I think I’ve got it!, or, Cluster Genealogy Works!

I think I’ve got it!, or, Cluster Genealogy Works!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my third-great-grandmother's hard-to-read maiden name in her divorce case file from 1879 to 1881. Many of you offered suggestions for searching for her family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses—thank you! I tried those searches and I kept examining the case file...

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my third-great-grandmother’s hard-to-read maiden name in her divorce case file from 1879 to 1881. Many of you offered suggestions for searching for her family in the 1850 and 1860 censuses—thank you!

I tried those searches and I kept examining the case file for clues … and I’m 98 percent sure I have the maiden name! It shows that cluster genealogy works. Here’s how it happened.

I saw this in my third-great-grandmother Mary Frost’s testimony:

Her oldest child—my great-great-grandfather—George, stayed with Mary’s sister (unnamed here) and worked for the sister’s husband, George Hartke, in his grocery store.

I searched for George Hartke on Ancestry.com and found this in an 1878 city directory for Covington, Ky.:

I then found his family in the 1880 census, under “Harke”:

My great-great-grandfather is listed in the household as “nephew.” Interestingly, he’s double-enumerated in his mother’s household in 1880:

I turned my focus to George Hartke’s wife and Mary Frost’s sister, Elizabeth. Death records often name parents, especially in the 20th century (Mary’s doesn’t, though), so I looked for Elizabeth’s. Lo and behold:

Let’s take a closer look:

Elizabeth’s Oct. 22, 1931, death certificate reports her parents as Henry Wolking and “Eliz.” Evers, both born in Germany. I did some more census searching and believe the informant, “Mrs. Henry Harke,” is Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law.

I still haven’t found the Wolkings for sure in 1850 and 1860 census records. My best candidate so far is this Wolkins family in 1850:

The father’s name doesn’t match, which isn’t great but also isn’t a deal breaker—he could’ve gone by his middle name or the census taker could’ve talked to a neighbor, or Mrs. Henry Harke could have been wrong on the death certificate. This family does have a Mary, Tilda (the divorce records refer to Mary’s sister Matilda) and Lizzie of the right ages.

Learn more about how to use cluster genealogy in your research from our on-demand webinar, Using Cluster and Collateral Searches to Beat Brick Walls, presented by Thomas MacEntee. It’s available in Family Tree Shop.

Originally posted at the Genealogy Insider blog.

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  1. Hi, Kathleen, thanks! I usually have to enter the code once or twice (unless I’m logged in as the blog admin, in which case there’s no code), but this is an older, quirky blogging platform, so I’m not surprised it’s giving you so many codes. I’m sorry–thank you for persevering!

  2. I believe that Mrs. "Henry" Harke is actually Mrs. Harry Harke as it appears on the death certificate. There have been people who use Harry as a nickname for Henry though.