Part One: Tearing Down Brick Walls
Genealogy is like doing a puzzle after a two year old has played in the box. The pieces are all there but it’s no small chore trying to find them.
Brick walls, or dead ends, are a part of any family tree. I think of them as that stray puzzle piece the two year old swallowed. It’s not gone but it will take serious digging to find it and it is not going to be fun.
I have encountered many brick walls doing my own genealogy. One that I still haven’t cracked is my maternal Grandmother’s father’s line. My Great Grandfather’s name was William J Spence.
William J Spence was born in Ohio in 1880. His parents were James Spence and Emma Jane Davis.
The household of a James and Emily Spence is located on 1880 census in Ottawa County, Ohio, with no children. This seems like a likely match. Presently this might be the only source document recording Emma with her present during recording.
Emma disappears after 1880 except mention in marriage and death records of her children
Notes and Tasks on Emma Davis:
- Is Davis a maiden name or was it a later married name?
- Look in Ohio and Canada for marriage record for Spence and Davis abt 1880
- Look for Davis birth record in Ohio and Canada
- Look for Davis families that could possibly be Emma’s family near the James and Emma on the 1880 census
- Harry is a strong possibility for her father’s given name. Second son of James and Emma was named Harry
- According to records currently located James Spence was born in Canada to Irish born parents.
- It’s possible his father was named John, James, or William.
- His mother may have been named Jane Davidsen.
- His parents likely married in Ireland or Canada prior to 1853.
- Sometime prior to 1854 the James parents traveled from Ireland to Canada where James was born.
- James migrated to US; first to Ohio where older children with Emma Jane Davis were born around 1880
- James then migrated to Michigan married his second wife, Anna and lived out his life.
Looking at all these clues together I need to find an Irish household living in Canada at the time of the 1871 census. There are at least 105 Spence living in Canada in 1871
Of those records only 1 at a first glance seems like a remote possibility. The demographics of the family aren’t a perfect match but they are close enough to warrant a deeper look. If nothing else I need to rule this family out.
James Spence in Kingston, Ontario
This household lives in Cataraqui Ward, Kingston, Ontario. They claim Ontario birth but Irish origin and religion is listed as Church of England.
- The head of household is William born in 1832. William is definitely a family name so we can count this as positive evidence. The age would be of the proper range to be James’ father so that is another positive.
- The lady of the house is listed as Ann. That does not match up with our one piece of secondary evidence stating James mother was Jane however that in and of itself is not a rule out. The name could have been Jane Ann or Ann Jane or it could be a second spouse. Her age demographics do not rule her out or add supporting evidence. Her origin is listed as French which is a contradiction; however James named one of his daughters Mary Ann which could be supporting evidence.
- Oldest son James is definitely a strong likely match for our ancestor. He was born in Canada in 1854 of Irish origin.
- Other names in the household are Margaret, Nancy, and Ellen. Our ancestor James named one of his daughters Margaret Ellen. This could be possible supporting evidence.
There is nothing in these details that necessarily rules them out as a match, we do have a few weak clues to support the possibility it’s the correct family.
Continued Soon – Part Two: A Closer Look at William and Ann Spence of Kingston, Ontario
Looking closer at the records on William and Ann Spence and family to determine if they are possibly the parents of Grandpa James Spence
 Ancestry.com. Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867–1952. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.
 Year: 1880; Census Place: Danbury, Ottawa, Ohio; Roll: 1056; Family History Film: 1255056; Page: 441C; Enumeration District: 069; Image: 0382
 Year: 1871; Census Place: Cataraqui Ward, Kingston, Ontario; Roll: C-10000; Page: 93; Family No: 396 Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1871 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009