ask ancestry anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Where is George Elmer Thomas?

Dear Anne

Is there any way that you can help me find out who the parents were for George Elmer Thomas?  He was born November 18, 1863 and died December 27, 1955. He was married to Emma Adams in Burlington, NJ at the Methodist church (no help there on his marriage return).  He lived in Buddtown, Burlington and Vincentown, New Jersey and he died at the Cranbury Nursing home in Cranbury, New Jersey.

I wanted to look at old school records from Vincentown to see if his parents registered him for school (no luck). The only thing I have is the 1880 census of him working on the farm of a Job Clevenger. It seems as if his life began at 17. 

Please help! 

– Rosemary Thomas


I searched for a George Elmer Thomas in the 1870 census and found an Elmer Thomas born in 1862 in New Jersey.

You’ll notice that he is living in the household of Thomas Bellanger, who is living with a Martha Bellanger, relationship unknown. Also living at the house are Sallie Thomas and Annie Gates.  Sallie is a domestic servant, and Annie and Elmer are living at home.

A search of the 1860 census in Burlington County shows no other likely candidates who can be George.

It’s interesting that both Annie and Elmer are listed as “at home” and not as servants. Were Sallie, Annie and Elmer related to Thomas? Sallie could be Elmer’s mother, but she would have been 17 when she had him and probably around 16 when she got married (if she married). 

I could not find marriage records that included a likely candidate for Sallie in the early 1860s, and I can’t find a Sallie Thomas in the 1860 Burlington, New Jersey census. And there are too many Sallie/Sally/Susan’s in the 1860 census of that age to pick one that might be her per-marriage.

I’d suggest next that you investigate the four people living in the household that George Elmer lived in. If you can find marriage records for Burlington County in the 1860s you could try to track down Sallie to see if she is in there. 

You may also consider contacting the Burlington County Historical Society. They may have additional suggestions on where you could locate birth and marriage information for that period.

I’m also guessing that some of our readers who are more familiar with New Jersey genealogy records than I am will have some suggestions.

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: New Ways to Use Your Hints

One of the many advantages of having a tree online at or on Family Tree Maker or one of our downloadable apps is that you can take advantage of our hints.  While you are away we are out searching for you.

And now we have a new way for you to access those hints: the All Hints Page

If you are on a tree view online, mouse over the find a person in your tree text box and choose List of all people

Then when you see the all people in your tree, click on “Hints”

You will now see your All Hints Page.

You can then click on Recent to see the latest hints we’ve found, or click on Records to see just the Record hints.  Photos, Stories and Member Trees do pretty much what you expect.

Let’s say you’ve clicked on Record.  You can then sort by  Last Name, or First Name, or you can enter a name and filter that way as well.

Explore a little and then check back as we continue to make improvements.

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: How do I build a Family Census Table

OK, this wasn’t a specific question, but inspired by reading the comments of my previous article: Are These The Same People? In that post, I built what I call a Family Census Table that I used to determine who was in the family and when.

Maybe it will be useful to do a few examples of what you might include, and also talk about what you can do with the information once you’ve collected it.

Let’s do our first example with my great great grandparents Jeremiah and Mary Gillespie.

I’ll build a table in Excel, but you can do it in word, on a piece of paper, or whatever makes sense.  In this first, example I’m going to work through, I’m not going to include place, but we will in later examples:

Now let’s find the 1880 census and record what we see.

Harriet was listed as a daughter, and George and Paul as sons.  There are big gaps between the children, so there very well may be other children.

On to 1870.

OK, there are some serious discrepancies here!  But let’s collect all four and then think about them.

And now for 1860:

No George.  And this is the first we’ve seen of Sarah. One more, let’s look at 1850:

OK.  Now what do we do with this somewhat confusing information?  Let’s start with a list of questions that we might have by looking at this family.

  1. Are the Mary in 1880 and the Ann in 1870 the same person as the Mary E in 1860 and 1850?
  2. Why is George listed as a son of Jeremiah in 1880, but not in the household in 1860?  He should have been 4.
  3. What happened to Sarah?  She should have been about 10 in 1870, too young to be married.  Where is she?
  4. Where are James and William in 1880?
  5. Jeremiah and Mary are no where to be found in 1900, did they die between 1880 and 1900?
  6. Can we find Harriet, James, William, George and Paul in 1900?

In the next post, I’ll talk about where you might want to go next with this research and how to get there.

If you put every family you are working on in a table like this, I guarantee that you will look at it and start asking questions. And that is the best way to get answers. :-)

Ask Ancestry Anne: Just Because It Looks Wrong, Doesn't Mean You Shouldn't Look

I was doing a bit of research for a friend on an ancestor named Amos Owens.  He was born in Rutherford, North Carolina, about 1821, and he died there in 1906.  All of his census records are in Rutherford, but I couldn’t find one for him there in 1880.

One result did pop up for him, but the residence, was Albany, New York.  It just didn’t seem right.  But a negative fine is just as important as a positive find, so I took a look:

He was a prisoner in the Albany County Penitentiary.  Turns out Amos made more than a bit of moonshine in North Carolina.

Always look in the expected places first.  But if those don’t pan out, start to open your search.  You just never know what might be hiding in your family tree. :-)

Happy Searching

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #20: Look for Family Members

Can’t find George Smith but his brother is Hezekiah Smith?  Well go look for Hezekiah.  Looking for the uncommon names in a family can be more fruitful than those pesky common names.

Who were your ancestor’s siblings and parents?

Maybe there are living with Grandparents, Cousins, or Aunts and Uncles.

And if that doesn’t work, try searching for Neighbors in the previous or successive census.  Maybe they are there, but the transcription is not matching your search.

Previous tip: Search Tip #19: Last or First Name

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne