There are times in our research we may come across information we can’t fully prove. My 2nd great grandfather, Frank Hiebel, was born in Wisconsin. My dad and I always assumed he was the immigrant ancestor, so this surprised me. Between neither of us knowing this and a lack of sources, I had difficulty proving what happened to his father Thomas Hiebel.
Why couldn’t I prove this? What steps did I take to find what I needed? What did this help me discover in the future?
- The Problem:
The main problem was a lack of sources. This was some of my earliest research, and all that I had at my disposal was primarly census and vital records. Frank Hiebel only appearned in Wisconsin with his family on the 1880 census, in a town called Kewaunee. This record also said that his parents were Thomas and Anna Hibel.
If the name spelled wrong wasn’t enough to make me second guess myself, Frank was living in Chicago for the following census records. Also, I only found one Thomas Hiebel in the later records who might have been the right person, however he was living in Minnesota. He had a different wife and was living with different children. I saw some other Hiebels who I thought were from another family in Minnesota, and I didn’t know if this Thomas Hiebel was the same as mine.
- How I Found It:
Trust Yourself: While there may be times we don’t have enough proof to confirm something; yet you have a gut feeling it has to be right, there is a chance you might be! I am definitely not saying that you should find one source that could be right and believe without a doubt it is (as I explained within the Shanks story), however I am saying to trust your best judgment and not give up on looking for potential sources. How do we prove if a guess we have is in fact correct?
Additional Sources: One source is certainly not enough to prove whether something is right or wrong. There are many times where source information will contain errors that other records will help point out. In order to confirm information as being accurate, I advise at least 3 or 4 sources (if not as many as possible) are gathered to support your findings. The more I found on Thomas Hiebel, the more I was able to prove that he was in fact the father of Frank Hiebel.
I was able to prove that the Thomas Hiebel in Douglas County, Minnesota was the same Thomas Hiebel living in Kewaunee, Wisconsin by looking for additional sources. I found state census records that showed Thomas living in Wisconsin during 1895 and in Minnesota during 1905, which helped me pinpoint an approximate moving date. When I found a newspaper article discussing the marriage to his second wife, it said he moved from Wisconsin. This article helped me prove it was the same person.
Siblings: Another clue this newspaper article gave me was that he had a brother living in Minnesota named Joseph Hiebel. More research led me to connect the dots and find their two sisters (Mary Sticka and Anna Ramesh) and their parents (Joseph and Anna Hiebel). I was under the assumption that Thomas immigrated on his own, and wouldn’t have found that his parents also came over had I not tried to dig deeper for information on his siblings.
Historical Societies and Libraries: There are many records that can be easily accessed, however do not appear on genealogy websites. After contacting a historical society in Minnesota and a library in Wisconsin, I was able to receive newspaper articles, obituaries, and much more on Thomas, his siblings, and his parents. The obituaries for Thomas and Joseph Sr. also confirmed that Frank Hiebel of Chicago had attended both funerals.
- What I Discovered:
If I did not stick with the assumption that the Thomas Hiebel living in Minnesota was probably the same as Frank’s father, I may have never found all the information I did. By looking for additional sources to back up my theories, researching Thomas’s brother as a means of leading me to lead me to find the rest of his family, and contacting various locations in search of records, I was able to confirm my hypothesis.
Finding Thomas’s father Joseph would eventually lead me to finding his baptism record in Bohemia, although that is a story for another time. If you have a hunch, do not assume that you are right without a doubt. Believe that you might be right, don’t give up, and dig deeper. You might end up finding the additional sources you need to confirm your hypothesis.
The tombstone of my 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Hiebel