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Those Elusive Edes

Genealogy Essays:

Recording Adoptions
How do you draw adopted children in a family tree? (2011)

Those Elusive Edes
9 lessons learned about finding people in the census. (2009)

The Joys of Inveterate Button Pushing (2004)

Who's Your Daddy?
Genealogy versus family history. (2004)

Suspicion Meters
Your program doesn't have one, but you do. (2004)

Estimating Dates (2002)

A cautionary tale (2002)

Count Your Blessings
1988 and now (2002)

The Grand Chase
How my individuals connect (2002)

What makes a family? (2001)

A genalogical detective story (2000)

Eben J. Cady
Musing about a tombstone (2000)

Related Sections:
Main Genealogy Page
Beginning Genealogy
Intermediate Genealogy
Biography questions

Other Sections:
Christmas Letters
Misc. Essays
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    I once took a class in Biology of the Sierra Nevada. During a lecture about the fish who live in its lakes and streams, our professor told us that only 3% of all hatchery trout live for more than a year after they are released into the wild. Fisherman catch some; bears, raccoons, otters, martins, eagles and ospreys eat others, and the rest don't have the survival instincts of their native cousins, so they die during the winter. He added that the trout stamps we Californians buy for our fishing licenses pay for the entire hatchery and planting program; indeed, that particular division of the Fish and Wildlife Department usually returns a slight surplus. I raised my hand and asked, why, if that was the case, didn't they just sell the trout by the pound at the hatchery gate, to streamline the process?

There was a pause. The professor looked at me as if I had interrupted a discussion of last year's World Series to ask why grown men would want to hit small white balls with wooden clubs. "That would take the sport out of it", he said, curtly.

Genealogy is a sport too. I sometimes compare it to fly- fishing. They are both obscure hobbies. We don't always find the ancestor we're after; they don't land a trout with every cast. We try different approaches; they try different flies. This is a detailed description of how I landed an elusive ancestor. There are some lessons here in looking people up on the census.

I started with a woman named Estelle, born about 1906 in Nevada, who married Merle Mensinger in California about 1925. I knew from records that her maiden name was "Ede". It looks like a mis-print, but two of her children's birth records and her death records all spelled it "Ede". Who were Estelle Ede's parents?

I subscribe to the Ancestry.com census images. They are indexed by name, but the names went through three hands. The person in question, or someone nearby, told the enumerator. The enumerator wrote it down, and someone transcribed the enumerator's handwriting.

There are three tricks to help us search.

"Soundex", which means the computer looks for matches based on the sound of a name, not the spelling. If you turn on "Soundex" and ask for people named Pack, you get people named Pack, Park, Pock, Pach and so on. Soundex is a Godsend if your ancestors used "Mathews", "Matthews" and "Mathis" interchangeably.

Wild cards, which is an asterisk in many genealogy search engines, not just the Ancestry census images. Asking for "Ann*" means you want to see any name that starts with those three letters; Ann, Anna, Anne, Annie, Annabelle and so on.

The third is date range. If you ask to see anyone born in 1867 with a date range of 5, you will get people born 1862 - 1872. I use a date range of 5 as a matter of course. In all of the search arguments mentioned below, if I mention a birth year, it is a birth year with a date range of 5.

Back to Estelle. Since she married in 1925, she should be on the census as Estelle Ede in 1910 and 1920. I can't find her in either census, so I look in the 1910 for anyone named Ede, born 1900 - 1910, in Nevada. I find this family in Reno Ward 6, Washoe, Nevada:

(Name, age, relation, Birth Place, father's BP, mother's BP, occupation, industry)

Phillip Ede, 30, Head, Nev, England, England, laborer, Livery stable
Sophie Ede, 21, Wife, Nev, Sweden, Sweden
Theodore Ede, 1 and 7/12ths, Nev, Nev, Nev
Stella Ede, 4, Nev, Nev, Nev

If she was four in 1910, her birth year was 1906. That fits. "Ede" is such a rare surname, "Stella" is so common a variant on "Estelle", Stella's age was so close and there were so few people in Nevada that I assume this was my Estelle.

Lesson 1: Try the surname without the given name, if you can add in other facts.

Next, I look for "Stella Ede", any birth year, any state, in 1920. Here she is in 1920, in California, just across the state line from Reno in Beckwourth Township, Plumas, California:

(Name, age, relation, Birth Place, father's BP, mother's BP, occupation)

Philip Ede, 41, Head, Calif, England, Onewanri, farming
Stella Ede, 31, wife, Calif, Switz/Italian, Switz/Italian
Sophia Ede, 14, dau, Calif, Calif, Calif
Tradose Ede, 11, son, Calif, Calif, Calif

Lesson 2: If someone uses a nickname in one census, they may use it in another.

You will note some problems. The enumerator switched Stella and Sophia's names, but not their ages or relations. Sophia is the 31-year old wife, Stella the 14-year old daughter. The enumerator spelled "Theodore", the 11-year old son, "Tradore" and the transcriber thought it was "Tradose". Philip's mother's birthplace, "Onewanri", isn't a state or nation on this planet. "Switzerland" and "Sweden" are not the same country.

On the good side, the names, ages match and their own birthplaces match what I found in 1910.

Lesson 3: Don't expect all the facts to be accurate all the time. Look for patterns; in this case, a family with Philip, Sophia, Stella and Theodore.

Now I have parents for Estelle Ede Mensinger; who were Philip's parents?

One of the one-line databases I use is the Roots Web California Death Index, with over 8 million people who died 1940 - 1997.

Philip Ede is there. His birth date is 1878. His mother's maiden name was Gleason. He died in Oakdale in 1956, which meant his obituary might be in the Modesto Bee, on microfilm at the library. Sure enough:

Ede - in Oakdale, February 9th, Philip Emerson Ede; husband of Sophy L. Ede of Oakdale; father of Theodore S. Ede of Reno, Nev. and Estelle R. Mensinger of Escalon; brother of Mrs. Estelle B. Brook of Los Altos. Two grandchildren and one great grandchild also survive. A native of Nevada aged 77.

If Philip was 77 when he died in 1956, he was born in 1879. The Philip on the census was 30 in 1910 (1880) and 41 in 1920 (1879). Those dates are close enough to show that the Philip I found in Reno in 1910 and Plumas County in 1920 was the one on the California Death Index and Estelle's father, as I assumed.

Lesson 4: Use other resources to verify what you find on the census.

I'm on a roll, and I have two names to work with - Philip and his sister Estelle, mentioned in Philip's obituary. She is on the California Death Index too; she died in 1961. Her father's surname was Ede and her mother's name was Gleason, just like Philip's, so the Estelle Brook I found on the death index is almost certainly Philip's brother. More importantly, she was born in 1872. With Philip born in 1879 and his sister Estelle born in 1872, I should be able to find them as children on the 1880, and find their parents.

I switch from Ancestry.com to the free 1880 census. Tens of thousands of Mormon volunteers, working over 17 years, transcribed the 1880 US census and gave it to the world for free via their web site,

In some ways it is easier to use than Ancestry. In others it isn't. Neither Philip Ede nor Estelle Ede are there, by those names.

I go back to Ancestry.com. They have a page that lets you look for a given name across all the census years. I try "Estelle Brook*". I got just one, a lady born 1903 Texas. She isn't the one I want.

I try two wild cards, "Estell* Brook*", in all censuses and find this family in 1920 in San Jose, Santa Clara, California:

Joseph T Brooks, 55, head, Missouri, Ire, Tenn
Estella B Brooks, 47, wife, Calif, Eng, Ire
Phillip Brooks, 17, son, Calif, Mo, Calif
Bernice Brooks, 15, dau, Calif, Mo, Calif
Everitt Ede, 15, nephew, Nev, Calif, Nev

Lesson 5: Try variations on the given name.

"Everitt" is a nephew. Joseph's sister could have married an Ede, but chances are Everitt is the son of Estella's brother. If I can find him with his father, I'll have another sibling.

I try Eve* Ede, born 1905, in the 1910 census. Bingo! Here they are in Huffaker Township, Washoe, Nevada:

Jerry Ede, 43, head
Mary Ede, 39, wife
Jessie Leahey or Ede, 20, Son
Harry Leahey or Ede, 18, son
Milo Ede, 12, son
Kenneth Ede, 10, son
Warren Ede, 8, son
Everett Ede, 5, son
Adna Pion, 21, hired hand

The index tells me the two oldest boys surname is Leahey or Ede. If it is Leahey, but their relationship is "Son", chances are Jerry married a widow with two kids sometime after 1882, when Harry was born, and before 1898, when Milo was born.

Now I have three children; Jerry, born 1867, Estelle born 1872 and Philip born 1878. If I can find any one of them, I may find Philip's parents. I go back to the LDS 1880 and look for Jerry Ede born about 1867. I find just one, in Freetown, Cortland, New York. He isn't the one I want.

I try Ancestry's version of the 1880 and a wild card, looking for "Jer* Ede", born 1867, and I turn on "Soundex". I get three hits:

Jerome Eddy, Geneva, Ontario, NY, 1869, New York
Jeremiah P. Eddy, Lincoln, Providence, RI, 1870, Rhode Island
Jerome W. Eddy, East Saginaw, Saginaw, MI, 1863 Maine

None of them look good; our Jerry was born in California.

I try the 1920 for Jer* Ede born 1867 - no matches.

I take another tack. "Jerry" can be short for many names. "Mary" can't, although many a "Mary Margaret" will switch to "Margaret Mary" to throw pesky genealogists off their trail. I search 1920 for Mary Ede, born 1871. I get these six:

(Name, Parent or spouse names, Home, Birth Year, Birthplace, Relation)

Mary Ede, Jared E, Indian, Plumas, California, 1872, Nevada, Wife
Mary W Ede, (none), Stockton, San Joaquin, California, 1870, Connecticut, Inmate
Mary Ede, William, Painesville Ward 3, Lake, Ohio, 1870, Ohio, Wife
Mary Ede, Louis, James, Elkland, Tioga, Penn, 1871, New York, Wife
Mary Ede, Ole, Mayfield, Yankton, South Dakota, 1876 Norway, Wife
Mary J Ide, Matt, Marengo, Ashland, Wisconsin, 1876, Finland, Wife

Mary and Jared, the first entry in the list, are just over the state line from Washoe County, Nevada where I found "Jerry" and Mary in 1910.

Lesson 6: Don't always try for the head of household.

Here is the family in Indian Twp, Plumas, California in 1920:

Jared E Ede, 52, head, Cal, Eng, Ire
Mary Ede, 48, wife, Nev, Penn, Ill
Kenneth R Ede, 20, son, Nev, Cal, Nev
Warren H Ede, 18, son, Nev, Cal, Nev

Next I look in the 1900 for Jar* Ede. Here he is, in Reno, Washoe, Nevada:

Jared Ede, 30, head, Sept 1869, Cal, Wisc, Wisc, teamster
Mary Ede, 28, wife, Feb 1872, Nev, Wisc, Mich
Jessie Ede, 10, Dau, Mch 1890, Nev, Cal, Nev
Harry Ede, 8, son, Apr 1892, Cal, Cal, Nev
Milo Ede, 3, son, July 1896, Nev, Cal, Nev
Kenneth Ede, 11/12ths, June 1899, Nev, Cal, Nev

Lesson 7: Look in as many years as you can.

Lesson 8: While rare names are often easier to find than common ones, they can mislead you,too.

Jared, Mary and Kenneth's ages in 1900 are close enough to the family I found in 1920 that I can be sure it is the same family and, More importantly, that "Jerry" in 1910 is really "Jared" in 1900 and 1920. Note that "Jared" won't show up in a wild card search for "Jer", although Jerome, Jerald and Jeremiah, my first guesses, would.

(Remember, I'm trying to find Jared's parents to find his brother Philip's parents. If I was a fisherman, I'd be casting a very wide pattern.)

Back to 1880; this time I use Ancestry for Jar* Ede, born 1867, with Soundex, and find him in Huffakers Township, Washoe, Nevada:

Stephen Edi, self, M, Male, W, 39, Eng, Farmer, Eng, Eng
Elinor Edi, wife, M, Female, W, 37, Ire, Keeping House, Ire, Ire
Alice Edi, Dau, S, Female, W, 16, Wy Ter., House Keeper, Eng, Ire
Rosa Edi, Dau, S, Female, W, 14, Ca, Attending School, Eng, Ire
Jared Edi, son, S, Male, W, 12, Ca, Attending School, Eng, Ire
S. E. Edi, son, S, Male, W, 11, Ca, Attending School, Eng, Ire
John Edi, son, S, Male, W, 9, Ca, Attending School, Eng, Ire
Estella Edi, Dau, S, Female, W, 8, Ca, Attending School, Eng, Ire
Nellie Edi, Dau, S, Female, W, 6, Ca, Attending School, Eng, Ire
Robert Edi, son, S, Male, W, 4, Ca, Eng, Ire
Philip Edi, son, S, Male, W, 1, Nv, Eng, Ire

There are Jared, born 1868, Estella, born 1872 and Philip, born 1879, neat as you please. I've found Philip's parents and 8 of his siblings. Notice that the Mormon Soundex calculator and the Ancestry one have different rules. This family doesn't show up in the Mormon 1880 census when you search for "Ede" with the Soundex option. If you use "Edi" they pop right up.

Lesson 9: Keep trying.

It took me two hours after I brought Philip's obituary home, but genealogy wouldn't be much of a challenge if people always used the same names and spelled them the same way. Now - who were Stephen's parents?

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This page updated: June 21, 2014