Once you have gathered all your information, organized your research, created a database and determined how you will share it and set about getting some favorite websites, all the fun begins.
When researching my family I have found numerous brick walls and disappearing families. It is most frustrating in female lines, because girls tend to disappear if you can’t find a marriage license due to changing their names. Fortunately this is a modern era problem because prior to the mid 1800’s they tend to keep their original surnames.
While researching my great great Grandfather Augustus I have found more brick walls than I like. The original surname Schmidt, at various times is Schmitt, Schmidt, Smith. The first list of children was Herman, Edward, Auguste, Cristele, Clara, Matilda, Elena Ernstina and Bertha Ernstina. Trying to following these children has proved difficult with lots of dead ends. I know what happened to Bertha Ernstina, she became my Great Grandmother.
I tried to tackle the children one at a time. A good idea that never seems to work, while looking for one I sometimes find a different one.
One day I stumbled across Auguste’s husband, by now she was being listed at Augusta but the parents where the same. Armed with a husband I set out to find her family. I discovered 11 children and no information on the children. The family simply disappeared. I tried everything, all the search engines and every site I could think of, they were just gone. I filed it away to work on another day. Then one day I saw the husband listed in deaths in a newspaper, but all I could read was his name and murdered! It was one of those search newspaper sites that give you a few words, but if you want to read more you need a subscription. I wasn’t into buying a subscription so I searched more. I had a name, murder and 1912 it had to be somewhere. I found another newspaper snippet that listed him, a son and again murder, but this time they listed suicide. Now I was on a hunt, to find out what happened and to prove I didn’t need a subscription. (Yes a subscription would have ended this quest right then and there, but I may have also just read the article and let it go and missed the rest of the story.) Numerous searches and numerous snippets of newspaper stories kept giving me more information, each another piece to the puzzle.
I finally found the whole article (for free) it had in fact been reported in 22 states because a murder/suicide in 1912 was big news.
V.W. Thurs 8 Feb 1912, (THREE MURDERED AND ONE SUCIDE), Page 21
MAILAHN, Lewis, age sixty-six, shot in the head.
MAILAHN, William, twenty-one years old, cut in the throat.
MAILAHN, Dora, sixteen years old, cut in the throat.
MAILAHN, John, eight years old, cut in the throat.
These terrible murders and suicide occurred last week in Binghamton, fifteen miles north of Appleton. Wm. Mailahn, the target, according to his behavior lately, as testified by the neighbors, that he committed the family murders and then sought to take his own life. He had strained relations with his father which extended to other family members.
The horrible bloody act appears to be the result of him being diagnosed with consumption, which has hit all of his family members with incurable sufferings. In the last months already three brothers were victims. Also the murdered sister was already lying in death. The horrible fate of the family had been discussed around the table for some time and the brother believed that it is better for everyone if they took carbolic acid and die together. The story was also known by the neighbors but no-one thought that the young man would carry it out. The surviving brothers are also stricken with the horrible illness. The murderer has not only used a straight razor but a piece of broken mirror on his siblings and then lacerated their throats This act, which is horrible in all details, has caused great excitement in Appleton and the surrounding area.
That wonderful newspaper article was really the start of the family story in my opinion and I dug further. Augusta had 11 children. Her oldest daughter died within 5 months of giving birth to her only child. 3 other daughters died of tuberculosis before Augusta herself died in 1908. Her other two daughters both had tuberculosis and one died within a year of her mother. William the one who is assumed to have murdered his family did not want to see any other siblings die of this disease. The five remaining children were all suspected to have tuberculosis. The two youngest being at home on that fateful day died along with their father and brother. The three remaining boys, with the oldest having gone to collect the other two from school, escaped from being murdered only for one to die within two years of tuberculosis and the another to also die of tuberculosis only 20 years later. Of eleven children only one survived, to marry and have a child, and to live to an old age.
It’s a sad story, but a wonderful story of what happens when you continue to dig through those brick walls. My heart breaks for the end of a line and such a tragic ending, but I find hope in that I solved this problem and perhaps I can solve the problem of the rest of Auguste’s siblings.