Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tracing an informal adoption using ordinary sources

In the lead article of the March National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Paul K. Graham, CG, AG, finds the well-hidden facts of the parentage of Mrs. Florence Nelson (1862-1942), who died at one end of Indiana (Elkhart County) and was buried at the other (Switzerland County).

The article uses commonplace genealogy sources from Indiana and Missouri, but deploys uncommon logic in analyzing, correlating, and resolving their contradictions. Florence's death certificate was filled out wrong, but even that error provided a clue. Her 1887 marriage record named her parents -- but that was only the beginning. She was completely unmentioned in her father's probate. Was her own statement in her marriage record wrong?

Get your copy of the Q to find out how the apparent contradiction was resolved -- it's in good genealogy libraries everywhere and is a benefit of NGS membership. The article solved the genealogical question, but it stands as a reminder that even the best genealogy cannot always explain the family history. "The most consequential event of her life -- separation from her family -- remains unexplained."

Paul K. Graham, "A Family for Florence I. (Crouse) Nelson: Unraveling an Informal Adoption in Missouri or Indiana," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 101 (March 2013): 7-18.

Harold Henderson, "Tracing an informal adoption using ordinary sources," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 April 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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