MONDAY MUSINGS: My ancestors disappeared! What should I do?

Genealogy tip: Do you have an elusive ancestor that may have been mentioned once or twice in a census and then disappears? This can be frustrating, especially when it’s your direct line. Here are some tips to try to find your ancestor again.genealogy sleuth

Elusive Ancestors….

  1. Create a timeline for the ancestor based on the facts you know.
  2. Research the census of brothers, sisters and other close relatives. Frequently, an unmarried (or even married) brother or sister may show up in a relative’s house.
  3. Follow the lines of friends and neighbors where your ancestor was last found in the census. Sometimes friends migrated together to other states.
  4. Check to see if your ancestor’s name shows up as a witness for wills, baptisms or marriages.
  5. Check state maps to see if county lines changed. Your ancestor may not have moved, but the county or even state line may have moved.

Good luck in your research! – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

WHERE DO I START? Hints and Tips for Beginning Genealogists with On-line resources

Check out genealogy books and novels by Donna R. Causey


About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Wade McCoy

    Now if I could just break a brick wall. I know my gr gr gr grandfather Hugh McCoy didn’t just fall out of the sky in 1792 into NC :-).

    1. Have you tried all the different spellings you can think of, such as McCaughey or MacCoughey? Sometimes names got simplified from their original forms. Just a thought…

    2. There is a Hugh Mccoy in Mecklenburg County, NC and Macon County, NC on the 1840 census. The spelling with 2 small c’s didn’t come up in my original search. I thought this was a name in my tree, but I have a Hugh McCall. Hope this helps.

  2. Allison Houston Olson

    YES! My maternal g-g-g grandmother. She is listed under 2 different names and I can only find her on 2 census lists. Very frustrating.

  3. Great tips.

  4. Charles Moore

    We’ve had several who seem to “fall off the planet.” Census takers rarely missed families but it did happen. The 1890 census was destroyed. Alabama did not require death certificates until well after 1920. Some names on the census may be a middle name or version of a name you don ‘t expect. Too many of our rural ancestors were buried in unmarked graves. The frustration in genealogy is half the fun.

  5. Shirley Baker Waites

    Even though a death certificate was required after 1920, it was up to the funeral room to send in the information. My grandfather died in 1959 and yet the state says he never existed. The people that own to the funeral home has him in their records, but somehow the information never got to the state.

  6. Myra N Edwards

    We have one in Jackson County, Alabama.

  7. I have a couple elusive ancestors. One I cannot find anything on BEFORE her marriage in 1833. The other only appears in the 1870 census. I have no idea as to siblings for either of them. Suggestions are welcome!

    1. Names?

  8. I’m firmly convinced that the Raley family landed in Virginia in the 1790’s in a space ship.

  9. Locksley S Stubblefield

    Yep. I found my grandfather at his father-in-law’s house in the 1910 census rather than where I thought he had lived.
    Like · Reply · Just now

  10. Hi , everyone , the mystery in my search m is my mother’s mother , this woman was very secretive about where she was from , she never as long as I can remember , ever mentioned her own parent , the frustrating thing for me has been , trying to find her in Census , I can find her , once she & my Grandfather were married , and had families of their own…..

  11. Sandra Stickler

    Jennifer Stickler Riddle

  12. Melissa Thomas Lankford

    I found one reference to an ancestor, (with an extremely unusual name) who was 5 when a census was taken and have found nothing else, no death or marriage records, or his name 10 years later for the next census. It’s very frustrating!

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