How to Decide Which Sister Married Your Ancestor

Finding female ancestors can become challenging. However, it might be possible to determine which sister married your ancestor following a few simple steps.


By following a few simple steps, you can puzzle out the dilemma. In the end, both sisters might have married the same man. But you will know which sister married him when.


Begin With a Research Question


Genealogy research questions come in three varieties: events, relationships, and biographical information.


Today, I will examine a relationship question to determine, “Who married Charles H Stahl on 12 Apr 1883 in Franklin County, Ohio, United States?"


Find Records That Answer Your Question


Once you have articulated your question, you can look for records that answer that question. The FamilySearch Research Wiki can help you know the availability of records for a specific time and place.


The most likely record to determine who married whom and when would is a marriage record. You can find such records for the United States for free on FamilySearch. You can also search the Newspapers.com Marriage Index on Ancestry.

Marriage of Charles Stall to Mary Calsberger

In this marriage record for Charles Stall, we read that he married Mary Carlsberger. These early marriage records provide little more than a date and a place. What can I do next?


Research All Persons Listed on the Record


When records do not directly answer your question, your next strategy involves researching everyone listed on the document.


In this case, Rev. R. Herbst married this couple. Since a minister solemnized the marriage, perhaps church records would have more details? But first, which religion is Rev. Herbst a practitioner for?


City directories can help you track down this answer.

Columbus, Ohio, City Directory, 1883, page 3434

Rev. Richard Herbst served the German Evangelical Lutheran faith at the Zion's Church. I could contact this church or the Evangelical Lutheran archive that serves Columbus, Ohio, to seek out the marriage records.


Or I could research Charle's bride.


Research The Bride After She Married


The next step on your genealogy research plan should involve fully investigate the subject's wife after the couple wed.


You're looking for clues to establish her identity further. These clues may include her parents' names, her middle name, and her birth year. Using US census records, you might also discover her race, literacy, and medical conditions such as deaf, mute, or blind.


Who is Mary Stahl, wife of Charles?


After investigating census records from 1883 - 1940, a few details stood out.

  • The name Mary M Stahl remains consistent.

  • Mary M's birthplace was Ohio.

  • Mary M's birth year was about 1863.


Search for a Bride In the Home of Her Parents


Using the clues for Mary Carlsberg found from her wifehood, I can seek out her parents.


But first, Carlsberger is might not the correct spelling for Mary. I need to be open to the possibility that her surname is Karlsberger, Karlsberg, or other variations.


As I used these clues, I came across the most likely family for Mary M Carlsbeger Stahl using the census records. However, these records generated an unexpected question.


In the 1870 census, the family of George and Maria Karlsberger and their four children (John, George, Magdalena, and Margaret) live in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio.


1870 Census


In the 1880 census, George and Maria Karlsberger's household has John, George, Mary M, Maggie, and Amelia.


1880 Census

The problem with this census record relates to the two sisters between George and Amelia.

In 1870, the daughters were Magdalena, aged 8, and Margaret, aged 6.

In 1880, the daughters were Mary M, aged 18, and Maggie, aged 16.


Charles married a Mary M born about 1863, which would make her about 17 in the 1880s. He could have married Mary M or Maggie, or is it Magdalena or Margaret?


In my experience, Maggie is a nickname for both Magdalena and Margaret in some German families. Thus, Maggie in 1880 could be Magdalena rather than the same-aged daughter listed as Margaret in 1870.


Did the enumerator flip-flop the daughter's names? If so, which year is flipped? 1870 or 1880.


While evaluating your genealogy research, if you can not confirm an individual's identity, you need to keep research.


Find Additional Genealogy Documents


If your ancestor has a similar quandary, how can you confirm the identity of Charles' wife?


While birth records vital records for the two daughters immediately come, we have to confirm whether such documents existed at the time for this location.


According to the FamilySearch Wiki in June 2019, “Although Ohio enacted a statute in 1856 -1857 requiring registration of births, deaths, and marriages, many counties did not comply. A second law was written in 1867 but, again, was not always followed.”


In 1908, Ohio registered births at the county level. Birth records for dates between 1867 – 1908 are kept at the Franklin County Probate Court, but most are accessible online.


Both of Geroge Karlsbeger's daughters were born before the required registration of births in Franklin County. Therefore I must search for alternative records. These include newspapers, probate records, land records, and gravestones.


Current Conclusion For Which Sister Married Charles


After reviewing your evidence, the final step is writing out your conclusions.


For now, I have concluded that Magdalena in 1870 and Mary M in 1880 are the same person named Mary Magdalena. She married Charles Stahl.


I can now add all of my sources and conclusions to the FamilySearch Family Tree and move on to my next research question.


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