Maiden names can be one of the toughest brick walls to halt our research. At times finding a maiden name may be easy; however if we are unable to locate it, tracing a female ancestor’s line back any further may be a dead end. This was the case for my great grandmother, Martha Hiebel, who I had never found a maiden name for.
When I finally discovered her maiden name, however, I became able to trace many of her ancestors back the 1700s and discover a couple ethnicities I never knew I had!
Why had I never found her maiden name? How did I find it? Once I found it, what new information did I discover?
- The Problem:
If you ever hit a brick wall in your research, one of the things you probably are doing wrong is not thinking outside of the box. My dad told me he thought her maiden name was one thing, and this made me not realize the possibility that it could be something completely different.
- How I Found It:
Sister’s Obituary: Finding her maiden name did not happen when I was necessarily looking for it. Ancestry.com has a collection of historical obituaries for Chicago, Illinois and this collection gave me the first clue to find it. I did a search for “Hiebel” in this collection to see if I could find obituaries for any Hiebels in Chicago. I ended up finding an obituary for a woman named Evelyn Patoux, who it said had a sister named Martha Hiebel.
1920 U.S. Census: A quick search for Evelyn Patoux in the census led me to the 1920 census, where I found her living with her husband mentioned in the obituary, her parents, and her siblings. There was a sister named Margaret Gregory living in the household, the same age as my Martha Hiebel! This also told me that their parent’s names were Frank Gregory and Elizabeth.
- What I Discovered:
This discovery opened the doors for me to trace back the lines for Martha’s parents, Frank and Elizabeth. Here is a some of the information I was able to learn from uncovering my great grandmother’s family:
- Martha Gregory: Martha Gregory was born in Chicago, Illinois. She was the daughter of Frank Gregory and Elizabeth Taylor. Frank and Elizabeth had one other child named Evelyn.
- Frank Gregory: Frank Gregory was born in Nanticoke, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, and was the son of Asa Gregory and Mary Jane Wandel. Most of the ancestors of Frank Gregory had been living in Pennsylvania since the early 1700s. While I haven’t been able to trace them all back yet, Asa Gregory’s father was Peter Gregory Jr. and his father was Peter Gregory. Peter Gregory Sr. was the first settler in Union Township, Luzerne, Pennsylvania which is where the Gregory family lived until Frank. Peter Gregory was also a Sargent in the Revolutionary War.
- Elizabeth Taylor: Elizabeth Taylor was born in Sugar Bush, Waupaca, Wisconsin. She was the daughter of Frank Taylor and Margaret Rolo. Frank Taylor was born in France, and Margaret Rolo and her family lived in Mooers, Clinton, New York and were from Quebec; making them French Canadian. This French/French Canadian ancestry surprised me as I never knew that I was part French. I was able to trace Margaret’s family back to the 1700s in Quebec, however Frank Taylor is one of the most elusive ancestors that I have as I cannot find any of his family or where he was prior to the 1870 census (In 2016 Frank Taylor still remains amongst the most elusive of all my ancestors).
Had I not found Martha’s maiden name, I never would have been able to trace her ancestry any further back. Maiden names can be one of the toughest brick walls in terms of genealogy, and finding them can lead to huge breakthroughs of new information. Sometimes the smallest clues such as finding a sibling can lead us to find much more.
My great grandmother, Martha Gregory