always had plenty of feed. We dug out big stumps and cut them up for firewood and saved all the trees for fence posts and rails. But he broke down in health and the last three or four years he had the Ague every fall. So he sold the farm for $1000 to Ward Howard and we came to Iowa in the spring of 1874 on April 17th. We arrived in Newell and the prairie was all one pond close by another. Half of the country was under water. Old Bill Stoot was running a delivery barn so father got him to bring us to Sac County. It took four hours to go seven miles to my wife's parents. The people were all glad to see us come and settle. Father rented a farm from Sam Armstrong for one-quarter rent. It had lain idle and the fire had burned up all the buildings except the house. We built some sheds and stables the best we could. We lived there seven years but we saw some hard times. In the winter of 1876 Mother died and father was too feeble to do any work so us boys had to stay home from school and do the work to keep the wolf away. Crops were poor on account of the grasshoppers and gophers. The blackbirds would take in the corn as fast as it came up. I had an old muzzle-loading gun and I was out in the corn field from early in the morning until late at night shooting as fast as I could load my gun or else we wouldn't get a crop at all. On the other hand we had all the wild game that we wanted. Ducks, geese, cranes and prairie chickens were so plenty that there was no sale for them but they were good to eat. In the winter we would catch muskrats and sell the hide for seven or eight cents and feed the rats to the hogs, but hogs at that time sold for two cents or three cents a pound. Cows sold from fifteen to twenty dollars; butter six to ten cents a pound. I picked corn for fifty cents a day in the winter when we got ours all done and I thought I was getting big pay. The first four years we were in Iowa we had to plant all of our corn by hand. It was a slow job. Four of us would plant about five acres a day. We used a hoe to cover the corn and we had a cropper attached to the mower that we used to cut the oats and wheat with. It worked pretty good but we had to bind it by hand and get it out of the way so it could cut another swathe.

As a beginning genealogist, I was thrilled by the details, but frustrated by one detail he left out: his mother's name. He doesn't dwell on the deaths of loved ones (his childhood sweetheart, the three siblings who didn't make it, and his mother), but in the brevity of those details, I hear emotional pain, and I feel for the guy, but I really, really wanted to know his mother's name.

The first census record I found (ever) was this one from 1880:

It completely supports every detail Fred mentions and leaves out everything Fred left out. After this census record, I found many records going forward, but eventually, I found the 1870 census record.

The first thing I noticed was my great-great-grandmother's name: Louisa!

Next, I noticed the difference in spelling of the last name (Busse, rather than Buss), but wasn't sure what to make of it. We had one of those family stories that so many people have, which was that "they" (some authority figure at the gates of America) changed the family name when my g2grandfather immigrated. He was illiterate and didn't speak English, so "they" did the best they could to understand his name and write it down, and from then on, we were stuck with Buss. Except that makes no sense, because it wasn't like they would have handed him a piece of paper and told him, "Here's your name from now on." At any rate, I found the variation in spelling interesting, but not significant.

The next thing I noticed was that Louis was missing. And who was Minnie? I found Louis at the top of the next page, but I realized that I had made an incorrect assumption about those three siblings that didn't live. I assumed they had all died as infants, but there was Minnie, four years old in 1870, and Fred never mentioned her by name. I don't know if she died before they left Illinois, or after they came to Iowa. This was the first of many times when a census record of bald facts would break my heart.

(clockwise) Lizzie, Sophia, Fred and Henry Buss
My next goal was to find the elusive 1860 census, the first one on which my great-great grandfather would have appeared. I had no expectation at the time that I would discover my great-great grandmother's maiden name. It seemed impossible.

Over time, I got more adept at searching for people in census records when I knew where they lived. I knew where they were living in 1860, but I couldn't get any hits on name/age or name/spouse combinations. I knew they would have had a baby by then, so I searched on males named Henry between 0 and 4 years old. Nothing. Eventually, I remembered that the Buss family had been friends with the Bogenriefs (my great-grandmother's family) in Illinois before coming to Iowa. The reason the Buss family left Illinois was because the Bogenriefs had left. They all settled on the same section of land, which is where Fred's childhood sweetheart died and where her younger sister was born. So I paged through the enumeration district where the Bogenriefs lived, and I finally found this:

W. Buzzy, age 27, male
Elizabeth, age 25, female
Henry, age 2, female(!)

The index search hadn't picked up this record for a number of reasons.
  • The last name was transcribed as "Buggy," not Buzzy.
  • I hadn't found William because he was listed by first initial only.
  • I hadn't found Louisa because she was listed as Elizabeth (still not sure why, but given that one daughter was named Sophia Louisa and the other Elizabeth Mary, it's possible that Louisa's middle name was Elizabeth. Or not. Aunt Lizzie might have been named for her mother's older sister who died of typhoid).
  • Henry is listed as female and born in Germany.
  • The ages of the adults are off by several years.

On the surface, it would seem these people couldn't possibly be my great-great grandparents, and yet, I am completely convinced that they are. I have found many errors in census records, and many reasons to question whether a record that looks off is off because it's not my people, or for another reason. In this case, I think it's off because there was either a language barrier, or William and Louisa weren't the ones answering the questions. Recently, when looking for one of my husband's ancestors, I found a census record that caught my eye, but when I saw the first names of the adults, and their ages, I dismissed the record.  Tthe kids' names were exactly right, and they were the right ages, but the parents' names and ages were wrong, as was their country of origin. And then I found the ancestor's sister living two doors down, and realized the address where the questionable ancestor lived was the same as the address in the city directory for that year. The questionable ancestor lived in a multi-family dwelling. My guess is that someone else told the enumerator the "facts" about my husband's ancestor.

So I am quite certain this 1860 census record is that of my great-great grandparents. The one question I did have, was why the enumerator would spell the name "Buzzy." I wondered if it was somehow related to the spelling from the 1870 census, "Busse." I asked a friend who speaks German how "Busse" would be pronounced. First, she told me that no German word would end with "ss," so the "sse" ending was likely correct. Then she told me "Busse" is pronounced "Buss-eh," so "Buzzy" is a pretty fair phonetic spelling of that pronunciation.