Middle Names

When you are building your family tree, look at people’s middle names for clues.

I am working on a tree that has a son by the name Arthur Rial Childs 1852-1935. I started the tree with one small 1875 obituary which had the woman’s name Mrs. Elathere Niles age 96.

1875 - Adrian Mich death newspaper


I found that name in an 1860 census and she was living with a “Childs” family but I had no way of confirming that it was the same person.

1860 United States Federal Census
Name:     Hannan Childs
Age in 1860:     36
Birth Year:     abt 1824
Birthplace:     New York
Home in 1860:     Madison, Lenawee, Michigan
Gender:     Male
Post Office:     Adrian
Value of real estate:     View image
Household Members:     
Name     Age
Hannan Childs     36
Sarah Childs     35
Elathea Niles     79
Arthur Childs     7
Irena Childs     5
Harriet Childs     1

In her obituary there is a note saying: “Notice of funeral hereafter.” So I looked for the next day’s edition of the newspaper. The Obit was in the Aug 30 newspaper so the next day would be Aug 31. I looked for it in the Google News Archive listing but did not find it there. I remembered my past blog post about number of pages in a newspaper (See quote at bottom) and noticed that the Aug 30 newspaper was listed as having eight (8) pages but the normal run for that particular newspaper was four (4) pages so I looked once again at that issue. Sure enough they had photo-copied both Aug 30 and Aug 31 and called it Aug 30 1815… The 1815 and 1875 error is for another blog posting.

Copy of 1875 - Alathear Niles Obit - Adrian Mich

So I found the funeral notice in the Aug 31 newspaper and it said that the funeral procession would start at the residence of her son-in-law, Mr. Childs; this gave me a link for Niles and Childs.


Going back to the 1860 census I saw Mr. Childs wife was Sarah so I put Sarah on the tree as daughter of Elathea.


Name     Age
Hannan Childs     36
Sarah Childs     35
Elathea Niles     79
Arthur Childs     7
Irena Childs     5
Harriet Childs     1


Let’s get back to middle names; Arthur Rial Childs.


Whenever I find two last names for husband and wife I do a search for a marriage record on Family Search and so I put in the names, Childs and Niles, but did not find a marriage record. What I did find was death notices for two children whose parents are Childs and Niles and one of the children was Arthur Rial Childs died 10 Apr 1935, birth date: 18 Sep 1852 father’s name Harmon Childs and mother’s name Sarah J Niles.

In the 1860 census they list a child by the name Arthur age 7, so his age fit the birth date on the death record on Family Search. That death record also listed his middle name so I wondered if there was a Rial listed in the family, maybe with Elathea, a possible brother to Sarah. I put that name on the tree as a son of Elathea and sure enough a record came up, she has a son named Rial. In fact she is listed as living with Rial in 1860. No relationship is given but the birth date falls in line with a son as opposed to a brother.

I know what you are saying.

“Hold on a minute! How can she be on Sarah’s 1860 census and again on Rial’s 1860 census? You must have the wrong person!”

Well, that is a good question and the answer is simple. The Sarah 1860 census was taken in June of that year and the Rial 1860 census was taken in July, one month later. Elathea (Alathear Elathere Eltha) was 80 years old and was probably living with her children at different houses throughout the year.

I continued working on the tree and found many records for the family and confirmed the information other family trees had, so the tree I created from that one small item is reliable and confirmed (backed) by records.

Tree - Niles 1875

One last point I would like to make. I found the Obit dated 1875 but when I looked at other family trees for Mrs. Niles they all had a death date of 1871. I followed their sources back to the original source and there on the “One Tree” file is the death date of 1871 but with “NO SOURCE“. Where did “One Tree” get that date? Ten trees picked up the death date of 1871 and never questioned it.


I guess they were saying: “It is on the web so it must be correct. Right?”


There are many lessons to be learned from this blog posting:


  1. Confirm the date given in the Google News Archive list with the date on the newspaper itself. If there is picture of an automobile in the newspaper, you know the newspaper date can’t be 1856.


  1. Check the newspaper dates with information contained in the newspaper. Typesetters also make mistakes and the little lead letters and numbers they had to position in a rush to make deadline might have been the wrong choice.


  1. Read all of the information given in a newspaper item, it might lead you to some other item in a different issue.


  1. Don’t just take a date, verify it, confirm it, and make sure it is correct.


  1. If a person is living with a different named family see if you can link them together even if the record does not give a relationship.


  1. Don’t disregard a census record just because you already have one for the person. Check out when the census was taken maybe they are living at two places during that year.


  1. Finally, look at the middle names of the people on your tree; they might come from some family tradition or from a family member who is not yet on the tree.


I hope this small posting will help you with your family tree.


Thank You.

Jose from Clarkston, Michigan

Other blog posting quote:

“…The number of newspaper pages for that day is shown at top right. Some really old news papers had only 4 pages. Other newspapers will show a huge number of pages such as 65 but this is the number of photo copy images and it could mean that they photo copied several days of that particular newspaper. So don’t give up when you see a large number, page through the issue…”

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