A Surprise Found While Researching My Brick Wall

Breaking open a genealogy brick wall is like opening a gift

Breaking wall busting can frustrate the most experience research. Sometimes, you uncover surprises while researching can lift your spirits and keep you hungry for more!

The Brick Wall Cracked

This is the last in the series of discoveries an amazing volunteer blessed me with before Christmas. To sum up, I posted a query about the brick wall of my grandmother Louise Long’s birth mother, Agnes Anderson. A volunteer named Shelly found a second informant on Agnes’s death and then set out to find out who this person was.

The previous posts detailed how we learned the informant was Robinson Peter Sparks (sometimes called Richard P Sparks or Peter Sparks). He is Agnes’s uncle through her mother, Amanda Sparks Anderson. I also left off saying that Shelley had one more surprise for me, and for me, it’s a doozy.

According to Agnes’s death record, her parents are Wm Anderson of Missouri and Amanda Sparks of Missouri. However, after tracking Agnes through the census records, I discovered her father was from Sweden and her mother from Ohio. By connecting Amanda to her brother Robinson Peter Sparks in 1870, I further establish her birth in Ohio.

A New Research Question

After researching Agnes, I turned my attention to her mother, Agnes. Where would I find Amanda in the 1880 US Census?

Agnes wasn’t born for another year, perhaps in Evansville, Missouri. So, would Amanda be in Ohio or Missouri?

I found Amanda Sparks in the home of Nathaniel Pitney and Elizabeth Pitney. She’s their daughter and works doing housekeeping.

1880 Census Place; Amanda Sparks in the home of Nathaniel Pitney

Year: 1880; Census Place: Bonne Femme, Howard, Missouri; Roll: 690; Family History Film: 1254690; Page: 215B; Enumeration District: 092; Image: 0647; Household 212, Amanda Sparks in the home of Nathaniel Pitney

This record takes Amanda and places her in Missouri; however, the record implies that Nathaniel Pitney is her father. If he was her father, why does she have the last name Sparks? Elizabeth Jane matches the names found on Amanda’s brother George’s death record shown in a previous post.

I did a quick search (and so did Shelly), and we both discovered an Elizabeth Weekly married a Nathaniel Pitney in 1876 in Licking County. When looking at the 1870 US Census once again (see it here), Jane Sparks appears in the head of household spots, and no husband appears listed. If her husband were gone, then she would likely remarry.

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Thus, Amanda Sparks, in 1880, is really the daughter of Elizabeth and the step-daughter of Nathaniel. The subtle detail that I didn’t show in this post is that Amanda’s parents' birthplaces line up with what was discovered in the 1870 US Census. One was from Virginia (her father), and one was from Ohio (her mother). This is reflected in this 1880 record as well. Nathaniel was born in Ohio, not Virginia. So, the step-father theory holds.

A search of Nathaniel’s background has him growing up in Licking but moving to Missouri in adulthood. Nathaniel seems to have gone back to Ohio and married Elizabeth, then moved mother and daughter to Missouri with him.

Ready for the Fun Surprise?

William Anderson in the 1880 household of Daniel Nelson

Year: 1880; Census Place: Bonne Femme, Howard, Missouri; Roll: 690; Family History Film: 1254690; Page: 215B; Enumeration District: 092; Image: 0647; Household 207, William Anderson in the household of Daniel Nelson

Did you figure it out?

Look at the citation.

Both of these images are from the same census page! Amanda’s household is # 212, and William Anderson’s is #207.

And guess where he’s from! Yep. Sweden!!!!

Placing William Anderson of Sweden and Amanda Anderson of Ohio in Missouri, where their daughter Agnes Anderson is born, solves the ‘how would the meet’ question. They were in the same community!

This Additional Clue to Agnes’ Brick Wall Blew My Mind

This nugget absolutely blew my mind. It made all the other pieces of the research puzzle snap into focus. I had been looking at the wrong pieces of information for so long. With a fresh pair of eyes and a huge case of curiosity, a birth parent’s family was discovered, and there is plenty of evidence to support it.

Bonne Femme, Howard, Missouri, is 170 miles east of Evansville, Missouri, where Agnes was born in 1881. In 1900, Agnes was found 300 miles east of her birthplace and working as a servant in St Louis. Eventually, she moves another 450 miles east to Newark, Licking, Ohio. Agnes’s migration is the reverse of her mother’s track west. Her path is back towards her Sparks relatives, namely her uncle Robison Peter Sparks. When Agnes settles in the Newark area, her uncle R P Sparks is only about 8 miles away in St Louisville.

Answers to Questions About Agnes Found

For years, I wondered why Agnes would move from Missouri to Ohio when she didn’t seem to have family around. I still have not discovered what became of her parents William and Amanda, and why Agnes is in St Louis, once again seemingly alone, in 1900. But now, I can surmise that she moved to where her extended family was.

With this census record, I also have a time frame for when Agnes’s parents met and may have married (if they did). The marriage would likely be between 1800-1881 in Missouri. They could have married in Howard County or near Evansville. The golden ticket is if the marriage record says William Anderson of Sweden. Then I’ll know I have the right couple, given that William and Amanda Anderson are not entirely uncommon.

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10 Online Genealogy Resources You Have to Try

Eagerly, I searched online to see if a marriage record would quickly be uncovered, similar to Amanda’s mother’s marriage to Nathaniel Pitney. Alas, the luck has run out, and more digging is needed. Having Ohio ancestors with easily accessible online records has spoiled me so much. Other locations require a little more grit.

I also wish, for the bazillionth time, that the 1890 US Census was not destroyed. It might have a clue as to what happened to Agnes’s parents or if Agnes has always had to fend for herself.

Thank You To Genealogy Volunteers

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