The chronicle of this woman's perpetual game of hide-and-seek with her ancestors
As I was putting together a Stiker descendant report for a potential cousin, I realized that I had skipped right over the 1900 census entry for my 3rd great grandfather, Gustav Justin Stiker (b. 1834ish, d. 1912) and his wife Louisa and their family. No problem. I hopped on FamilySearch and narrowed everything right down to the enumeration district and searched for his name … but he wasn’t there.
He just had to be in Evansville. He never left.
So I widened my search to the county and only looked for “Stiker.” Well, there he is, living at a different address in a different ED in Evansville: 1220 Michigan. Whoa … wait a minute. This says his wife’s name is Emily. I’ve seen some bad handwriting, but I can’t imagine how a person can hear ‘Louisa’ and write it so terribly wrong that it comes out as Emily on the page. This can’t be my Justin.
Okay, let’s review. What information do I have? (1) He was living at 1611 Division as late as 1886, according to the last city directory I found. (2) He was listed with wife Louisa and four of their children on the 1880 census. (3) He was an employee of the railroad.
Step 1 – do a page-by-page search of the supposed enumeration district. Indexes are notoriously unreliable, right? Result – nada.
Step 2 – make sure I’m looking in the right ED. It’s not unheard of for them to renumber everything in between censuses, right? And heck, I don’t have the 1890 census for reference either. The number probably just changed. Result – after printing two Sanborn maps of the area (before and after the census), consulting SteveMorse.org, and literally mapping out every enumeration district in Evansville for 1900, I finally discovered where his residence was supposed to be (not where I thought).
Step 3 – okay, now I can search in the correct ED, right. Think again. Result – there isn’t even an entry for the address. It’s like it doesn’t even exist anymore.
Step 4 – Think about opening a bottle of wine. Oh, it’s only 2:00 in the afternoon. I’ll wait a little while.
Step 5 – Find more city directories to help narrow down where he might have gone. It turns out that the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library has digitized – and searchable – versions of practically all the city directories for Evansville from 1858 through 1908. Result – I found that Justin continued to live at 1611 Division until 1892. He is missing in the 1893 directory (though there is an entry for “Christian” Stiker, a foreman at the E&TH Railroad at 1408 E. Franklin. If you say it really fast, you can totally make it sound like “Justin”). Justin is listed in 1894 at the same address. In 1896, Justin is listed as 1220 E. Michigan. And in 1897, he’s listed at the same address with “Mrs. Emily A.” Hmm …
Step 6 – Maybe there’s a copy of a record in that bunch of marriage records I requested from Vanderburgh County. Result – yes! There is a marriage record for Justin Stiker and Emily A. Long dated 30 Apr 1885. Unfortunately, it’s only the license and return, no application. I need to be sure this is the right Justin.
Step 7 – return to the census entry I thought was wrong before. The census record shows Justin as age 70 (later corrected to 59), having a birth date of November 1840 (I calculate a birth date of around 1834, since he was 78 years old at his death in 1912). It also shows that he and Emily have been married 30 years. But even the record shows they have only been married 15 years, regardless of whether this is the right Justin or not. The census entry also says that Justin immigrated to the States in 1840. If he was born in November 1840 and immigrated to the States in 1840 … I guess that leaves me a very small window of time to find his ship. Result – Needless to say, I have very little faith in anything written on this census page at this point. But this Justin’s birth date and birth place are within plausible parameters to be “my” Justin.
Step 8 – Who is Emily Long? I found a death index entry showing Emily R. Stiker, age 73, who died in 1908 in Evansville (I note that Justin is found on the 1910 census listed as a widower and living with his daughter Lillian). There is also a notice in the newspaper dated 8 May 1908 from Probate Court that Justin Stiker is named as administrator for the estate of Emily A. Stiker.
So far nothing has convinced me that this is the same Justin Stiker (though there simply aren’t that many Stikers in Evansville during this time, so I’m pretty confident nonetheless). But either this is the same Justin Stiker, or “my” Justin Stiker was not enumerated in 1900. But how will I confirm or refute this new information?
That should keep me busy for a while.
Do we share any ancestors?