My 2nd great-grand Aunt accidentally fell into my lap this week…or is she really my Uncle? Confusing, yes?

Francis Edwards 1860 US Census Index

courtesy FamilySearch.org

When I started down my bumpy genealogy road a few years ago, I began with this line of the family. I dutifully entered the siblings of my 2x g-grandmother into my family tree. Francis was a one year old in the 1860 census index at Family Search.

Her gender is listed as female, both in the index above, and the US Census below:

~courtesy Ancestry.com

courtesy Ancestry.com

Plainly there’s an F in the gender/sex column, so she was labeled female in my tree.

Note to self: Never take anything for granted when doing research. And especially don’t trust an index! Everyone makes occasional mistakes, always check the original document. Even enumerators made errors.

In my early blissful ignorance, I never even noticed that at age 12 in the next census (1870), Francis was listed as a male. I made an assumption based on one record: Francis = female.

Francis Edwards 1870 US Census

courtesy Ancestry.com

And that was the end of Francis, for I could find nothing else after 1870. I eventually decided that she must have died in childhood. Thus she has sat on a back genealogy shelf for quite a while, patiently waiting for the truth to be discovered.

Recently Ancestry sent me an email saying that her father, Asa Edwards, had a new hint. Asa has also been an enigma because I haven’t been able to trace back any farther in his line. So I excitedly checked his hint, only to find it was a State of Washington Death Record Index.

As far as I knew, Asa died in Wisconsin. I found his Record of Death in Wisconsin at Family Search and Ancestry. And he’s buried in Wisconsin. So why did Ancestry throw me a State of Washington Death Record?

Closer inspection showed me it was a child of Asa Edwards who died: Francis Maxwell Edwards, Gender: Male.

Shaking my head I’m thinking, not my relative! Must be someone else with the same father’s name. Ah, so  many newbie errors…

Nope, I am wrong. Mother’s given name matches. Mother’s maiden name closely matches (they have Ward, it’s Wood). Birth state matches. Even approximate year of birth matches.

Courtesy Washington State Archives

courtesy Washington State Archives

After more digging, I discovered I had missed the male designation in the 1870 census…duh! Then I found Francis in the 1880 census. How this eluded me is a mystery! That also listed him as male. There’s a pattern emerging here.

  • 1860 US Census: age 1, Stockton, Jo Daviess, Illinois, USA
  • 1870 US Census: age 12, Exeter, Green, Wisconsin, USA
  • 1878 WI Marriage Record: age 20, to Nancy Estella Moffitt, Twin Grove, Green, Wisconsin, USA
  • 1880 US Census: age 22, Jefferson, Green, Wisconsin, USA
  • 1900 US Census: age 42, Bergen, Marathon, Wisconsin, USA
  • 1915 Kansas Census: age 57, Wichita, Sedgwick, Kansas, USA
  • 1920 US Census: age 62, Parker, Yakima, Washington, USA
  • 1930 US Census: age 72, Wenatchee, Chelan, Washington, USA
  • 1940 US Census: age 81, Norden, Snohomish, Washington, USA
  • 1949 WA Death: age 90, Walla Walla, Walla Walla, Washington, USA

Look what that Ancestry hint helped me find! I learned details are important. And if you miss or overlook those details, it’s not so good.

So I filled in a lot of missing puzzle pieces. I discovered my Aunt was really my Uncle! Who knows what genealogy puzzle piece will fall into my lap next.