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.

Frank Springer: The Wanderer (52 Ancestors #01)

Frank Springer is my great great grandfather on my father’s side.  He was married to Zerilda Eleanora Rakestraw.  Their daughter, my great grandmother, Mildred Gertrude Springer, was my grandpa’s mother.  Frank was born in Orange County, Indiana circa 1869 and Zerilda “Ella” was born in Floyd County, Indiana in 1868.  Presumably, the two met when Ella went to visit relatives in Orange County.  This entire family has been difficult to research, due to various problems such as incorrectly printed information in the newspaper and changing of names without legally changing them.  Frank, however, is the biggest mystery.

Family legend says that Frank was a wanderer by nature and also had some mental issues.  He left his wife after about a year of marriage, and just after the birth of their daughter.  It is said that he went to California and nobody ever heard from him again.  There are no known photos of Frank, which adds to the mystique.  I think a timeline is the best way to approach this one.


On the Census, Frank is one year old and living in Paoli Township, Orange County, Indiana with his parents, John Alexander and Mary (Lindley) Springer.  His siblings are Anna L., born 1863; Edward, born 1865; and Mary Elizabeth, born 1867.¹


On the Census, Frank is ten years old and still living in Paoli Township with his parents.  Siblings are Anna L.; Edward; Charley, born 1873; Stella, born 1875; and Mattie, born 1877.²


On February 28th, Frank marries Ella N. Rakestraw in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana.³  (My grandfather told me that Ella hated her first name, Zerilda, and broke up her middle name into Ella Nora and started going by that).

By March 9, Frank and Ella had moved to Ed Springer’s farm, which he had recently vacated, near Paoli.4

On November 20th, their daughter, Mildred Gertrude Springer, is born in New Albany.5


On March 23rd, a blurb in the Paoli Republican said that Ella had visited her parents in New Albany and returned home to Paoli.6

On November 22nd, the Paoli News reported that Frank Springer had gone to the World’s Fair in Chicago.7


In May, Francis Marion and Mary Elizabeth Rakestraw petitioned for the adoption of their granddaughter, Mildred, citing that Frank had abandoned her over a year ago and that her mother was an invalid.  The petition was granted.8,9

On June 13th, Ella died of consumption.10


On the Census, Mildred is living with her grandparents in New Albany.11  I could not find any record of Frank.


On the Census, Mildred is living with her grandparents in New Albany.12  I could not find any record of Frank.

In July, the Orleans Progress Examiner reported that Miss Mildred Springer had been visiting Edward Springer and his family.13  (Orleans is just outside Paoli).


In March, the Orleans Progress Examiner reported that Mildred had been visiting her grandparents.14


On the Census, Mildred is living with her grandparents in New Albany.16  Frank is living alone in Paoli Township.15

In May, at the time of Mildred’s marriage to Sanford Wesley Wiseheart, Frank is living “near Paoli.”17


On the Census, Mildred is living with her husband and children in Silver Creek Township, Clark County, Indiana.  Mildred named her second son Frank.18  (I’m wondering if this an indication that she had some sort of relationship with her father, or if it’s more that she wished she had.  My grandpa said that Mildred always had a fear that her family would leave the house and never come back.)  I could not find any record of Frank.


On the Census, Mildred is living with her husband and children in New Albany.19  I could not find any record of Frank.

To summarize, I have Frank Springer pinned down from 1870 to 1893 and he randomly pops back up again in 1920.  My theory is that he went to the World’s Fair in 1893 and got a taste for travel and saw what wondrous things there were in the world and decided to experience it.  By 1920, he would’ve been about fifty and was probably ready to settle down, so he came back home to Paoli.  I’m thinking the reason that I can’t find him in the 1930 Census is because he died sometime between 1920 and 1930.  I have yet to find any obituaries or a tombstone, so that’s my next course of action.


1.  1870 U.S. Federal Census, Paoli Township, Orange County, Indiana, p.24, Ancestry

2.  1880 U.S. Federal Census, Paoli Township, Orange County, Indiana, p.6, Ancestry

3.  Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p.114, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

4.  Paoli Republican, Wednesday, 9 Mar 1892, p.3, c.5, NewspaperArchive

5.  Floyd County, Indiana Deaths, Book H-12, p.10, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

6.  New Albany Evening Tribune, Thursday, 23 Mar 1893, p.4, c.2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

7.  Paoli News, Wednesday, 22 Nov 1893, p.3, c.2, NewspaperArchive

8.  New Albany Evening Tribune, Friday, 25 May 1894, p.3, c.2, NewspaperArchive

9.  New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 26 May 1894, p.5, c.3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

10.  New Albany Evening Tribune, Thursday, 14 Jun 1894, p.4, c.2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

11.  1900 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany Township, Floyd County, Indiana, p.9B, Ancestry

12.  1910 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany Township, Floyd County, Indiana, p.14A, Ancestry

13.  Orleans Progress Examiner, Thursday, 28 Jul 1910, p.2, NewspaperArchive

14.  Orleans Progress Examiner, Thursday, 23 Mar 1911, p.3, NewspaperArchive

15.  1920 U.S. Federal Census, Paoli Township, Orange County, Indiana, p.21A, FamilySearch

16.  1920 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany Township, Floyd County, Indiana, p.11A, Ancestry

17.  Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 20, p.375, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

18.  1930 U.S. Federal Census, Silver Creek Township, Clark County, Indiana, p.14B, Ancestry

19.  1940 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany Township, Floyd County, Indiana, p.10B, FamilySearch