As some of my old readers know and some of the newer ones are discovering, I'm a genealogy buff but I've only become later in life. It started with my grandmother giving my mom articles clipped out and preserved in a scrapbook by my great great grandmother. As a favor to both of them, I carefully digitally scanned in all the clipping, pictures, letters etc to preserve them. In the course of doing that I was bitten by the genealogy bug and began a quest to discover my origins. In the heady days of my genealogy beginning, I was discovering the names and stories of new direct ancestors at the rate of several per day. Now that I'm well along my journey and records are harder to find, that has slowed down to only one or two per month and slowing down rapidly. Soon I will probably be lucky to find a new set of relatives per year. This year, I have changed my game just slightly by documenting what I already know. I've started off by collecting all the supporting documentation on my grandparents through 2G grandparents and am working through the 32 biological 3G grandparents and 16 adoptive 3G grandparents. I'm about halfway through them.
As I have been going through my list of 3G grandparents and documenting what documentation I have on each of them, I came to another one of those family tree dead ends. I now know and have verified the names of all my 3G grandparents but many of them are dead ends, meaning I can't trace them before they were married to locate their parents, my 4G grandparents. Edwin McKee was one of them. Off and on for over a year, I kept coming back to him but the records I had on him were slim. I had in the 1900 Census in Iowa and an 1885 Census in Kansas. Although I knew he was born around 1857 in Iowa, I couldn't find him in the 1860, 1870 or 1880 censuses. I could find lots of McKee's for sure, but no Edwins'.
A while ago, I decided to try a different tact and try finding his wife. Most often during that time, the wives remarried soon and thus would be impossible for me to find. But this time I found her in the 1905 Iowa Census with their kids but she was listed as widowed so I knew Edwin died sometime between 1900 and 1905. A search of the Iowa Cemetery Records during that time frame listed many McKee's but no Edwin. Stumped, I started looking at every name listed between those years in the general vicinity of where they lived and found a B. E. McKee listed. Both had 1857 for birth dates and B.E. McKee died in 1901 which also fits but what does B. stand for. I felt on the verge of a break through but couldn’t quite find the smoking gun.
Then last week I finally did. I started trying to find earlier records of his wife, Ella J. whose parents I didn't know either and whose early census records have also remained hidden. I had casually tried before without success but with the usage of wildcard characters, found her again listed as Ellenor. (Previously I had been searching for Ella, who wasn't spelled the same.) In quick order, I found her in 1880 with her daughter, my 2G-grandmother Blanche but no Edwin. I still haven't found out where he was in 1880. But because Ella was staying with her parents at the time, the Smiths, I did have her parents and a place to look for earlier records. Next I found the 1870 record of her as a 14 year old and her name listed as Ella. I also found the 1860 census when she was 4.
Since she was living in the same town of Albion in 1870 and 1880, between which she got married and now had a 3-year-old daughter, I surmised that Edwin must have been living nearby too. I did a search of McKee's of his age in that township and turned up only one, a Bertram McKee. Was that the 'B' in the cemetery record of B.E. McKee? Since I also had the names of Bertram's parents, I went back and located the 1860 record where he was listed as Bertram E. McKee. All the information of the places where his parents were born matched and the names of his siblings as well. I finally had my smoking gun. I also suspect I know why he chose to go through life using his middle name of Edwin. With a first name like Bertram, who wouldn't?