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

By Diane Haddad

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 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.