How Could I Miss That Clue for Agnes Anderson?

In the early part of December, I was prompted to define my brick walls in the Facebook group called the U.S. Midwest Genealogy Research Community. My family has roots in Central Ohio, and I have two family lines that stop short.

I know many folks like to help other researchers with no thought of reward other than gratitude. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I posted two queries, and one brought me an early Christmas present.

On Dec 14, I posted a query about Agnes Anderson. She’s my maternal grandmother’s birth grandmother, the Grannie that I created this heritage scrapbook about. Interestingly, that day was the 3rd anniversary of burying my mother.

Within a few short hours, several responses appeared, and perhaps the women of my mother’s line were guiding me. They wanted to not only make a Merry Christmas but they wanted to turn a tender day into a blessed one.

Let’s review the query: “Agnes Anderson was born in Feb 1881 in Missouri. The possible location is Evansville, MO. Her father was born in Sweden (according to Census records), and her mother's birth location is likely Missouri.

  • In 1900, Agnes was a servant in St. Louis at the age of 18.

  • In 1910, she was a single working woman in Newark, Ohio, She often works for a grocery store.

  • She purchased a home in Newark on 24 Mar 1920.

  • She died the day after her daughter was born on 21 May 1920. As an unmarried woman with no family in Newark, Ohio, her daughter was placed for adoption. I know all about this daughter. I don't know much about Agnes besides what I discovered in the 1900 and 1910 Census records. She died before the 1920 Census records.

  • I have traced her through the city directories in Newark as much as possible. I don't know much about her in St. Louis or even Evansville.

The informant on her death record was a hospital worker, so I don't know if I should believe the names of Wm Anderson and Amanda Sparks as her parents. I haven't found anyone in Missouri with these names.”

Before I share the results of this query post, I'd like to tell you why I shared what I shared in my query. I was very intentional about the details.

Far too often people will say, "I'm looking for Bob Jones of Centerville, Utah in 1890." Well, that's great. What else do you know about him?

I didn't write a brief query because I didn't want to receive responses that said, "Did you look at birth records?" or "Did you try the 1900 census?"

My query covered the basics of what I knew and why I’m stuck. I have looked at death records, marriage records (Agnes never married), and census records (I’ve found all possible, darn the 1890s). I wanted to demonstrate that I have reviewed city directories as well. I gave all the information that I’ve discovered and the questions I still have.

In short, I was inviting a set of eyes to look for the clues I was overlooking or find a resource that I haven’t reviewed yet.

My cynical, impatient side believed someone would direct me to a resource that I currently can't access. My patient, optimistic side thought it couldn’t hurt to see what someone could come up with.

Seven minutes! Seven minutes after posting my query, Shelly said this “If you look at the bottom of the image of the death certificate, it says Informant R.P. Sparks, St. Louisville. Sounds like it could be a relative of her mother.


What? There is no informant named R P Sparks on Agnes's death record. It looks like this.

Death Certificate for Agnes Anderson - First Page

"Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001," database with images, FamilySearch (, Agnes Anderson, 22 May 1920; citing Death, Columbus, Franklin, Ohio, United States, source ID 1920 fn 1974, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 2,032,688.

I went hunting and realized that there were indeed TWO death records for Agnes. The amazingly helpful Shelly (which is my mother’s sister’s name by the way, which is pretty cool) had discovered the second record.

As it turns out, I had attached this record to the FamilySearch Family Tree myself, but I thought everything was the same. How could I have missed this clue?

Death Certificate for Agnes Anderson - Second Page

"Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953," database with images, FamilySearch (, Agnes Anderson, 22 May 1920; citing Columbus, Franklin, Ohio, reference fn 35939; FHL microfilm 1,991,133.

Here’s the second death record with the information Shelly was talking about. If you look in the lower-left corner, there is the detail that I missed.

Informant on Agnes Anderson's Death Certificate solves genealogy brick wall

The detail that will lead to a crack in the brick wall of Agnes Anderson. The crack that has been waiting for some time, whistling a happy, little, patient tune.

Want to know something else that will have you picturing me smacking my hand against my forehead? This little nugget is in a past post. Yep. Right there in "What I Know About Agnes Anderson." (It was shared in 2012 by the way.)

Once again, it pays to look at things again, and again, and again. And even the most 'experienced' genealogist miss things. So, if you think you're immune to this happening to you, then just wait.

Anyway, I now have an answer as to whether to believe the names on this death record. Given that R P Sparks gave the names of Amanda Sparks as the mother on this document, there is a very, very good chance that he is a relative.

Now I'm confident that the hospital worker didn't just make up some names or attempt to recall what Agnes said as she died. There seems to have been family to provide the name of Agnes's parents. It might be time to do some digging into this R P Sparks.

Just as I'm rubbing my sore head from the slap for the foolish mistake, Shelly posts more nuggets on the Facebook group. Nuggets that will completely blow my mind. Stay tuned.

This is the first in a multi-part series of posts on cracking through Agnes Anderson's brick wall. Follow the story through the next three parts.

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