Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Finding Two "Missing" Children from the 1910 Census

The 1910 census lists Elizabeth C Merrill, wife of Norman B Merrill, as a mother of 6 with 4 still living. I'm sure we all have families like this on our trees. We'd love to tell the stories of these "missing" children who both were born and died between census years. But, how can we locate them?

One solution? Newspapers. 

What a wonderful source! And, it was newspapers that helped me locate the two "missing" children of Elizabeth and Norman B Merrill.

The first newspaper article I found was dated November 25, 1902. It simply stated: The infant child of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Merrill died Sunday night, aged seven months. The funeral will be held this afternoon; interment at Dunnstown.

I looked for two additional records for this baby: a death certificate and a grave record at Find A Grave. Neither record was found. So, sadly, I don't know the name or even sex of this little baby, but I do know an approximate birth and death date.

I was able to find out a lot more about the second missing child. The newspaper article about her death provided a lot of information.

Three-Year-Old Child is Fatally Scalded, Lock Haven Express, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, 3 Dec 1906,
page 5, column 2
, digital image newspaperarchives.com, (http://newspaperarchives.com), accessed 10 May 2016

Dated December 3rd, 1906, this horrific story explains that Caroline's mother was preparing to give 3-year-old Caroline a bath. The hot water was sitting on the floor next to the stove. Little Caroline was sitting on a chair near the water while eating an apple. She fell into the hot water in which she was badly burned. She lost consciousness several times and died from her burns the following night.

What a horrific story! My heart aches for this mother (and the family) as she watched her little one suffer! I can just imagine how she must have blamed herself. I know I blamed myself when my daughter fell out of our car onto her head once. (Thankfully, she was fine.)

Portion of  Death Certificate of Caroline Viola Merrill, died 1 Dec 1906,
Lock Haven, Clinton County, Pennsylvania (image on Ancestry)

On Ancestry, I was able to find Caroline's death certificate. "Little Caroline" was not 3, but actually only 2 years, 4 months, and 5 days old. The cause of death is listed as "accidentally scalded." It also stated that she would be buried in Dunnstown Cemetery, the same cemetery where her parents are interred, though she is not listed with them on Find-A-Grave.

The informant for this death certificate was not the mother or the father who were possibly too grief-stricken to answer the questions. The informant was the father's brother, A. L. Merrill, who was my great, great grandfather.

3 Sources for locating these "missing" children:

  • newspapers 
  • death certificates - which can often be found by using the parents names
  • cemetery records - these little ones will often be buried by their parent, siblings, or other family members


  1. Oh this makes my heart ache too! Such a sad story! Looks like we both are loving the details of newspapers right now and hopefully the more that are digitized, the more we will find!

    1. It's amazing how much the digitization of newspapers is changing how we can do genealogy. I think back to my great aunt who started me on this journey. How much more would she have found over the years if so much had been online? We can accomplish things today in a fraction of the time it took in days gone by. Incredible.

  2. My God Dana, what an awful tragedy, can you imagine the guilt her poor mother had to live with!

    1. Dara, it is hard to imagine how that mother felt. And, did her husband blame her? Did others? I watched "The Biggest Loser" this year and one of the ladies just could not get over the fact that her toddler had left the house & drowned in the pool. She said she only had one job - to keep her son safe - and she had failed. You could tell how much she hated herself and needed to forgive herself. I wonder how this mother dealt with her daughter's death? And, to watch her have to suffer in agonizing pain. I didn't even share all of the details from the newspaper article - it was heart wrenching. I just hope the family was able to heal from this tragedy.

  3. How awful! As you know, I too am loving what newspapers can do to bring life to our ancestors. And the ability to document those poor little kids that live and die between census'. Hopefully you with the additional information on the first child, you'll be able to find more information on that little one as well.

    1. Yes, I will keep searching for that other baby and hope I find more. Newspapers as such an incredible source. I'm thankful more & more of them are getting digitized!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


The 1828 Will of Peter Close's Relict: Catharine Elizabeth Close

Yesterday, I shared the 1810 will of my 5th great grandfather , Peter Close of Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Peter's wife, Catha...