Friday, November 2, 2012

What Happened to Cousin Edith?

I've tried to enrich my genealogy database over the years by trying to find descendants of the siblings of my ancestral families.  I've been fairly successful adding dates, places, events and relationships to the siblings, and descendants of the siblings, using online resources at websites like,,,,,, etc.

However, there are times I've made a mistake, but sometimes I figure out what's right and what's not.  This happened this past week, as I searched for descendants of Edith Kemp, one of my first cousins twice removed.  Her father, James A. Kemp (1872-1934) and my great-grandmother, Georgianna (Kemp) Auble (1868-1952), were siblings who both ended up in Southern California.  James A. Kemp married Bertha Fuller (1874-1951) and the family resided in Los Angeles, California.

Here is my research path as I reconstruct it, and I offer some lessons learned at the end of it:

1)  There is no birth record for Edith Kemp in the California Birth Index, 1905-1995 (now on with a mother's name of Fuller.

2)  The 1910 U.S. Census entry for the James A. Kemp family in Lakeside, San Diego, California has three children, including daughter Edith Kemp, age 6, born in California (found on

3)  The 1920 U.S. Census for the James A. Kemp family in Calumet, Fallon, Montana includes daughter Edith M. Kemp, age 16, born in California (found in

4)  The 1930 U.S. Census finds James and Bertha Kemp residing in El Monte, Los Angeles, California, but there is no listing for Edith Kemp (born 1903 +/- 2 in California), including given name and surname permutations, but there are over 700 listings for an Edith (no surname, 1903 +/- 2 born California, etc.).  Too many.  Perhaps Edith died or was married.

5)  The 1940 U.S. Census finds no Edith Kemp, James Kemp (died 1933) or Bertha Kemp (with given name and surname permutations) residing in Los Angeles County, California.

And there it stood until I tried to get creative.  Since the 1920 Census was taken on 1 January 1920, i t appears that Edith M. Kemp (age 16) was born in 1903.

6)  I searched the California Death Index, 1940-1997 on for an Edith, born 1903, mother's maiden name Fuller.  There is an Edith Louise Kemp, born 21 December 1903 in Pennsylvania, mother's maiden name Fuller, died 14 November 1980 in Los Angeles County, California.

Here's the mistake - I added the birth and death dates to my database at this point in time, and merrily went searching for her husband.  The middle name of Louise and the birthplace of Pennsylvania did not strike me as important at the time - the birth year and mother's maiden name had me convinced that this was Edith Kemp..

7)  I found Edith Niemeyer in the 1940 U.S. Census with husband Leo, and daughters (at least of Leo) - Patricia (age 7), Paula (age 6) and Mary (age 4).

I added the family names to my database, with approximate birth years and birthplaces..

8)  I checked the California Death Index for Leo, and found Leo's death date of 12 February 1955 in Los Angeles County, California.

9)  I checked the California Birth Index, 1905-1995 on, for the three known children, and found birthdates and birthplaces for two of them, but the mother's maiden name was listed as Drumm.

Uh oh, RED FLAG.  Did I have the wrong Edith?  Did Edith Kemp marry a Drumm before she married Leo Niemeyer?

10)  A check of the 1930 U.S. Census revealed no Edith married to a Drumm (or surname variants) in California.  There is a single Edith L. Drum born 1905 in Burbank, with a mother Alice ... hmmm, that may be the Edith who married Leo.

11)  I checked for Leo Niemeyer and found an excellent memorial for him, which listed his birth and death dates, his marriage to Edith Louise Drum in August 1931, and a transcription of an obituary that listed his children.  There was a link to Edith's memorial also, with her birth date (21 December 1904 in the memorial, not 1903), death date, and links to her parents (including mother Alice).  There was also a link to one daughter's record on Find-A-Grave.

I decided, based on the evidence at hand, that Edith M. Kemp, daughter of James A. and Bertha (Fuller) Kemp, did not marry Leo I unlinked Edith from Leo, added Edith Louise Drumm to the database, and saved all of the information in these records in my genealogy database (since I had worked hard to find them).  I now need to unlink Edith from Leo in my online trees also.

So that leaves the question - what happened to Cousin Edith?  I went back into the, GenealogyBank and Chronicling America newspaper collections, and was not able to find a record for her.  I checked the California Death Index, 1905-1939 on and 1940-1997 for an Edith Kemp and did not find her.  She may be in the over 700 Ediths in the 1930 U.S. census in California born between 1901-1905.

Perhaps a descendant of Edith M. Kemp, or a descendant of a sibling of Edith, if there are any, will read this and contact me with information about Edith Kemp.

Lessons learned:

*  Be more careful adding information to my database before finding other records.  I.e., do a reasonably exhaustive search.

*  Don't assume that because first name, birth year  and mother's maiden name are correct that the listing in a database is for the person you think it is.  Remember that ASSUME does not mean reality...I feel like I failed Genealogy 101 here!

*  My need for blog fodder can make me write about my mistakes so that they can be held up as a bad example!

What resources do you think I've missed in this search?  What corners have I cut?  What else would you search?  What lessons did you learn from my experience?

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Alissa Booth said...

I searched for Edith in 1930 in CA since her brother and parents are there. I searched by first name and places of birth for parents and age. I found an Edith M born about 1905 married to a Noble Seafin. Here's the link. I'll look for more.

Alissa Booth said...

Look at the 1930 census at the household prior. Last name is Bassett and was born in Illinois and is close in age to be a father of Noble, whose father is listed as being born in Illinois. Now look at the 1940 census for Noble and Edith Bassett. He is born in Illinois and she is born in California. Definitely doesn't prove anything but might be an interesting lead to follow.

jay at 1familytree said...

I shocked you did not consult the obituaries of her parents and siblings! An important step !

Finn said...

Randy, I looked for Edith, no luck, did find her older brother, Leroy Gordon Kemp in the Pedigree Resource File on FamilySearch. He appears to have some descentants. There is a submitters name, but that was a long time ago. leroy died 12 Oct 1933 in Bell CA. Maybe there is an obituary. Finn

Anonymous said...

LA Times Oct 13, 1933. Obit:

Kemp, Oct 12, Leroy Kemp, beloved husband of Laura E Kemp; father of Jimmie Kemp. Mr Kemp is also survived by his parents Mr and Mrs James Kemp of El Monte and two sisters, Mrs Myrtle Marley of Santa Ana and Mrs Edith Conklin of Los Angeles....

Joel Weintraub

Anonymous said...

Thank you for today's blog.

I don't like to show my ignorance or bother you but am interested in how you keep track of/record collateral lines. I hope you will post about this one day.

You have superior and more sophisticated skills than I can probably comprehend but I thought I would ask anyway.

I think the comment person Joel found your Edith. I enjoyed reading the process.

Gerald Cohail said...

The Marley Family Tree on appears to be the original tree to provide the following birth date for Edith M Kemp, daughter of James A and Bertha Kemp: 25 Sep 1903 in California. As is typical with online trees, there is no source listed. Contacting the owner of the tree is likely to be fruitless, as his last log in was "Over a year ago."

However, a searh of the Social Security Death Master File ( produced one Edith born on that date who received her Social Security Number in the state of California (the most likely place): "EDITH OTT was born 25 September 1903, got Social Security number 562-10-2970 (indicating California,) and died October 1971."

I then search the California Death Index at and found the following: Name: Edith M Ott; Social Security #: 562102970; Gender: Female; Birth Date: 25 Sep 1903; Birth Place: California; Death Date: 2 Oct 1971; Death Place: Los Angeles (county).

The Social Security Death Index on lists her last residence as Montrose, Los Angeles, California.

Hope this helps!

Donna Hansen Peterson said...

Backtracking the Edith Ott info, don't some CA death records list mother's name? I also like the obit checking idea.

Anonymous said...

On the 1930 Census Edith Conklin of Los Angeles shows as divorced.

So Edith Ott could also be the same person with a remarriage.


Geolover said...

I saw no mention of estate and land records of parents and siblings, funeral home records for same, cemetery lot acquisition and burial records by lot number, court records in which more than one family member might appear as plaintiff, defendant, witness. The chief 'shortcut' was limiting the search to some of what was available on the internet.

Geolover said...
This comment has been removed by the author.