Genealogy Research: Using detective skills to find my great-uncle

In a previous genealogy post, I mentioned that my maternal grandmother alluded to having a brother she never knew.

She never mentioned his name, and I only recall her talking about it once.

I asked my siblings about it, and they had never heard this story.

(Why I remember this story is nearly as big a mystery as my missing great-uncle).

How in the world will I ever find out if this story has substance?

I have no name, no d.o.b., no idea where he was born, or even if there was a "he" that ever actually existed.

Why great census records are invaluable

Through the census record of 1900, I knew that my great-grandparents were married and living in Chicago, IL. I also knew that at that time, they had no children.

Marriage records showed that they were married in 1899, so seeing no children in 1900 made sense.

By the 1910 census, my GGF was no longer in the picture - I learned through indepth research that he died in 1905. Read his story here.

OK. That helps. I have a very narrow window of opportunity for there to be a sibling for my Gram.

Gram was born in 1903, so that narrows things even further.

But, was there ever actually a sibling?

Here is why great census records are so important... in the 1910 census pictured below, you can see that my GGM lists the number of children born as "2" and the number of children living as "1".

screen capture 1910 census (458x228)

Finally, I had some hard evidence that Gram's story may be true. See in the yellow highlighted line?

Searching for someone with no name

I may not have a first name, but it's very likely this child's last name is Hanlon, like my gram.

However, as I pointed out in a previous post, spelling was inconsistent at best. You can see in the census above that my family was recorded as Handler instead of Hanlon.

Off to the birth records I went.

Since Gram said she had a brother, I searched for males with the last name Hanlon or Hanlin, born between 1900 and 1906, figuring he could have been born just after the census in 1900, but no later than 1906, since my GGF died in 1905.

The results? Nothing.

Then I remembered that many babies during that time were born at home, and perhaps there was no official birth certificate.

Seeing as how he had to have died before 1910, I switched to searching for a death certificate.

After a search with similar parameters as the birth search, this is what I found:

great uncle capture (500x339)


This looks really promising, but there is no parent's information listed. Once again, I'm at a standstill.

I have to send away to IRAD for a copy of the death certificate to find out if this is really a relative. Without the parent's names, I cannot confirm this is my great-uncle.

Looks like it will be another 2-3 weeks before I have an answer. Isn't snail mail wonderful? NOPE!

Until next time, happy researching!

Matthew 7:7-8 (ESV)

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.


What is your greatest research find? Have you ever had to use well-honed detective skills to find someone in your family tree?

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