Thursday, March 8, 2007

John Henry Baker and the Search For His Father

As some of you recall, I am a genealogy buff and have been digging into my past for a few years when time permits. My direct ancestor family tree is 267+ in number with about 100+ of those confirmed by myself with some sort of record. I have all eight of my great grandparents and all 16 of my great great grandparents documented and have been working on my 32 great great great grandparents, two of them who were a mystery to me. Thanks to a fellow blogger and genealogy aficionado, Emma Sometimes, one of those two unknowns could possibly be solved.

My great great grandfather John Henry Baker has always been a known thanks to his granddaughter, my grandmother, still being alive today to tell me about him. However, she didn't know his father and I've tried searching for him off and on. As with most genealogical searches, the first thing to do is start with the known and work back and in this case I started with John Henry. I quickly located him in the U.S. Census records for 1900, 1910, & 1930 after he was already married. Since he died in 1932, I didn't search beyond that. I haven't been able to locate the 1920 record and I have a theory as to why. In 1910, he was married to my great great great grandmother Blanche Jessie McKee. In 1930, he was married to someone by the name of Katie B. My theory is that Blanche died before 1920 and that John went to live with one of his children or a relative and may not have been in Iowa, his location during all the other census recordings, at the time of the census. One of these days, I'll have to track that record down.

But before 1900, I was drawing a blank. Although a census is taken every ten years, there is no census for 1890 as the large majority of it was destroyed in a fire. Because he was born in about 1871, this left me with only the 1880 census record to find him. In 1900 and 1910, John listed his place of birth as Wisconsin and so I searched for him in Wisconsin without avail. His 1930 census listed his place of birth as Iowa and I searched for under the following names: John Baker, John H. Baker, John Henry Baker, J. Baker, and J.H. Baker, all commonly used by census takers. No luck. I gave up for the time being and moved on to other areas.

This is where Emma enters the picture. She volunteered her knowledge to locate anybody that I was having a hard time doing so and I took her up on it. I have her all the information I knew about John Henry including some unverified reports that his father was named Joseph and was buried along side him in Greenwood Cemetery in Cedar Falls, Iowa, which is where John lived most of his life. Emma sent me an image of the 1880 census showing a 10-year-old John living with Joseph Baker halfway across Iowa from the later years.

The reason why I couldn't find this is because the compiler who indexed all the names in the Census so that they can be searched easily read the name as John F. Baker. By inspecting the actual census document with the original handwriting, it is obviously John H. Baker. Case closed? Perhaps.

In the 1880 census that Emma sent me, John Baker has the right name, his parents were both born in England according to other census year notations and he was at the right age. However, Joseph Baker was listed as being 60 years old at the time of the census meaning he was born around 1820. The grave record for the Joseph Baker buried near my great great grandfather John Henry Baker lists his birth date as 1847. A 27-year difference is too large to ignore as error. So who is wrong?

The ages of Joseph's wife and children both suggest a birth date of 1820 is accurate and I have yet to see a mistake by a census taker on that column of information except for once when the census taker confused 8 months old with 8 years old on one relative. I decided to call the Greenwood Cemetery to verify the date but they had no record of a John or Joseph Baker being buried there. What does this mean since volume four of Black Hawk County Cemetery Records lists them both at Greenwood Cemetery?

If 1820 was correct, Joseph was 51 when John was born, certainly not impossible, especially since Joseph had a lot of children over the years. If 1847 was correct, Joseph was 24 when John was born, also certainly possible. To confuse the issue more, I found a granddaughter of John Henry Baker who believes John was born in Illinois and Joseph was born in 1847. I've found no signs that John Henry was ever in Illinois. The same lady also thought that Joseph died in the Civil War but by her own records which also jive with the cemetery records, he died in 1882, 16 years after the war ended.

So to conclude, I probably found my great great great grandfather named Joseph but I certainly haven't confirmed it yet and short of a trip up to Greenwood Cemetery in Cedar Falls, I probably won't for a while. I have tracked Joseph back to 1860 and all records indicate that he is the father along with the 1880 record, which is pretty conclusive. But until I solve the birth year difference of 1820 versus 1847, I'm not going to add it into the confirmed column.

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