Bertha Gearhart Jones left a pretty good genealogical trail for her great-granddaughter Reba Simmons to follow. But as is often the case in family history, the path is cluttered with confusing dates, names and places. Simmons knows the names of Bertha’s parents and a brother, but couldn’t find out anything else about the family. She’s doing a great job of researching basic records; delving into additional resources will add to this story and may straighten out conflicting details. Let’s help her get through this genealogical maze and kick her Gearhart research into high gear.
The first step in tackling any genealogical problem is to identify what you already know and how you can use that information to find out what you want to know. As experts advise, Simmons worked back from her own parents, Erma Shull and Walker Spurlock, to her grandparents Louise Jones and Clyde Shull, then to Jesse Jones and Bertha (aka Willie B.) Gearhart.
Looking at every census from an ancestor’s life is a basic step, one that brought up questions for Simmons. The 1920 census for Cabell County, WV, shows Jesse Jones as the head of household, with wife Bertha and children Arnold and Louise. The 1910 census lists Jesse Jones, with wife Willie B., son Don and daughter Louise.
(a version called Ancestry Library Edition is free at many local libraries). This may turn up more census results for both the Stickler and Gearhart families.
I’d also recommend Simmons expand her search to collateral relatives, such as Bertha’s brother and her children Arnold and Don—in other words, people who aren’t in Simmons’ direct line.
2. Formulate research goals.
3. Seek corroborating evidence for record discrepancies.
4. Look for land, probate, military, church and other records.
5. Broaden research to include collateral relatives.