Friday, September 28, 2012

Beginning the search for my family history

Ever since I was a little girl, my mother has been talking about my ear off about our family tree. My mother will talk your ear off about anything, actually (I say that with love, Mom!). I wasn’t paying attention, but with that much talking, some things are bound to seep in. I knew a rough sketch of some of our family. A little over a year ago, I had a vague idea that I might like to learn more, and I decided it would be a goal of mine to do a family tree for myself.

Two months ago I joined and started filling in what I knew. By now I have ancestors in varying degrees of completion (research wise that is). I solved the mystery of a missing aunt. I met (online) a new cousin. I discovered that I'm Swedish. It's been a strange, but exciting, journey into the past.

One section of the family tree that has required a lot of searching has actually been pretty close to the present. My great grandmother Mary Ellen Sellers was born in 19101. Going in to my search, I had been told by my family that she had two sisters, Reba and Myrtle. She had been raised in an orphanage, after her mother died.

Great Grandmom Mary with three of her four sons, and some extended family

I knew her parents' names were George Sellers and Mary Baldwin, so I began searching census data with this information in hand. My grandmother was born in August. The census takers visited Philadelphia around April that year, so I knew I wouldn't find Grandmom on the census with her parents. I began searching for her sisters and parents on the 1900 census, as both sisters were much older than my grandmother. I found a Myrtle with parents George and Mary, but there was no Reba. I discarded that one, and kept searching. I searched high and low (to the best of my admittedly limited ability--I am new at this after all!). I found a Myrtle in 1910 living with parents George and Mary2, but there were other kids, none of whom were Reba. I discarded that one too.

After much fruitless searching, I had to go back to the 1910 record I had found, and wonder if my grandfather (son of Mary) didn't have all the information. The children listed on this census were Myrtle, age 15, Elizabeth, age 9, James, age 6, and George 4.

I thought maybe Reba was a middle name for Elizabeth. I checked Elizabeth out further, and found her baptism certificate. Her name was Elizabeth Rebecca, and her mother's name was listed as Mary Baldwin3.

Now confident I had the right family, I turned to my family. My grandfather now recalled his mother was one of five children, and her brothers James and George had died early. He also recalled that Mary Baldwin had been alive when her daughter was placed in the Children's Home. I had all the info easily available to me on this family, so I next turned to Mary Baldwin's family. While researching her sister, Harriet, I came across something that surprised me4.

Reba! Was this my Reba? She's listed as 'daughter' but her last name is Baldwin, while Harriet's maiden name was Megaw. Harriet's sister Jane wasn't old enough to be Reba's mother. Reba appeared with Harriet's family again in 19105. This time she was listed as niece. Now that I knew her name was Baldwin, and had her confirmed birth year, I began to search Reba herself. When I found her marriage certificate6, all the pieces fell in to place.

Reba was Mary Baldwin's daughter, but George Sellers was not her father. I checked with my family, my grandfather had no idea Reba was his mother's half sister.

This also meant that Elizabeth Rebecca was a previously unknown about sibling. The 1910 census indicated that Mary Baldwin had had 10 children, with 4 living2. This was obviously not taking Reba into account, so that meant there were six more children who had likely died young. I'm still working on tracking them down, and hope to be able to share that information soon.

1"United States Social Security Death Index," index, Ancestry ( : accessed 28 Sep 2012), Mary Gledhill, 21 Apr 2006; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
21910 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Philadelphia, 36th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 88, sheet 13A, George Sellers household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration FHL microfilm: 1375419.
3Baptismal Record for Elizabeth Rebecca Sellers, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 1904 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Register of baptisms; Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985, digital image, ( : accessed 28 Sep 2012); citing Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1018.
41900 U.S. census, New Castle County, Delaware population schedule, Wilmington, 10th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 42, sheet 9, dwelling 179, family 182, J. Edward Megaw household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm roll 156.
51910 U.S. census, New Castle County, Delaware, population schedule, Election district No.2, enumeration district (ED) 76 sheet 2B, dwelling 34, family 36, George E. Megaw household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm, roll T624_146.
6“Delaware Marriage Records, 1806-1933,” database and images, ( : accessed 28 Sep 2012); Reba M. Baldwin, no. 1514, issued 12 June 1914; citing Delaware Vital Records; Microfilm. Delaware Public Archives, Dover.


  1. I love how you are so into this project. The more you talk about your family, the more you are getting me interested in finding out about my own family history.

    The mystery of Reba made me think of Nancy Drew. Keep it up detective.

    1. If only I could read Tagalog, I'd start digging in to *your* history, and then you'd really be interested!

    2. I will send you an English-Tagalog Dictionary!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. 36th ward in Philadelphia has quite a hidden history. I can relate completely to your bouncing about in records for research.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...