Monday, May 14, 2012

They weren't just my ancestors

The Devil's in the Details
My Gran
Okay. So I hadn't looked at my data in, like, forever. So I hadn't felt the need to go over everything in my Gran's and my Boo's [My Gran's mom.] lives with a fine-toothed comb. Why should I? My Gran was my Gran and my Boo was my Boo. And I knew them. And when I started out researching I really didn't know what the heck I doing.

But now I do. And this weekend in prep for filling out my application for DAR and UEL, I found some discrepancies that should have been staring me in the face from my database. [Hey, I rhymed.] But I dunno what happened. I know I've switched this database a multitude of times over the years in search of software that I like. More than likely, though, I, myself, messed it up somewhere.

Anywho, the devil's in the details, especially when you don't pay attention to the details. I don't know to what level DAR and the UEL go as far as proof is concerned, but me? I'm trying to adhere to the Genealogical Proof Standard [GPS]. [Mostly.]

Not only is the devil in the details, but so are the family stories. Here's my research plan. And then I'll continue this story on the other end. [Yeah. I know. It's long. I'm sorry. Not really.]

Research Problem

  1. Need to provide evidence for my Gran's birth and parental relationship.
  2. Need to reconcile her different names on different pieces of evidence.
  3. Need to reconcile the difference in birth year between baptismal index, the 1910, 1920, 1930 censuses and other evidence. The variances suggest something is wrong with the listed ages or the birth year of 1901.
  4. Also need to reconcile parent's names listed in 1910 census with other evidence.

Known Facts / Family Information

She was born 21 Sep 1901 or 1902 in Cheneyville, LA.
US Passport App from
Birth is listed as Sep 1901 Cheneyville, LA
Letter vouching for her identity attached to her US passport application. Letter written by her maternal aunt, Vyla (Vaughan) Clifton./
She may have been baptized at St. Mary's Cathedral downtown S.A. in 1913 but they list her b.21 Sep 1892.
Baptismal Index on
Texas, Births and Christenings, 1840-1981 from

7yo b. LA in 1910
1910 Census/
18yo b.LA in 1920
1920 Census/
27yo b.LA in 1930; first married at age 20yo
1930 Census/
Her birthdate is  21 Sep 1902

Her name is Alice V. Truitt
1910 census/
Her name is Mary A. Blacketer
1920 census/
Her name is Alice Blacketer
1930 census/
Her name is Mary Alice Velda Truitt
Texas, Births and Christenings, 1840-1981

 Index on
She was a practicing Catholic.
Personal knowledge.
I knew her name to be & knew her to be called Mary Alice (Truitt) Blacketer, Mary, Alice, "Sam", "Gran".
Personal knowledge.

Mother is listed as Alice Vaughn.
Baptismal Index
Texas, Births and Christenings, 1840-1981 -

Father is listed as Claud R. Truitt
Texas, Births and Christenings, 1840-1981

 Index on
Her mother's name is listed as "Cora"
1910 Census/
Her father's name is listed as "Chas R."
1910 Census/
Her parents were married 22 Nov 1901 in Bexar County, Texas.
Published index of Marriages of Bexar County, Texas/MCML
Her mother Alice Truitt is listed as my Gran's husband's daughter
1930 census/


Working Hypothesis [What are the possible answers based on what you already know listed above? Keep an open mind. These are things you are trying to prove or disprove.]

  1. According to a published index, her parents were married 22 Nov 1901. All the evidence of her birth is secondary [like census] and is far from the actual event of her birth. Was Gran conceived and born before her parent's marriage? It's possible her birth year was earlier as the baptism index suggests, but that much earlier? Doubtful.

In 1910, the census was taken 21 Apr 1910 & her listed age is 7yo. If that's true, she would've been turning 8yo, making her correct birth year 1902. [Not 1901 like she reports later in life.]

In 1920 [the same year she applies for a US Passport and reports her birthday as 21 Sep 1901, I think. See below. The census was taken 2 Jan 1920 ~ well before her birthday ~ and her listed age is 18yo. If that's so, then at the time of the 1920 census, she would be turning 19yo later in the year, giving her a birth year of 1901.

In 1930, the census was taken 8 Apr 1930 and her listed age in it is 27yo. If true, her birthday would be later in the year and she'd be turning 28yo, giving her a birth year of 1902, which contradicts the 1920 census and US Passport application [Maybe. See below.]. Unlike the 1920 census, though, her mother is living with her and her family. Quite possible her mother gave the information to the enumerator for the 1930 census, not my Gran. Also it's before her wedding anniversary, but it's listed that she was first married at age 20yo, meaning her birth year would be seven years ago giving her a birth year of 1903. Of course, most people when asked about their marriage aren't specific to the day, especially if you're asking the mother. [Ugh. Hate math.]

On her US Passport Application, it looks like it first was 1902 then written over as 1901, or vice versa. However, the letter from her aunt clearly states 1901 as her birth year. Her application is signed Aug 1920, before her birthday and her age is listed as 18yo. That would mean she was about to turn 19yo making her birth year [*counts on fingers*] 1901.

And her SSDI entry indicates she was born 21 Sep 1902. [Of course it does.]

My gut feeling is that she was born in 1901 before her parents married and that her complete name is Mary Alice Velda (Truitt) Blacketer. And that her mother kept up the lie throughout her life and somehow Gran found out, like when her mother and father divorced. But can I prove it?

  1. Think her parent's name differences in 1910 is just an anomaly, because her father's name is close and they had another Claud living with them as a boarder. Plus her mother's name was Alice Florence, and the listed name on the census is "Cora" which sounds like "Flora" and could be a nickname for Florence. Why would she be going by a nickname from her middle name? Her daughter, my Gran, was Alice too. [Can't tell you how many multiple Mary/Pollys in the same households I've seen, and then they switch off from census to census on who's gonna be Mary and who's gonna be Polly. So this could be true.]

  1. I've never heard the middle name "Velda" for my Gran, but that means nothing. It probably is my Gran's middle name. Mary was probably added when she was baptized. The maternal line here is decidedly Catholic. [I used to take Gran to mass when she came to visit.] In the 1910 census, she's listed as Alice V. Truitt.

  1. Think the relationship listed for my great grandmother in the 1930 census is just a mistake made by the enumerator as her age alone makes that impossible.

List places to look for the answers to your research problem. List all possible places both online and offline to look for evidence to answer the research problem.

  • Bexar County Courthouse
  • Catholic Diocese of San Antonio
  • Survey for available applicable microfilm, esp. for LA births.

Research Strategy

  1. Survey records available for Cheneyville, Rapides Parish, LA. Were they recording births? Obtain birth record, if possible. This would clear up name & year discrepancies.
  1. SS App? The index says 1902. She would've needed her birth record to apply for SS or something to vouch for her birth. For her US Passport application, she had her aunt vouch for her which tells me she probably didn't have her birth record. [Oh joy.]
  1. Because the baptismal index indicates she may have been baptized in 1913 at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Antonio, contact the San Antonio Diocese Offices and inquire about their archives. Obtaining her baptismal record might clear up the year and will be enough evidence to prove parentage. The 1892 birth year on that index throws me for a loop because that would mean when my Gran died in May 1993, she wasn't 91yo but [*counts on fingers*] 100yo about to turn 101yo. She *totally* did not look ~ at any time that I knew & saw her ~ 10 years older than her age. Either there's a mistake or my Gran had awesome genes. [And there's hope for me.] Plus, her mother would have been 9yo. Impossible. So. Need birth record & baptismal record to clear up the birth year and name variances.
  1. My Gran divorced my grandfather and my great grandmother divorced my great grandfather. So evidence may lie in those records [because lots of stuff was in my other grandfather's, Big Paw Paw's, multiple divorce records in that same county]. So need to obtain those divorce records because there just might be something in them that will settle this birth year and name variances dilemma. Her parent's marriage needs to be verified as well at the Bexar County Courthouse. [So, I'll be busy there. Thank goodness St. Mary's Cathedral is next door to the courthouse. I'm trying to be thankful for the little things.]
  1. Find the family in the 1940 census in San Antonio, Texas. Names and birth year could add to the evidence. Her mother, supposedly, remained living with her to help her raise her kids. Could possibly have correct information on it. [Stranger things have happened.]

So. Yeah. My Gran wasn't just my Gran and my Boo wasn't just my Boo. They had lives and secrets. Most of all, they were human beings. Human beings before they were Catholic.

And they had stories. Stories I plan to find and share.

Cuz we're all just human beings. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

[Stay tuned in the next post, I'll show you how I've revised my tech method to apply to DAR and UEL in a  video tutorial cuz I really like making those tutorials. Sometimes showing tells better than I can tell it.]



  1. Duh, read to many blogs, Sorry Caroline.

  2. Caroline,

    I know this took a lot of work and thought. Great example of your research process. It's good to see real life examples and the thought process that goes into adhering to the Genealogical Proof Standard.

    Regards, Terri Costa Fraser

  3. Love it! I'm addicted to charts when analyzing info, so you had me from the beginning. :)

  4. Love it too. I love the charts too. We just saw lots of timelines at Nebraska State Genealogy Conference which I loved. Need to use those more. Keep us posted on "Gran" and "Boo".

  5. You have laid this out very clearly. I love the color-coding--it really helps as an organizing principle. I do a lot of that myself. Also, I anticipate a really complex interplay between the "working hypothesis" and the "research strategy." Depending on the order of your findings, I'd think these would "morph" in sort of synchronized fashion. When the hypothesis shifts the strategy will shift and vice versa.

    My limited experience is that the birth year is the very hardest item to pin down. People want to claim they're younger or older for all sorts of reasons, like vanity maybe, and as you say, who gives the information to the census? It is fascinating to speculate about motives, which can be so seriously unknown. Secrets. Very good sentence: "They were human beings before they were Catholics." Like today, when almost all Catholic women use birth control.


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