“Where there’s a will…” is this week’s 52 Ancestors theme. I have chosen to write about how a will broke through a brick wall for me. I remember it with such clarity, because it was this that made me realize how important will and probate records can be to genealogy research.
When I first started researching my family tree back in the 1990s, I could not find out much about my great grandfather. I knew his name because it was listed on my grandfather’s birth certificate. I asked my dad about him, and he said he never knew him. He said that he thought that he left my great-grandmother and their 8 children, and was never heard from again. And this was “back in the day” before there were ANY online records and I had to solely rely on good old fashioned renting microfilm at my local Family History Center and letter writing. So finding out what happened to Michael seemed very bleak.
I discovered a little bit about him by looking at microfilm of census records and other family vital records. The 1910 Census was the latsest census available to the piblic at that time. That record indicated he was born about 1871 in Pennsylvania. My grandparents’ marriage application in 1926, listed him as father of the groom, and was “dead.” From there, I assumed that Michael may have died between 1910 and 1926.
I found the 1893 marriage application for Michael and his wife, Elizabeth Donnelly on a roll of microfilm for Philadelphia Marriage records and that he was a furniture salesman. On that, Michael stated that he was born in Allentown, PA. That clue led me to ordering the microfilm 1880 Census for Allentown, where I found him living with his parents, Manus and Ann Logue on Liberty Street in Allentown. I wrote to the Catholic church that was right across the street from the address I found in the Census, and they were able to provide me with not only Michael’s birth and baptism, but also the names, and birthdates of his siblings.
I found out almost everything except his date of death. The time period I had it narrowed down to was still too broad and having vital records do a search for me during 1910 and 1926, would have cost me an arm and a leg.
I had lots of information on Michael’s wife, Elizabeth too. Up to that point, I felt that a copy of her death certificate was sufficient enough. I knew all of children, so I felt that I wouldn’t really need a copy of her will. I’m not sure what prompted me to change my mind, but one day in 1995, I sent off to request to the Philadelphia Register of Wills, for a copy of Elizabeth Logue’s records.
Almost 2 weeks later, I received a very thick packet from Philadelphia. I had not expected to learn much from this package, so I was so surprised that one one page, was the answer to the question that I had been searching for.
I could not have filled out that form to request the death record from Pennsylvania any faster! When I received the death record, I discovered that his residence was listed as Wentz Street, Philadelphia, which is where he resided in the 1910 Census, and also the house I knew my grandfather grew up. He had passed away of prostrate cancer, while still living with his wife and children. So not only did my grandmother’s will solve the mystery of when Michael Logue died, but also laid to rest that he had abandoned his wife and children.