On the very first day I started doing genealogy, I found a birth record saying that my grandfather’s grandmother was born as an illegitimate child, father unknown. Three years later, her mother married and the groom acknowledged the child as his. The three-year-gap made me dismiss him as her biological father. In the 23 years since then, I’ve collected all documents I could find about this family but never found any viable candidates.
Inspired by Dr. Thomas Jones’ and Elizabeth Shown Mills’ lectures about maximizing clues in evidence,1 I decided to go over my sources again. I noticed one document: an 1860-1870 population register, one of the documents I remember seeing on that very first day in 1990. Population registers are somewhat like a continuous census: every page shows all the people living in a house during the period of the register. People that are born or move in get added, people who die or move away get struck through.
For one particular address (Haagdijk 69b), this 1860-1870 population register listed three people:2
- Cornelia Platschart, the mother, listed as head of household
- Her husband Franciscus Bovendeert, with a note that he married nr. 1 in 1864
- Her daughter, Maria Cornelia, born 1861
I tried to look for subtle clues and suddenly it hit me: the order in which they were listed could only mean one thing: The husband had moved in before the daughter was born, or he would not have been listed second. The page did not include a ‘moved in’ date, suggesting the head of the household lived there in 1860 when the register was started. If they had come from elsewhere as a family, the husband would have been listed first, which also implies that the mother lived there by herself first. If the daughter had been born before the husband moved in, she would have been added as nr. 2 in 1861, and the husband as nr. 3 in 1864. The fact that Franciscus is listed before the daughter proves that he lived there before her birth. This makes him a very plausible candidate for her father.
I’ll be following up on Franciscus to find out where he lived previously to see when he came into Cornelia Platschart’s life. It’s great to have new leads for a brick wall I previously considered unsolvable!
- Thomas Jones, “Maximizing Your Use of Evidence,” and Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Trousers, Beds, Black Domestic, Tacks, and Housekeeping Bills: “Trivial Details” Can Solve Research Problems,” lectures given at National Genealogical Society conference in Las Vegas, NV in May 2013; CD-ROMs available from Jamb Inc.
- Breda, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands, “Bevolkingsregister [population register] Breda 1860-1869,” vol. 10, p. 105, household of Cornelia Platschart; Stadsarchief Breda [municipal archives Breda] (http://www.stadsarchief.breda.nl : accessed 2 July 2013)