By Pattie Morgan
I have been seriously researching my family tree since about 1991. One of my more challenging subjects has been my great-grandfather, George W. Morgan. Two things about this man remained elusive: documentation linking him to his parents and the facts regarding his death. After more than twenty years of doing genealogy, I found both within a short time of each other.
The first thing I found was documentation linking George to his parents. Not long after I began doing genealogy, a relative told me who George’s parents were. I began researching George’s reported parents but could not find the documentation I sought. Finally, in 2014, I decided to revisit the marriage record of my great-grandparents. I went to Family Search and pulled up the image of the marriage record. I examined the record carefully. No mention of parents at all, even though the index information listed George’s parents. Then I remembered something someone had said. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, try going forward one page or back one page. I decided to try forward first. There it was. The documentation linking George to his reported parents! George was under the age of 21 when he married so he needed permission from his parents and the next page was a document signed by his parents giving consent to the marriage
The search for George’s death record proved to be more difficult. I had no idea of when or where George died. He is with my great-grandmother and the children on the 1900 census but he is not with them on the 1910 census.
I looked at the trees some of my relatives have on Ancestry. Many have George dying in Memphis, Tennessee, on 23 February 1936. I went to the site for the Shelby County Register of Deeds and searched the death records. No George Morgan dying on that date.
Since my great-grandmother and the children were living in Washington in 1910, I went to Genealogy Bank and ran a search for George Morgan in that state. I didn’t find anything regarding his death but I struck gold anyway. I found articles regarding the divorce of my great-grandparents and George’s involvement with the woman who became his second wife. I knew I found the correct George because I located the record for his second marriage and it had his parents’ names. Further research revealed that they divorced before 1910.
I decided to cast a very wide net and searched for George Morgan on the 1910 census. I found a likely candidate living in Portland, Oregon. This George was married to a woman named Bertha. His estimated birth year was one year after what I had as my great-grandfather’s birth year; however, his birthplace as well as the birthplaces of his parents matched. I searched the Oregon death index for a George Morgan with a spouse named Bertha. No hits. I then searched for a William Morgan with a spouse named Bertha (George also used the name William G. Morgan). Bingo!
I then searched for an obituary, death notice, funeral notice, etc. I found an after-the-fact notice about services for a W. G. Morgan. I contacted the funeral home via e-mail and their response confirmed I had found my great-grandfather. The volunteer specifically named one of George’s daughters as well as one of his sisters. Not long after that I went to the vital records office and picked up George’s death certificate as well as the record for his first marriage to Bertha (it appears the first marriage ended in divorce and they remarried in Idaho).
There you have it. While I may still need some documentation for George, the two major roadblocks I had no longer exist. This goes to show that with time and patience you can break down a brick wall. While it is true that there are some times when you won’t be able to get past a brick wall due to the fact that certain records don’t exist, don’t give up hope. New records are becoming available on line and one of them just might be the one you need to get through that brick wall.