Thursday, November 14, 2013

Finding John's Other Grandmother, R.A. (--?--) Collins in Online Resources

I've had good success finding the ancestral families of my friend John's mother, born Agnes Jean Powell in 1922 in Oklahoma.  See Finding Ethel - Post 1: Candidate Search (posted 7 November 2013) and Finding Ethel - Post 2: Ethel Found. Who Were Her Parents? (posted 8 November 2013).

Over the two weeks I've worked on John's problem, he asked me if I could do a family tree for him.  I agreed (because I like working on research problems and he's a friend) and have been working occasionally on his tree, and have built a Family Tree Maker 2014 database with the help of my friends (including Russ Worthington who shared an Ancestry Member Tree with me he used to help work on Ethel).  

The next big problem I had was finding John's paternal grandmother's maiden name and ancestry.  His grandfather was Berl Collins (1891-1968).  John did not know the given name or maiden name of his paternal grandmother.  

1)  I found the Berl Collins family in the 1930 U.S. Census residing in Yale, Jasper County, Illinois with a wife Mamie (born about 1900 in Illinois), along with four children, including John's father (the first child on the list):

The oldest child is age 11 in the record above, which means there should be a 1920 U.S. Census record for the family.

2)  There is a 1920 U.S. census record for the Berl Collins family in Grandview, Jasper County, Illinois with a wife R.A. (age 21, born Illinois) and one child (age 1, born Illinois); the child's age matches the age of the first child in the 1930 census record and has the same given name initials (B.E. instead of Edward B.):

Hmmm.  Is R.A. (--?--) Collins in 1920 the same person as Mamie (--?--) Collins in 1930?  I didn't know, and checked to see if there was a 1940 U.s. Census entry for the family, and Mamie is the wife's name in the 1940 U.S. Census entry in Casey, Clark County, Illinois.  I've subsequently found that Mamie's maiden name is Hickox, and she died in 1974.

3)  So it is likely that R.A. and Mamie are two different people, and R.A. is likely John's paternal grandmother.  So did R.A. die or was there a divorce?  I tried to find out what R.A.'s given name was.  Where do you find given name lists for R?  I could have looked in a given name list like the one at

I didn't - I asked my CVGS colleagues yesterday to help me out - "please give me female given names beginning with R"  They quickly came up with Rachel, Rebecca, Rhonda, Rita, Ruby, Ruth, and several others.

3)  Assuming that R.A.'s birth family was enumerated in the 1910 U.S. Census, and was in Jasper county, Illinois, I searched on for persons with an initial "A", born between 1897 and 1901 in Illinois.  That resulted in 59 matches, which included some persons with a given name starting with R.  I listed those and investigated them using the Suggested Records, but could not tie R.A. definitively to one of them.

I tried a new tack - I used the Web Search feature in Family Tree Maker 2014, and, after several attempts to find records, looked for exact match records for "Collins" in Jasper County, Illinois with any event between 1920 and 1930.  Here is the list of record Categories found:

That was manageable to search, but I honed in immediately on the Find A Grave listing, and opened that and saw:

There were 6 matches, but only one of them had a first name starting with R and a middle initial of A.  Ruby A. Collins has an entry in the database, and died in 1922.  Which makes sense, since the third child in the 1930 U.S. Census listing of the Berl Collins family was age 3.

4)  Here is the summary for the Find A Grave entry for Ruby A. Collins: has kindly provided a Suggested Record for Ruby to the right of the summary - a link to the "Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1816-1947" database.

5)  Here is the record summary for the Ruby A. Collins entry in the "Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1816-1947" database:

There is no image for this record - it's only an indexed database.  But it provides a lot of very helpful information, including:

*  Name: Ruby A. Collins (Ruby A. Snearly)
*  Birth Date of 20 May 1899
*  Birth Place:  Ill.
*  Death Date:  13 Nov 1922
*  Death Place: Bement City, Jasper Co., Ill
*  Death Age:  25
*  Burial Date: 15 Nov. 1922
*  Burial Place:  Hunt City, Jasper Co., Ill.
*  Occupation:  housekeeper
*  Race:  White
*  Marital Status: M
*  Gender: Female
*  Father Name:  John Snearly
*  Father Birth Place: Jasper Co., Ill.
*  Mother Name:  Ruella C. Downey
*  Mother Birth Place:  Ill.
*  Spouse Name:  Collins
*  FHL Film Number: 1557035

I looked up the FHL Film number and it referred me to the FamilySearch record collection for Death certificates for the state of Illinois, 1916-1945, excluding Chicago with the exception of stillbirths; index, 1916-1938; internet index, 1916-1950.  That referred me to the Illinois State Death Index website, which has less information than the Ancestry indexed database.  There was a link to the "Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths, 1916-`1947" database on FamilySearch, and the indexed entry there for Ruby A. Collins has the same information as the indexed database, and also provides an item number and a certificate number.

What I don't know is if the actual Illinois death certificate will have more information than is in this index.  for instance, will it have the spouse's given name?  Obviously, I could write for an Illinois death certificate for Ruby A. (Snearly) Collins, but my conclusion is that this is "good enough" for this survey phase of my family tree climbing fun.

Subsequently, I have found John Snearly's parental family, and am stuck on the parents of Adelia (it's Adelia in the 1900 to 1940 census records and the Illinois Death Certificate Index and her Find A Grave memorial, not "Ruella") C. Downey.  

As always, I learned quite a bit doing this relatively simple task of finding a person's name starting with only the given name initials of a female.  Searching takes patience and lots of trial runs, the suggested records really help, and the Family Tree Maker 2014 Web Search feature is really useful.  

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c), Randall J. Seaver


Geolover said...

Very nice description of your hunt, Randy.

A useful missing datum from the extract from the Illinois Deaths and Stillbirths database is the identity of the informant for the record, who just might be Ruby's husband. The full name of the informant could take this record out of the realm of plausible circumstantial evidence.

Cousin Russ said...


Did you notice in the 1930 Census, for Berl Collins, and he was a Vet ??? I just sent you a link to a record that you might find helpful. Firming up your 1930 Census findings. (I think)


Cousin Russ said...


I was checking your hypothesis about the 1920 Census. I think, that Berl Collins parents are on lines 27 and 28, on the SAME page in that census. In fact, there are three Collins families on that SAME farm. Haven't made the connection the Collins oon lines 23-26. Berl's brother perhaps?


Cousin Russ said...


It's me again.

I think that there is something wrong with the Family Search record that you quoted abut Ruby A Collins (Ruby A Snearly).

I do not think that Bement City is is Jasper County, but Piatt County.

This is an example of some problems we run into when using an Index. I checked Wikipedia and reported this issue to Family


Randy Seaver said...

Good catch, Russ. The info in the death index was provided by someone, an informant, and they may have thought Bement City was in Jasper when it was in Piatt.

Another alternative is that she actually died in Hunt City but the person who wrote the death record wrote Bement City.

Or something else!

Without the actual death record, which is on the FHL US/CAN 1557035 microfilm at the FHL, we won't know. Assuming the FHL number on the record is correct - the info for 1557035 says "[1922 Deaths] Herrin City, Illinois (cont.) 81-117; Herrin City, 118-150; WINNEBAGO, 1-195; Rockford City, 1-700 WOODFORD, 1-150; MISC. Vol. 1, 44074-44560"

Maybe it's in the MISC.

Cousin Russ said...


I think I have confirmed your observation.