Thursday, November 3, 2011

Where did Mabell go?

Sometimes you totally lose the trail of someone you're researching, and I've lost Mabell.  I know she was born about 1881 in California, probably in Redlands, San Bernardino County.  In the 1900 census she appeared with her family in Redlands.  In October 1900 she married George in Los Angeles, and they went to Santa Barbara County, where he had been living.  (How did they meet and marry?  Good question.)  Their son Thomas was born in 1901 in California, maybe in Santa Barbara.  By 1905 George was working as a gambler (according to a newspaper notice) and they were living in Reno, which is where Mabell filed for divorce.  In 1910 Mabell and Thomas were living in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Why did she move there?  Another good question.)  Mabell appeared in Kansas City directories from 1909 through 1911.  Then she just ... disappears.

I haven't been able to find her in the Missouri death or marriage databases.  I can't find her in the 1920 or 1930 censuses.  I can't find her in city directories.  I can't find evidence that she came back to California.  I haven't found her in the newspaper after the 1905 notice.  I simply can't find a reference to her after 1911.

I know Thomas was living with his father in 1920 and then pretty much stayed with him until George's death in 1952.  Thomas died in 1974.  Neither of their obituaries mentions Mabell.

Mabell's youngest brother died in 1937.  His obituary mentions two surviving brothers but nothing about Mabell.  The oldest brother, who died in 1942, didn't have an obituary that I can find.  The middle brother died in 1964; his obituary also doesn't mention Mabell, but it doesn't mention the two brothers who predeceased him, either.

Obviously, Mabell didn't really disappear.  She died or remarried, and I haven't been able to pick up the trail in online databases.  She moved around quite a bit, so I can't assume she stayed in Kansas City.  So what's my point?

The point is that I've only been using online resources so far.  You can do a lot with the information available online, but you can't do everything.  An estimate I have heard consistently is that only about 10% of records that genealogists use are online.  If I had limitless funds and time, I would probably take a trip to Kansas City and try to find more detailed information about Mabell there.  I would want to look at the actual indices of deaths and marriages, because there is always the possibility of mistakes and omissions in transcribing these lists into searchable databases.  Mabell's father was from Missouri; I could trace his family to see if it was from the Kansas City area, which would have given her a reason to go there.  I might try to get the divorce decree from Washoe County to see if it has any clues.  I would try to track down every living relative on both sides of the family and contact each person to see if anyone has any information.

The practicalities of family history research, however, are that we never have limitless funds or time.  We have to narrow our focus and pick and choose what we can spend time and money on.  In Mabell's case, I can't afford to go to Kansas City, so I'm trying to decide the next logical step after having looked at marriage, death, census, directory, and newspaper listings.

I think I'm going to try to find descendants of her youngest brother, who was the first to pass away.  I've already determined that her oldest brother had only one son and then divorced, so the odds are less of him having stayed in touch with his father's family.  The middle brother married later in life and did not have children of his own; his wife had children from a former marriage.  If any branch of the family remembers Mabell, the youngest son's is the most likely.  And he had five children, giving me more chances of finding a descendant alive today.

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