Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Finding the Missing Children

One of my favorite parts of family history is when I am able to find all the “lost children”.  In other words; some children are never found with their parents in the census records and therefore, they are lost!

For instance, if little Susie is born in 1881 and she marries before 1900, you would likely not find her in any census with her family and she might be overlooked. (The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire in 1921)

Or if little David was born in 1853 and died before 1860, you would not find him listed with his family either.  And so, many children are “lost” in this way.

I have come up with a method that helps to find some of these lost children.  It is not fool proof, but it certainly is a start.

First, I find all the censuses for any given family.  In particular, if you can find the female (mother) listed in the 1900 or the 1910 census, then you will notice that there were 2 special questions asked to women:  How many children have you had? and How many of those children are living?

The 1900 census asks these questions in columns 11 and 12.  The 1910 census asks them in columns 10 and 11.  From these numbers, you may be able to deduce how many children you have yet to “find”.

1910 Federal Census for "Margarett Cole", Harlan, Kentucky

In my case, I was able to see that Margaret had 12 children, but only 6 were living.  At that time, I only had 6 children listed on my family group sheet.  Going back to each census, I found a daughter named Victoria that only shows up with her family in one census before she died.  I later learned that there was no birth or death record for Victoria either.  If I had not seen her on this one census, I would have never known she existed.  I did not find any of the other missing children listed on other censuses, however I had another trick up my sleeve.

Next, I like to do 2 special searches on  These work particularly well if your mother lived in only one or two areas.  In my case, Margaret lived in Harlan, Kentucky and Lee County, Virginia. By going to the Kentucky birth records directly, you can do a search for anyone with the last name of Cole, born in Harlan (county) with parents named Jacob and Margaret.  You do this by going to “Search” and clicking on the map on the right.  Then choose “Kentucky”.  

screen shot from

You will notice many available databases for Kentucky.  I then choose “Kentucky Birth and Christenings”.

I put in a last name only (Cole), a county (Harlan), and parents (Jacob and Margaret with no last names).  I have noticed that in this case, Jacob sometimes went by Jake.  After I have searched under the name of “Jacob”, I go back and search with the father’s name as “Jake”.

I did not find any children that I didn't already know about.

Next, I go back to my list of all the Kentucky databases and choose the “Kentucky Death Records” and do a search for anyone with the last name of Cole who died in Harlan, with parents named Jacob and Margaret (or use Jake in place of Jacob).

I did not find any of the missing children.

Then I will check “Kentucky Marriage Records”.  I am looking for a daughter or son that may have married, especially for those children born in the early years of 1880 and married before 1900.  Using the same search criteria, use the last name of Cole, place of Harlan, and parent’s first names.

In all my Kentucky searches, I found no "missing children".  However, when I did the exact same searches in the Virginia databases I found this:

screenshot from FamilySearch

(Note:  Upon further research, I found that the little boy John, born 1884 and died 1887, was actually the son of Jacob and first wife, Kizzie Eldridge Cole.  Kizzie died sometime after 1884 and at the time of this child's death, Jacob had remarried to Margaret.)

Another way of finding lost children can be in biographical sketches.  These can many times be found online at google books.  I find them by going to Google Books and typing in a keyword search of “Harlan County, Kentucky History” or “Lee County, Virginia History”. 

Choose a book you are interested in viewing.  Books that have “read” are available for you to see online.  Once you click on the book, you will be able to view the book virtually.  You can do a search for the surname you are interested in by typing it in the search box to the left.

I did a search for a Fred Greear from Wise County, Virginia.  Within his biographical sketch, it listed seven of his eight children by name.

Screen shot from for page 245 of "A Narrative History of Wise County, Virginia", by Charles A. Johnson

Biographical sketches can also be located in newspapers.  I was researching my Walls family line in Pike County, Ohio when I stumbled across a newspaper article in which my fourth great grandmother was being interviewed.  According to my research, she had 9 children.  Within this interview, she listed all 11 of her children by name, their spouses, and how many children they each had!  What a find!!

As we go back further in time, it may be harder to find these lost little ones, but using some of these techniques could help you root them out!  Look to see if you might be missing some children on your family tree.  Happy Hunting!!