10 December 2014

My first brick wall

Any genealogist knows brick walls can be frustrating, but in some ways, they are the most fun to try and figure out. My first brick wall came with enough of a crack in it to help bring it down.

My family knew little about my grandmother's mother. Not only did she leave her family in the late 1920s/early 1930s, she also died young. When I started looking at my family history my grandmother had already died and both of her sisters would say little about their mother. All I had to go on was a name, Anna Laura.

The stories that I had heard about was that my great grandmother had  left one day and moved to Baltimore. I was also told that her children had no contact with her after she left and no one knew what had happened to her. The family did know she had gotten remarried and had a second. The only other piece of information I knew was that one of her children had died while in the military. Other than that, nothing:  no birth date, no date or place of death, just a blank.

Since this was back in 2008 a lot of things were not online yet. Add that to the fact I didn't know exactly what I was looking for or where to start and it was hard to know how to approach my brick wall. In hindsight I should have gone to the most obvious place, the Frederick courthouse, to find her marriage certificate.  However, at the time I didn't know they kept such records.

My first break came when I asked my aunt if she might know anything. She didn't, but she did give me my grandmother's bible which provided  me with my first clue: I was able to obtain Anna's date of death.


And there it was, my first break, not only a date of death, but her last name of Florey. This was at least a starting point, now I could go look up an obituary. The only problem was that she had died in Baltimore, and the closest and easiest place for me to see the microfilm was the University of Maryland. I was at least able to get this:

There is however, one problem with this short death notice, she's been given the maiden name of Castle, which is wrong. But, at least I've gotten an approximate age, 43, meaning she was born around 1904. I also have a place of interment, Western Cemetery.

My next step was to head to the Maryland State Archives to find a death certificate. Such a confusing place, especially for someone who's never been there before. After finally getting through all the strange hoops they seem to have, I was able to get a printed copy of her death certificate from the microfilm. Finally the wall begins to fall.
Finally, I get a date of birth, maiden name and parents names, if all the information given is correct. Notice the nee from the death notice is Castle, which is her mother's Maiden name.

So now, I have a good amount of information, date of birth, given as April 4, 1904, date of death, November 22, 1947, maiden name of Kessler, and parent's names, William Kessler and Alberta Castle.

In my next post I will cover finding other information about her, and why her date of birth may not be correct and why it was so difficult to figure out what the truth might be.

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