~ The Inquiry ~
In a message from “Lynn,” I received the following inquiry about two historical Virginia families:
Looking for the parents of William F Stephens and/or his wife, Elizabeth Frances Cash.
- According to a family Bible, William was born in Virginia 15 November 1822.
- The same Bible indicates Elizabeth being born in Virginia 1 April 1832.
- They married in Shenandoah County 15 April 1851 according to the family Bible
- But the database, Virginia Marriages 1851-1929, on Ancestry.com has the date as 27 June 1851.
Census data –
- 1860 and 1870 census, they are found in District 1, Allegany County, Maryland
- In 1880 they are located in Oakland, Garrett, Maryland.
Their children are as follows
- David Alexander Stephens(1853 Virginia-1941Maryland)
- Mary Ann Stephens Kisner (1856 Virginia – 1935 Maryland)
- Ellen Frances Stephens Kisner (1860 Maryland – ?)
- Margaret Stephens (1863Maryland-1907Maryland)
- William McKee Stephens (1867Maryland – ?)
- John Wesley Stephens (1871Maryland – 1954 Virginia)
- Isaac Lorentz Stephens (1875Maryland – ?)
- Carrie Elizabeth Stephens (1880 Maryland – 1889 Maryland).
- William’s death occurred 2 August 1895 in Oaklnd, Garrett, Maryland as a result of drowning after having gone missing for a week or so.
- Elizabeth is then located in the 1900 census in Ward 10, Baltimore City, Maryland living with her son, John and a grandson Charles Stephens (son of Ellen).
- In 1910, Elizabeth is enumerated with her son, John’s family in Staunton, Virginia, Ward 1. I have not found her in later censuses so I assume she died between 1910 and 1920. It is unknown as to whether she was living in Virginia with her son, John, or if she was just visiting.
I believe that I found Elizabeth Cash in the 1850 census enumerated with the family of Christian Comer living in District 58, Shenandoah County, Virginia. On ancestry, she is indexed as Cark instead of Cash. I have also found other Cash/Cark/Carsh children/young adults in the county in 1850, Mary, Margaret, and Isaac. I have wondered if they are siblings whose parents died and were living in other households. Isaac is with a Henry who is of the age that he could be a grandfather.
There are too many William Stephens/Stevens in Virginia in 1850 to narrow down any one person as being the correct one.
~ My Response ~
Looking at this inquiry, I see a lot of reliance on records that are available online. Whenever someone hits the proverbial “brick wall” in their research, the first thing I ask is, “Have you looked offline, too?”
To find out what records offline might tell Lynn more about William and Elizabeth’s parentage, I recommend that she:
- Identify offline records for both the state of Virginia and the counties where Elizabeth/William may have lived and left a paper trail. There are *so* many different records out there that are not yet online, but which can answer this question! You can identify these records at the Virginia research guide from FamilySearch. The FamilySearch guide tells you not only where and how to find Virginia’s online and offline historical records, but you can also click on the counties you want to research, and those county names take you to a county-specific page with more record locations
- Check the Redbook for any other Virginia records you may have missed. Click here for their Virginia chapter.
- Keep an inventory of sources you have searched for records that might list parents. Once you have searched ALL the available record types, if you still haven’t found her parents mentioned in a record, we can go back to the drawing board. But for now, the best way to inventory your sources searched is with a records checklist, like the one, below, from the Midwest Genealogy Center:
- Apply the above checklist in a search for all of Elizabeth and William’s siblings. In my experience, the best way to find missing parents is by pulling all of a sibling’s records. %95 of the time I find one or both parents listed in the records of a sibling!
After doing this, if you still haven’t found Elizabeth or William’s parents, please contact me via the comments section here below, and we can try adding other strategies, depending on what you find. Actually, I’d like to hear from you even if you find them–then maybe I can add your results to a new “success stories” thread.
Good luck–I can’t wait to hear how it goes! 🙂