Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picking Up a Cold Trail

In police or detective work, there are often “cold” cases, mysteries that go unsolved. Sometimes it is years later when new technology or new information is discovered that the case gets re-opened for investigation. The same type of situation occurs in researching genealogy sometimes.
Case in point: I am currently working on revamping my write-up of Granny Westfall’s ancestry and I was thinking of how way back when I hit the end of the trail in trying to get a death certificate on Wilhelmina Lepper Smith. Granny had given me information on Wilhelmina including her date of death and even had a photograph of her. An early attempt to find information online led me to a gentleman by the name of Rick Huff who had a considerable amount of information on the Lepper family of Canada. Things seemed to match up as he had a Wilhelmina in his records with similar information as what I had on Granny’s Wilhelmina, as shown in the following table (sources listed in parentheses):
    Wilhelmina Lepper                                       Wilhelmina Lepper
   wife of Eliud Smith                                   daughter of George Lepper

born 4 June 1842                                    born about 1840 (age 11 on 1851
     (tombstone)                                          census in George's household)

born in Ontario, Canada                         born in Vaughan township of
   (son's death certificate)                          Ontario (1851 census)

lived in Thorold, Ontario                         of Thorold, Ontario 
    (son Eliud's birth registration)                 (pedigree chart)

had a brother named Robert                  had a brother named Robert

Irish                                                        parents came from Ireland
    (interview w/granddaughter)               (information from Rick Huff)

I wanted further proof of her parentage so I sent away for a copy of her death certificate through the vital records office in Ontario. I was unsuccessful because, according to the form letter I received back, the information I provided didn’t exactly match what was on file in their database. I was at a loss as to what to do next. How was I going to find out exactly how it was listed in the database? Did I spell her name incorrectly, or was it spelled incorrectly in the database? End of the trail. I had circumstantial evidence but not the proof I was looking for.
Fast forward roughly ten years or more. started a pilot program for digitized records and included the Ontario Death Registrations from 1867 to 1937. Smith is such a common name, even in Canada, but at least I was concerned with only the province of Ontario and not the entire country. And I found Mina Smith (which is the reason Wilhelmina Smith didn’t match) listing her parents as George Lepper and Mary Valentine.
Just the parents I had suspected her to have; only now I have proof.

Wilhelmina Lepper Smith (4 June 1842-19 March 1932)
wife of Eliud Smith, daughter of George Lepper & Mary Valentine

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