Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pulling a Thread to Unravel Genealogical Tangles

Sometimes pulling a single thread can unravel a multitude of genealogical problems. I had the fortune of finding such a thread in my own research recently. By finding a record of a family member, I was able to answer nagging questions I have had for some time about mystery persons in census returns, add needed strength to the identification of my 4th great grandmother, and connect with a new line of cousins from St Croix. To tell the story, I’ll begin with each of the questions I had uncovered and then show how, by researching non-family members in censuses over an 80 year period and 3 generations led to adding branches I didn’t know existed in my own tree.

Who is Ingeborg Østergaard?

My 3rd great grandfather Johannes van Beverhoudt had two daughters named Anne Ingeborg van Beverhoudt. The first was born in April 1846 and the second in December 1847. Since no census shows two Anne Ingeborg van Beverhoudts, it is probable that the first daughter had died and that they kept the name for the next child. What made me interested in these daughters was the name, Ingeborg. It’s not that Ingeborg is an uncommon name. Rather, it is a fairly common Danish name (commonly shortened to Inga or Inger). However, the van Beverhoudts weren't Danish, they were Dutch. There was no history of naming children by Danish names. The names in my family were typically derived from other family members.  Where did the name come from?

Johannes and Maria had a total of 16 children between 1827 and 1852. In the 1850 census, two of the daughters, Louisa Elize, aged 10, and Ellen Sophia, aged 8, were not living in their parents’ home at 41 C Company Street. They were living with a woman named Ingeborg Østergaard at 12 AB Prince St. Ingeborg disappeared from the census by 1860. Why were the girls living with her, and was she the origin of the name Ingeborg?


Who is Aline Hull?

  When I found the 1890 census for the family of my 2nd great grandfather, and Johannes’ son, Claudius van Beverhoudt, I noticed an entry for an Aline M Hull, aged 22, listed as a cousin born in St Croix. As I was building my tree, I could not find any association between the van Beverhoudts and the Hulls. Further, I couldn’t find any reference to Aline at all.  If she was from St Croix, she should have been listed in both the 1870 and 1880 censuses, but wasn’t. Around 1894, Aline married Robert Eugene Danielsen. In 1890 he was a manager at Glynn. They had 6 children and their line continues today.


Try as I might, I could find no connection between the van Beverhoudts and Aline Hull. By tracing back Eugene’s family, I found that Claudius van Beverhoudt and Eugene Danielsen were, in fact, distant relatives, half-4th cousins, once removed. They were both descended from Claudi van Beverhoudt (c. 1670), the first of my van Beverhoduts to come to the islands. Unfortunately, this can’t be the source of the “cousin” entry in the 1890 census because Aline and Eugene weren’t married yet in 1890 and it is highly unlikely that Claudius and Eugene knew they were distant cousins.


I got a little information while going through the St Thomas Lutheran churchbook. On 14 April 1868 Aline Hull was baptized in Charlotte Amalie. Her parents were Rasmus Hull and Ingeborg Østergaard. Further, Rasmus and Ingeborg were married that same day. It seemed that I had found out why Aline wasn’t in the 1870 and 1880 St Croix censuses:  she was actually born in St Thomas. It also seemed to tell me why Ingeborg disappeared from the census by 1860. It seems she moved to St Thomas and married Rasmus Hull.

One item, though, initially caused me to reject this hypothesis. According to the marriage and baptism records, Ingeborg Østergaard was 35 years old, but the Ingeborg from St Croix would have been 45. Rasmus was listed as 26. Was this actually the same Ingeborg, who just took a decade off her age or was this another woman with the same unusual name, Ingeborg Østergaard? Even if it was the same woman, what was the connection to the van Beverhoudts? Was it Ingeborg or was it Rasmus?


Who is Maria Aletta Quickly’s mother?

Johannes van Beverhoudt married Maria Aletta Quickly in 1847. Their first child was nearly 20 years old and they had already had 12 children. Maria was born around 1808 and appears several times in church records. The 1846 census lists her date of baptism as 11 Sep 1808. Unfortunately, the census page was not scanned by VISHA and so I only have the index to go on. Looking into the Lutheran baptisms for 1808 I found an entry on 11 Sep 1808 for the baptism of Maria Alettha, daughter of Greese Welcom. No father is listed and no surname is given for Maria. Unfortunately, the name Maria Aletta was fairly popular during this period. A quick check showed 88 entries in the St Croix censuses for variations on Maria Aletta. In some cases, the two names are combined into Maryalette, Maryaletta, or Maryalett. There are even more with initials M. A. Since I have not seen the actual 1846 census page, can I be sure that this Maria Alettha is the same as Maria Aletta Quickly, the wife of Johannes van Beverhoudt? One item helps, and that is the list of witnesses at Maria’s baptism. In that list is Amey McNobney, Johannes’ mother. If this is indeed my Maria Aletta, then her future mother-in-law was present at her baptism. As one final connection, I found an 1827 church register listing Grace Welcom and Maria Aletta Quickly together as communicants.


Pulling the thread

In November, I spent a few hours at the St Croix Landmarks Library at Whim and put Grace Welcom’s name in their database. The records show that she had at least 7 children between 1805 and 1822. Most of the baptismal records have no father listed, except one. On 2 Aug 1822 Grace Welcome and Ole Østergaard had a daughter named Ingeborg Østergaard.


This was the piece I was missing to pull all of this together. Grace was Ingeborg’s mother and Aline’s grandmother. That meant that Maria and Ingeborg were (probably half) sisters. That would make Claudius (Maria’s son) and Aline (Ingeborg’s daughter) first cousins. Certainly close enough that they would have known about their relationship. Also, it would have made Ingeborg the aunt of the two van Beverhoudt girls in the 1850 census, two girls living with their aunt wasn’t at all unusual. It also clears up the appearance of the name Ingeborg. Her father, Ole Østergaard was Danish, so giving his daughter a Danish name was normal. Johannes and Maria may have taken the name of Maria’s sister for their 12th and 13th daughters.

Now, the remaining piece was the conflict of the age of Ingeborg Østergaard. By connecting Aline to Grace, it is clear that the Ingeborg Østergaard in St Thomas was the same as the Ingeborg Østergaard in St Croix. She married a man nearly 20 years her junior on the day their daughter was baptized. It is likely that she lied about her age to make the age difference less obvious. While Ingeborg was certainly at the very end of her child-bearing years, it wasn’t too late to be feasible.  I don’t know what became of Ingeborg or Rasmus; that will await more St Thomas research.

So there it is. A note in the 1890 census proved to be the critical piece needed to show a relationship from 1808. Three generations of indirect evidence that all add up, but only when taken together. The lesson here is to fully explore everyone you see in a household, work them until you understand why they were there, and pull the threads once you find them.


  1. "Spinster Marriages" weren't completely unheard of in the islands. I encountered one in St. Thomas. In 1923, Moses Sasso, the 29-year old reader in the synagogue married Rosa Athias Robles, age 55. Though they had no children, he later became step-father to 6 children by his second wife. But these relationships come with a certain risk. Stigma, and the social sanctions that can follow, also has been blamed for data showing that marrying a man seven to nine years younger increases a woman's mortality risk by 20 percent. That study, conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, which analyzed data from 2 million Danish couples, was published in 2010 in the journal Demography.
    When you find out at what age Ingebord died and compare it to her likely mortality, you will know if the Max Planck Institute's research is sound.

  2. That's quite interesting Rachel. Got a reference to the study?

    1. Here's the article outlining the study: