Friday, March 30, 2007

Searching for Minerva

One of my CVGS colleagues shared her brick wall problem right at the end of the Research Group meeting on Wednesday - she is looking for the maiden name and ancestry of Minerva J. (--?--) Crosby (born March 1853 in IN), who married Thomas Crosby (born 1848 in Scotland) in about 1871 and had five children - James (1872), Rule (1877), Olive (1883) and Walter (1886). The fifth one is unknown. My colleague had searched the Ancestry and Rootsweb online databases with no results, had found the family in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census data, but didn't know where to go after that. She thought that Minerva Crosby died before the 1930 census.

In 1900 and 1910, the family resided in Blackford County, Indiana. From this, we learned that Minerva's father was born in Pennsylvania, and her mother was born in Indiana, and all the known children were born in Indiana.

I searched the 1880 census for the Crosby family, and did not find them in Indiana or anywhere in the USA. I tried using just the surname, just the given names, just the children's names (with a parents name), the birthplaces, the birth years with a 2 year range, etc. It appears that they were not enumerated, or not indexed due to census damage or some other reason. They are just not there. That complicates things, but I thought I would try to find the right Minerva in the earlier census records, since it is an unusual name.

I chose the 1860 census, since there would be fewer Minerva's in Indiana, and it was more likely that she would reside with her parents at age 7 than at age 17 (in the 1870 census). So I searched the 1860 census using Miner* as a given name, born 1853 plus/minus 1, and born in Indiana. There were 116 hits.

I went through each one of the hits searching for a Minerva with a father born in PA and a mother born in IN. There were 12 families with a father born in PA, but only one family with the father born in PA and mother born in IN. I am not sure if Solomon and Juliet Dye are Minerva's parents, but they certainly should be on the possible list.

So what other resources should I look for to find Minerva's maiden name and ancestry? I wrote down the following:

1) A death certificate
2) An obituary
3) Marriage records of her children
4) Death records of her children
5) Social Security applications of her children.
6) Obituaries of her children.
7) A family Bible or family papers (perhaps held by families of her children)
8) A county history book

All of those were more than I could do in my quick survey, except the first one. In the 1920 census, Thomas and Minerva Crosbey resided in riverside County, California. It was logical that she may have died in California. So I went to the California death index records at (using the username "vitalguest" and password "enjoy" - they rarely change) and quickly found that Minerva J. Crosbie had died 19 May 1927 in County 33 (Riverside) at age 74, with a husband initials of TL. From my own experience with CA death certificates in this time frame, I am fairly sure that this record will have her parents names on it.

I emailed my colleague with all of this information and heard back from her that she would follow up on this immediately! She was happy to get some help with this brickwall problem, which is fairly typical for many researchers. Not every state has their death records online, or are as easily available as California's are, so other researchers might have to follow the other clues listed above.

What other resources did I miss in the list above? What else would you recommend in a similar situation?

UPDATE: Read Sharon's comments - she found them in the 1880 census and a probable marriage record also - but the girl's name appears to have been Amanda Coan not Minerva in the marriage record. Sharon also found the 1870 census record with Minerva Coan and the right parents birthplaces. Interestingly, in 1860 she is listed as Maria in this family. Thanks, Sharon, for the help!


Sharon said...

Hey Randy,

In 1880, you can find the family in Wells Co, IN. Look for 'Manerva J. Crsby.' Thomas Crosby is there in 1870 and 1860.

Keep up the good work!


questors said...

Here's a hunch for Minerva....

Since every time we see her (1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, death record) she uses the middle initial J., looking for a Minerva in 1870 near Wells County with a middle inital J might pay off.
I found a Minerva J. Coan in Grant county in 1870 who is the right age and whose father is born in PA and mother in IN.
Looking at the Indiana marriage index on, I found a marriage in Grant County in 1871 between Thomas Crosby and Amanda J. Coan. The Marion public library has the marriage records and could probably do a lookup to see if it really says "Amanda." Your friend could probably also ask them to look for an obit for the mother listed on the 1870 census; she died in 1915.

have fun --


Anonymous said...

My name is Rob and I am a direct descendant of Minerva Jane Coan Crosbie (Crosby). Minerva was born 17 MAR 1853 in Burlington, IN to James W. Coan and Minerva Jane Saxon. James 13 Sep 1824-17OCT 1898 & Minerva Saxon 12 DEC 1828-11 MAR 1915) Thomas Crosbie was born in Earlston Scotland 11 OCT 1848 to James and Mary (Rule) Crosbie. Minerva Jane Coan's parents were both from the US. James was born in Fayette Co. PA and Minerva was born in Deleware Co. IN. They were married 26 May 1846. Please let me know if this helps and if there are any leads you have found, that is where my brick wall is.