Does My Ancestor Not Want to be Found?

July 8, 2011

Moses W Bryant

My third-great-grandfater Moses W. Bryant had a daughter, Martha Blosser, who I can't track down.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be attending a reunion of sorts with my recently found Blosser family, so I thought I’d revisit the Blossers in my tree and work on a mystery that’s been stumping me. This is my third-great-grandfather, Moses W. Bryant. I’ve found quite a bit about him — Civil War service records, place of burial, etc.

The mystery is what happened to his daughter Martha, my great-great-grandmother. She married Alva Blosser, gave birth to my great-grandfather Moses Eugene Blosser and apparently died shortly thereafter. I haven’t been able to find any birth or death records or even a burial place for her.

She appears with her parents on the 1870 census at age 8 with her birthplace listed as Iowa. The 1880 census shows Alva, Martha and baby Moses in the same household with her parents Moses and Delilah Bryant in Butler, Harrison, MO. There’s a column on the census asking if there was a marriage in the census year. That box is checked on Alva’s line. The census also shows their son as 1 month old and having been born in May of the census year (1880) in Missouri. But later in his life on the 1910 and 1920 census Moses Eugene lists his birth date as April, 1883 in Sulphur Springs, Ark. His death certificate shows the same information.

So what happened to Martha? Right now my working theory is this: Martha got pregnant out of wedlock followed by a “shotgun” wedding to Alva. Her baby was born in Missouri in May, but there were complications. She was taken to Sulphur Springs, Ark. (which had something of a health spa/hospital in those days), where she died while Moses was still an infant. Moses was told the later birthdate and place to cover up the embarrassing discrepancy in the dates. And I have no idea why Martha was born in Iowa. Though Harrison County is on the Missouri-Iowa border, which might be a factor. Anyone have any good ideas?

—Nancy


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.


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22 thoughts on “Does My Ancestor Not Want to be Found?

  1. Here’s maybe an off the wall theory: I did a quick search for Alva Blosser & found an Alva J. Blosser 56 b. ILL md. to Maryatia 47 b. IN living in Duenweg, Jasper, MO in 1920. Then looked to see how far that was from Butler, Harrioson. It’s a straight shot south abt 4 hrs. Then I wanted to see where Duenweg was in relation to Sulpher Springs, AR. Turns out it’s a straight shot north or Sulpher by only about 40 miles. You didn’t say what happened to Alva and Martha, just Moses. Was he raised by adoptive parents or in an orphanage? Is it possible for some reason (maybe being so young)that Alva & Martha gave him up? Then they remained not far from Sulpher and later had other (3 listed in 1920) children? Just tossing this out. I could be totally wrong.

  2. Another possible scenario is that baby Moses born in 1880 died, the parents moved to Arkansas and had another son to whom they gave the same name in 1883. And Martha died some time after that. What is the later history of Alva Blosser? Does the 1900 census show him with a second wife or widowed? Is Moses with him, or living on his own, and what birth date is shown for him then? Won’t it be wonderful when more cemetery records are on the internet!

  3. To the best of my understanding, when a census indicates that something happened within the census year, it means a full year prior to the month the census was scheduled to be taken. So, since the census was supposed to have been taken in June 1880, anything shown to have happened within the census year could have taken place all the way back to the previous June. So, while it is a possibility that Martha got pregnant out of wedlock, it’s also possible that they waited until they were married. I know this doesn’t help a whole lot with finding Martha, but hopefully it was helpful! I know it’s frustrating trying to find some of these ancestors with little or nothing to go on! I hope you’re able to find something soon! Good luck!

  4. Wow, Nancy, I think your theory is a good one! Also remember that “illegitimacy” wasn’t such a big deal until Victorian times. Many children were born before their parents were wed. The discrepancy in birthdates might just be Moses’ doing == I find so many differences in them myself, for anyone and everyone no matter when they came into the world. Perhaps Sulphur Springs has more clues: in newspaper accounts; (don’t you wish?!) visitation records; or death notices.

  5. Nice theory! I had a cousin who disappeared. Luckily when he died his sisters claimed the body (two states away) and paid for the funeral back home (found that thanks to a friendly undertaker). He simply changed his surname when he got his original SSN, since proof of name was not required then!

    On the other hand, I have a great grandfather who did not want to be found, and I certainly have not been able to! He deeded his half of the family home to his wife, then later on she divorced on the grounds of abandonment. Plus the sheriff could never find him to serve him! He is still gone in the mists of time. Why? One theory is he made powerful enemies in the business community of Cleveland since he was a Union organizer. Maybe someday I will know!

  6. According to the 1910 census, Alva “Dick” Blosser married for the second time about 1894. I would try to find that second marriage record and see what info it provides such as if he is listed as a widower. Then I would hunt down what he was doing between 1880 and 1894. That might provide some clues. Good luck!

  7. In looking at the website that Laurel posted, it indicates that Martha and the latest Blosser male born both died in Sulpher Springs, AR. Since it doesn’t give dates, I am going to assume that Martha and the baby died at childbirth. They could have both been taken and buried where she was from in Iowa. Years ago, there were so many Family cemeteries. I have found two of these in my family on farms. Back then, the roads were not good and conditions didn’t always allow them to take them to a nearby cemetery so they would bury them on their farm.

  8. I can definitely sympathize with your plight. I have a great-great grandmother that seems to have not really existed. :-) I have her date of death, I know that she gave birth to 2 daughters (one of which was my g-grandma) prior to dying young along with her husband and other daughter. However, I can’t find any information on her place of burial, place of death or even verify her parents. I’ve tried working backwards from my g-grandma’s birth/death documents, but apparently, those don’t exist either! Ughhh! Unfortunately, all of her children have passed now and her grandchildren (my father, aunts and uncles) don’t know much about her since her parents and sister died when she was between 3 and 5 years old. :-(

    Good luck and keep us posted on how you find any further info. ’cause I’m always looking for good ideas on ways to find more clues. :-)

  9. Wow, guys thanks for the great ideas!
    Laurel, that is not my web page but it sure is the same family. I’ve to take a good long look at it.
    Susan, I hadn’t thought about there being a second baby Moses. Excellent suggestion! I’ll check that out.
    I also don’t know anything about Alva and Martha having more children. Oh, for the 1890 census!
    The family is from Duenweg, MO and that is where my grandfather was born. I think maybe I just found my next research trip. Good thing its only a couple of hours from Tulsa!

  10. Are you absolutely sure Martha was born in Iowa? Is Iowa actually spelled out on the census image? Most of my ancestors were born in Indiana; however, on some census images Indiana is abbreviated as In. BUT whoever transcribed the images lists place of birth as Iowa because the handwritten “In” often looks like “Ia”. Just something to consider. Good luck with your ancestor hunting. I have a few brick walls I cannot break through either.

  11. At findagrave.com I did a search for born in 1862 died in 1883, no first name, last name Bryant and found the following:

    ? Bryant

    Birth: May 2, 1862
    Death: Sep., 1883

    Burial:
    Goss Cemetery
    Seymour
    Webster County
    Missouri, USA

    Created by: PH Goss
    Record added: Jul 02, 2006
    Find A Grave Memorial# 14795967

    Perhaps they weren’t really married and this is her? The cemetery is about two hours into Missouri from Sulphur Springs. Probably isn’t her, but worth a shot.

    Where exactly was Moses born? At home, in a hospital, etc?

  12. I have two relatives that don’t want to be found. My mothers mother Elizabeth Wiggins who died around 1944 two yrs after my mother was born (Louise Rose Wiggins), My greatgrandmother Della Wiggins raised my mom. I can’t find when Elizabeth was born, died, where shes buried, what did she die from?????? It’s such a mystery because my mom never took an interest to find out and won’t talk about it, even that she has given me a few pics of her.
    Then my grandfather Reginald Riley I find in N.J. before he moved to Virginia. I can’t find his father. I keep wondering if his father was Henry Riley or was that another brother. It’s like his parents are lost in space.

  13. Here’s another possibility. A posting on Genforum in 1999:

    genforum.genealogy.com/cgi-bin/pageload.cgi?alva,blosser::blosser::44.html

    gave Alva’s birthdate and place. A followup later said that “after Martha Jane died…” (no date) Alva remarried. Perhaps Alva and his new wife raised Moses.

    I’m puzzled by the geography of this family. Butler, MO is in Bates County, between Kansas City and Nevada (I go through it regularly). Harrison County, on the other hand, is near the Iowa border. There is a Butler County, MO and that’s near Arkansas. Might be a clue for some of the discrepancies.

  14. Do you know which county the Sulphur Springs Moses was born in? According to wikipedia there was more than one:

    Sulphur Springs, Ashley County, Arkansas, a unincorporated community in Ashley County
    Sulphur Springs, Benton County, Arkansas, a city in Benton County
    Sulphur Springs, Jefferson County, Arkansas, a census-designated place in Jefferson County
    Sulphur Springs, Johnson County, Arkansas, a unincorporated community in Johnson County, formerly Union City
    Sulphur Springs, Montgomery County, Arkansas, a unincorporated community in Montgomery County, formerly Redbird
    Sulphur Springs, Van Buren County, Arkansas, a unincorporated community in Van Buren County, formerly Morganton
    Sulphur Springs, Yell County, Arkansas, a unincorporated community in Yell County

    This might have some bearing on your research.

    Good luck. Hope Martha changes her mind and decides she wants a voice of her own.

  15. I am afraid I cannot give any ideas to help your situation. Since I have been working on several biographies and my autobiography, I have not any success in finding any information on an who did not live beyond 1930. I found her whereabouts via the United States Federal Census. They state close to when she married both of her spouses. When it comes to getting this information from the Orphans Court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania City Hall there is no record of a marriage. The State of Pennsylvania has a record of a death certificate of a Mary Brown, whose informant states her birth occurred in New Jersey. Based on that information I knew that she was not my aunt. The informant had a different name from what I have.

  16. Sorry, I got hung up on the geography in my previous post and forgot to give you the reference for the idea that Martha died and Alva remarried. Here it is, also from the Blosser area of Genforum but under Adam Blosser:

    Re: Adam Blosser decendents and ancestors
    Posted by: sue blosser reber Date: January 26, 2000 at 22:47:38
    In Reply to: Re: Adam Blosser decendents and ancestors by Gloria of 457

    After Martha Jane died Alvah James married Marietta Thomas, they are my grandparents. He and Martha had 5 sons, He & Marietta had two sons and one daughter. My father was Alvah James’s(Dick’s)seventh son.

    Perhaps Sue Blosser Reber could help with more info on Martha Jane, if you could find her. Good luck!

  17. Did you check to see if there were city records not recorded on a county level or church records? The city was the only source for some of my death records pre-required county records. The local cemeteries have been another source.

    These responses have been good – interesting.

  18. I so understand where you are coming from. My greatgrandfather died when his three sons were quite small. Greatgrandmother would never talk about that side of the family. Apparently she cut that side of the family completely off . Our family has no idea of where ggranddad die, of what, etc.
    Good luck in unlocking your puzzle.

  19. Angela- very smart use of findagrave! I never thought of doing a search like that. Also, the Sulphur Springs in Benton County AR seems the most likely one but having multiple towns with the same name all over the state makes things very confusing!
    Anne Tanner- well hello there cousin! shoot me a message on Facebook (nancy.shively) and we’ll compare notes!

    Thanks everyone for all the great ideas! I still have so much to learn that this has been VERY helpful.

  20. I find that many people could not read or write way back then, and therefore could not understand a calendar either. I once compared a family on succeeding census and every birthdate was changed, as well as the spelling of all names but you could tell it was the same family. Also there is the (I forget) factor where people just don’t have a memory that is correct. My husbands great grandmother applied for a pension from his civil war ancestor and the death date was different on each yearly application, as well as the date and cause of death. All this info supposedly given by his gr grand mother.

  21. I was told years ago not to pay close attention to marriage dates because if they lived in the country, which most did, the recorder would only make it around once a year or less in some areas. Some would, alot of times, record the date he was there and not the date of the actual marriage.

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