I couldn’t find “anything” on an ancestor, Morris Foulk (b. 1801, probably in PA). I knew his parents were George Washington Foulk and Edith Mitchell. And I was doing well with finding spouses, residences, children and the like for his siblings, George Washington Foulk and Issac Foulk. But Morris, Morris was just no where to be found. I was beginning to think he died young.
The Hunt for Morris: Started Researching in Ancestry.com
I started looking for information on Morris in Ancestry.com by searching the usual record groups – censuses, military, birth, marriage & death, etc. I didn’t find much, but I did find a very promising series of census records. There was a “Morris Foulk” born in 1801 in Pennsylvania, who married “Mary.” Mary was also from Pennsylvania. They had about six children. So far, so good. This is looking promising.
Morris Foulk – and his growing family – is clearly documented in the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 US Censuses with his wife and young family. Okay, that looks good, too. But they are in Ohio. Humm. Now I can make a “case” for the family having moved away from the siblings and parents to settle new lands as a “farmer” in Ohio. Many families made this migration as lands became more expensive and demand increased as families grew.
The Nagging Problem
My problem with this seemingly perfect “Morris Foulk” family was that I had no connection to his siblings or his parents. I didn’t have a document that connected two generations to give me any incling that this is the right Morris Foulk. And sometimes that’s all the evidence we have. So, I held my breath and started to plot out this family, Morris, Mary, and their children and dutifully recording birth dates and locations for everyone as indicated in the census records.
I was humming along with my now blossoming tree albeit a little tentitively. I fleshed out the tree with the data from the 1880 census, then the 1870 census, and then the 1860 census. When I got to the 1850 US Census for the family, I came up “full stop.” The census lists Morris, Mary, and a few children just as the other censuses do. Then at the bottom of the household list was “Evan Foulke, ” age “80.” Ut oh. Now, the census didn’t list “relationship to head” in the 1850 Census for each person in a household like they do in later censuses. So I didn’t have conclusive proof that Evan was Morris’ father, but I had a strong inclination to be worried. I had to stop. It’s conceivable that there could be TWO Morris Foulkes, born 1801 in Pennsylvania – one the son of Evan and the other the son of George Washington Foulke.
The Painful Truth
I stopped crafting my nice and tidy Morris Foulk family and searched for the family of Evan Foulke. Sigh. Evan Foulke married Sarah Nixon. Evan and Sarah had a son, Morris Foulk, b. 1801 in Pennsylvania. Further, if you look at the names of the children of this Morris Foulke, you’ll notice other clues that this family isn’t the right family. There is a son named, “Evan” and a daughter, “Sarah.” Named after their grandparents, I bet. Bummer. This isn’t my Morris Foulk family.
The “good news” is I found the disconnect and stopped before I built a whole limb of my tree on erroneous connections.
Ah Ha! Moment
My new-found “godmother of genealogy,” Marsha Hoffman Rising, says that there are mistakes and then there is “bent truth,” (my term, not hers). A mistake is an honest misreading or mistaken conclusion of the facts. Bent truth is when you force the facts to fit your paradigm of reality. If I had forced Morris-son-of-Evan into my tree, I would have been bending reality and not serving my tree nor those who would someday look to it for answers any favors. It’s fun to make family connections – it’s really fun when you can trust them.