The Importance of Re-checking Your Old Documents

My grandparents had been working on our genealogy for pretty much their whole lives.  I didn’t really get into it until about twelve years ago, when my grandma gave me several pedigree charts for different lines of the family.  At that point in time, having just graduated from high school, I was content to just have that.  Of course, now that I’m working at the Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room, I know the importance of sourcing everything.  My grandparents have several cardboard boxes full of documents, some original and some copies, from which they have gotten the genealogical information.

A couple of years ago, I sat down with my grandpa and we discussed my plans for documenting everything.  He agreed to let me borrow a box to start with to digitize everything and sort it a little.  He said the boxes had originally been separated by which line of the family the information pertained to, but as the years went by, things just got tossed into whichever box was most convenient or least full at the time.

The first box he gave me was the “Wiseheart” box, but there were some Rakestraws, Von Allmens, church history, and several other things in there as well.  I just scanned everything and labeled it as best I could, even if I didn’t know what it was or how it fit.  I then returned the box and borrowed another.  At that point in time, I was just learning how to use my scanner with my new Mac.  Everything I scanned got saved to a default location and I, for some reason, haven’t looked at it since, until today.

Here, I will digress for a bit, to give some context as to why this is significant.  In October of 2013, the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society (SIGS) held its first First Families of Floyd County program.  Basically, if you can prove that your ancestor was in Floyd County, Indiana on or before December 31, 1840, you qualify for a First Families certificate.  I wasn’t anywhere near ready for the deadline for that one, but they announced that First Families would continue the following year.  I researched the Rakestraw line of my family because I knew Charles Rakestraw was on the 1840 U.S. Federal Census, which was enumerated on June 1, 1840, thus before the requisite date.

After tracing my family pretty far back, I hit a snag.  I couldn’t find a way to link Milton Rakestraw to his father, Charles.  The 1840 Census only lists head of household with tallies for people of certain age groups in the household.  By the 1850 Census, Milton had married and moved out.  I decided to use siblings to prove his relationship.  In the 1850 Census, Milton’s younger brother, William Arlie, was living with him, while his father, Charles, and two sisters, Elizabeth and Minerva, were living with his brother-in-law and sister, Henry and Adaline Hardy.  I looked for William Arlie’s death record, to see if his parents were named.  They were not.  In the 1870 Census, Elizabeth Flora is living with William Arlie Rakestraw.  I “know” this is his sister Elizabeth, but I couldn’t find any record of Elizabeth Rakestraw having married a Flora, or anyone, for that matter, in either of the two counties where she had lived.  I needed this to close the connection circle.  All of this was enough for SIGS, but it wasn’t enough for me.  Having completed the application for the program, I set the Rakestraws aside to give myself a break and decided to focus on the Springers for a while.

This brings us back to today.  I found the default folder in which my scanner had saved everything.  One image was labeled “Flora, Marion Elizabeth – Cemetery Record,” which had meant nothing to me at the time.  I had no idea then that the Floras were in any way related to us.  Now, however, this could be a big clue as to why I couldn’t find a marriage record for Elizabeth Rakestraw to a Flora.  If her name was in fact Marion Elizabeth Rakestraw, the marriage record might have been filed under Marion Rakestraw.  The “Cemetery Record” is page 49 from Fairview Cemetery, Volume VIII, January 1, 1930-December 31, 1934, published by the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society.  The whole thing is quite lengthy, as it includes two obituaries, but the important part is:

FLORA, Marion Elizabeth; 20978; 78 yrs; res L. A. CA; d. 13 Aug 1933; bur 19 Aug 1933; ; ; P 2 R 8 Lot 21 G 5; Charles Rakestraw and Henry Hardy trans. to Susan Flora; Chr. Myocarditis; Frank W. Webb; Elmer H. Dieckman; 20978–Former Local Woman Dies in Los Angeles–Mrs. Marion E. Flora, 78, widow of William Flora, a former New Albany resident…

I know from this that Marion Elizabeth Flora is from New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana, that her husband was William Flora, that she is approximately the same age as my Elizabeth Rakestraw, and that she is in some way related to Charles Rakestraw, Henry Hardy, and Susan (Rakestraw) Flora.  Now I need to go back through the marriage records for Floyd County to see if a William Flora married either a Marion or an Elizabeth Rakestraw.

This is a prime example of why it is important to re-check your old documents periodically.  Something that doesn’t seem to fit now might turn out to be the missing puzzle piece you’ve been beating your head against the wall for months to find.