Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Search: Missing Documents


Over the past few months there have been moments when I have made surprising progress researching my family trees and there have also been instances when I have hit some pretty significant walls. No matter how hard I have tried to hit the brick or how heavy the hammer, the structure remains solid. While there is still some small glint of hope that these records will turn up, it is not an endeavor that will likely produce significant results anytime soon… I guess I will have to get the chisel out and try to find the answers that way.

After all, that is how I found the few details that we know about John Uttley’s service in the Philadelphia Police Department. After dozens of calls and many hours leveraging various resources I was able to find out that while the full personnel files have long since been destroyed, there are pieces (i.e. rank, badge number, date of swearing in, rank, accounts in the newspaper) scattered across multiple sources. It isn’t much but it is a heck of a lot more than we have had in the past. Other endeavors haven’t even produced this level of information.

My great grandparents (William Edgar Yeagle and Bessie Wirth Uttley) divorce is something that is still interpreted different ways depending on with whom you speak. His first family, which is my line, sees the dissolution of marriage in one way namely that it was his drinking and abuse that caused the divorce. However, his second family, according to his granddaughter with whom I briefly spoke a couple of years ago, sees things a little differently in that it was my great grandmother that caused the issues in the marriage. When I called the court records office in Philadelphia City Hall (where they got divorced), there was little information that they could share as the records have long since faded and the only information on hand was that of the actual decree (without mention of cause). But at least that record can be produced unlike some others.

The marriage certificate of Paulus Redcross and Frances Beverly continues to be one record that we are continuing to search for through various offices, depositories, and whatever other means out there. It is something that we know exists as it is recorded in the Amherst County, Virginia ledger but the actual document seems to have disappeared. Not faded or destroyed (as far as we know) it is just gone. No one has been able to provide any definitive explanation although there are plenty of theories out there which is a completely separate topic altogether.

All of these documents have the potential to provide my family with a wealth of information (and answers) beyond what the existing documents ever could but there is significant doubt as to whether we will ever be able to read them. While we will continue seeking answers to other questions and look to fill in the family tree, these are things that we will always be looking for even if the possibility of finding them is slim. While these situations may be a deterrent for some, it only serves to motivate me to find and write the story without them (or at least try).