Part 2: Examination of Ancestry Tree and US records.


  • Step 1: Examination of Pam’s tree on

  • Step 2: Examination of the US census records.

  • Step 3: Before we bring the research back to Ireland.

  • Challenge to Green Room members.

Step 1: Examination of Pam’s tree on

Pam keeps her Public Tree on under the name of “Pam’s Tree”:

The work Pam has undertaken to date is basically sound.  There are a few errors, caused in the main by documentary conflicting evidence and potential errors copied from other Ancestry Trees which we will see as we work through the records and begin to analyse these as combinations of factors.

Here is what the top tier currently looks like:

Even without looking further than this first screen of Pam’s Tree there are several dates that immediately catch my attention.

  • Michael Laughlin (top tier) is recorded with a birth year of 1831
  • James MF Laughlin (second tier) is recorded with a birth year of 1831
  • Helen Laughlin or Murphy is recorded with a birth year of 1839
  • Daniel J Laughlin has a birth year of 1853

Pam’s introduction stated that her 2x great grandmother Annie (or Anna) Maria Laughlin may have been born around 1842.  For simplicity I’m going to refer to her as “Annie”.

Approximately 1831 to 1853 is about 22 years – so this period of time is within acceptable range for a large family, and certainly even more viable if two wives are consecutively giving birth to children.  However this would mean that Michael Laughlin either could not have been born around 1831 or he cannot be the father of the eldest three siblings.

Annie is entered as Annie M Laughlin Dailey. 

In genealogy the correct way to record women is by their maiden (or birth) surname.  In reference and narrative it is sensible to add clarifying data such as Annie (or Anna) Maria Laughlin (alias Mrs Peter Dailey).  It may seem a bit pernickety but while it is reasonably straightforward if a women only marries once in her life, should she marry several times and /or change her name for other reasons  it becomes less problematic to track this by way of adding a name change fact (including the reason if known) within your timeline.

The second reason for doing this is not all countries use the same practices of name change when a woman marries.  If you don’t know the maiden name of a woman then the general practice is to leave the surname field blank.

Name change does not only affect women, men too occasionally change their surnames, sometimes this is a minor (or not so minor) change of spelling, it may be by adoption, or by deed poll. 

While within GedCOM files it is possible to use a Name_Type as part of the personal_name_structure that does facilitate recording  a birth name separately from the married name  and even “known as” names, not all program software supports this. 

Initially however we will concentrate on the records and information that Pat has collated for her direct line, that is her 2x great grandmother Annie (or Anna) Maria Laughlin.  Pam has already gathered a variety of documents for “Annie” including Census records, city directories and a link to Annie’s death certificate.

Against Annie’s birth Pam has noted that Annie’s death certificate that her birth date is recorded as 16 March 1849.  As we work through all the documentation that Pam has found we will see that there are a number of contradictions in the documentation with regard to when Annie was born.

Here is a copy of the fact sheet for Annie from Pam’s Tree:

Three items jump out at me from a quick review of the page.  That is there is no marriage certificate for Annie’s marriage, and her eldest two children appear to have the same name (albeit with slightly different spellings).

Katherine Daily (1854 – 1932) and Catharine M Daily (born 1858)

The third item is that there is no date of arrival and no details for Annie’s immigration from County Down to the US.

There is also a little bit of duplication of individuals within Pam’s Tree.  We can see this jumping out when we look at the list of all people.

At the bottom of page 1 we see the listing of Dailey and Daily individuals

There are more on Page 2

The Laughlin individuals are listed further down page 2

We can spot this more easily by looking at Peter Daily who is recorded as the husband of Annie.  There are 5 individuals with this name on Pam’s Tree:

Taking a quick snapshot of the top portion of each in succession as they appear in the above list it looks (at least at this stage of preliminary research) that this is all one person.  We can see differences in each, for example in the first Peter’s mother is recorded as Mary Dailey, on the third as Mary Burns and as unknown on the other three.  This therefore potentially means that Mary Burns and Mary Dailey are also potential duplicates of the same person, except that in this case two different surnames for potentially the same person make this much harder to spot.

While these are very minor details, it is critically important that we clean these up as quickly as possible and make sure that we only have one of each individual on our family trees.  Otherwise when we start to add more records and attempt to winkle out potential records that pertain to our ancestors we will have difficulty in revising what we know before we start researching.  If the information is scattered it is much more likely we could make a mistake.  It is also much harder to keep track of what we have done and what we need to do in the future.  Where women are recorded by their married surnames it makes them much harder (or impossible) to find in their pre-marital family grouping within the index.

We have checked with Pam and there should only be one Peter Daily.

Pam has located Annie (in a variety of aliases in a number of census records).

However before we look at the census records themselves in detail it may be useful to know the exact date of when each census was taken.

(Source:  FamilySearch )



Step 2: Examination of the US census records.

1860 – Pam has noted the existence of the 1860 Census but the record is not attached to Annie.  It is however attached to her daughter Catherine’s fact sheet.

Although the earlier census records contain very little information, they are no less important  than later census records and in some cases the information,  particularly with regard to ages, may be more accurate than later census records when vanity, the passage of time or a new century may result in economies of truth and  mathematical errors.

Here we see Peter Daily at house number 413, family number 432.  This is a shared household.  Joseph Daily age 60 A shoemaker, is the first recorded member of family number 431 and Peter Daily (the assumed husband of Annie) is recorded as the first entry of family 432.  Relationships between individuals are not recorded in this census therefore  we do need to ensure that our assumptions are treated as tentative assumptions only until additional information is confirmed.

Peter is recorded here as 33 years old (providing an estimation of a birth around 1827)

Mariah (aka Annie) is recorded as 20 years old (birth estimated as about 1840)

Catherine is recorded as one year old (birth estimate 1859)

Based on this information we can extrapolate that Peter Daily is probably the son of Joseph Daily, but we will need further evidence to confirm this.  We can extrapolate that Mariah is likely to be “Annie” but until a copy of Peter and Annie’s marriage certificate is obtained we cannot state this as a certainty.  Noting the age of 20 given for Mariah (“Annie”) and Catherine’s age of one we can also extrapolate that for the moment a potential marriage date is likely to be around 1857 to 1859, possibly a year or two earlier but less likely to be much later.

As Catherine is recorded as one year old in the 1860 census we can extrapolate a fairly narrow set of parameters for her birth date.  Generally speaking, when a child is this young the information is at least reasonably correct.  Obtaining a certificate of birth or baptism for Catherine will help confirm whether Mariah is Annie.

The 1870 Federal Census

Shows Peter Dailey (sight difference in spelling of surname) but still employed as a boot and shoe maker age 42 and a property owner with Annie age 28, Catherine age 11, Susan age 8, Ellen age 3, and Francis age 7 months, further across the line we can see that Frances is recorded as being born in the month of December.

Peter’s age has increased by 9 years, Annie by 8 years, Catherine by 10 years and the other children are under 10 years of age.

The 1880 US Federal Census

Here we see Peter Daly this time age 53 a shoemaker, and his wife Maria now aged 39, along with their children Catherine age 21, Susan age 18, Ellen age 13, Frank age 18, Louisa age 8, Thomas 5 and Harry 2.

Unfortunately the 1890 Census no longer exists.

The 1900 Census

We can see here that Peter is now deceased and Annie has moved to Kansas City.  In this census Annie is recorded as Anna M Daily and records her birth as March 1847 and her age as 57.  Catherine is recorded as April 1865 (age 35) Frank Oct 1872 (age 27) Thomas Oct 1876 (age 23) and Ella a daughter-in-law as June 1879 Age 20, also present is Harry Armstrong , recorded as grandson June 1889 age 11.  In addition there is a boarder Charles Heaton June 1832 (age 58 who was born in Vermont).

Annie is reported as having given birth to 10 children, 5 of whom are still alive.  The census further records that Annie emigrated in 1830 but has only been in the US for 50 years.

There are several inconsistencies in this census.  Whether this is due to miscalculation of dates, or mathematics, and/or vanity where ladies do not like to provide the truth about their age we can only guess, however the facts as presented when analysed show that:

  • Annie – if her date of birth was March 1847 should have been recorded as 54 years of age (the census was taken on 1 June 1900).    If she was 57 her birth year would be 1842/1843.
  • As for date of arrival 1900 less 50 years is 1850, and 1900 less 1830 is some 70 years earlier, some considerable time before Annie was even born!
  • If Annie had aged mathematically from the 1860 Census she would be recorded as 60 years old.

This census poses more questions than answers as to which piece of information, if any, is correct.  However we can identify some parameters for more research:

It is unlikely that Annie arrived in 1830.  We do know she was in Peoria in 1860, married with a small child.  If she was born in March 1847 she would have been around 12 when her daughter Catherine was born – also unlikely.  If aged 57 Annie would have been 17 or 18 when Catherine was born – This is possible but as the 1860 census shows her as 20 then, I would be inclined to look at least initially closer to the date of 1840 plus or minus a year as a more likely year of birth.

Regarding immigration we can prove that Annie has been in the US for at least 40 years (1860 census) and most probably at least another 2 years minimum on top of that.  (Catherine) so at this stage we can extrapolate a range of 42 to 50 years since emigration giving us a date range of 1850 to 1858.  If we allow for a possible answer of “I was 7 when I arrived and I’m 57 now” we should recalculate an extended date range of arrival to 1846 to 1859.

A similar pattern is happening with Catherine.  Despite appearing in the 1860 US Federal Census the 1900 census records her birth as April 1865 six years younger than originally shown.  Shown with the surname of Daily she is recorded as divorced having had one child who is still living.  From the information present it is not possible to confirm that Harry Armstrong is Catherine’s son, but this is certainly an avenue worth exploring.

Neither Frank or Thomas have aged 20 years.  Frank first appears as Francis in the 1870 Census aged 7 months with a December birth month, however he is recorded here as Oct 1872.  Thomas meanwhile makes his first appearance in the 1880 Census aged 5, here he is recorded as Oct 1876 just a little younger than his calculated age.

Coming forward again to the 1910 US Federal Census:

We can still see some of these discrepancies moving forwards.

Annie is recorded as Anna M Daily, a widow aged 65 who has had 10 children 5 of whom are still living.  As it is now some 50 years since we first found the young Mrs Daily aged 20 we still have a discrepancy of 5 years in her recorded age.  The record also states Annie was married 35 years ago.  This is an unlikely date due to the actual age of her daughter and the 1860 census and the fact that the 1860 census shows her living with her in-laws.

Annie’s daughter is recorded as Kattie Armstrong a single woman aged 40.  The only other occupant of the house is Annie’s grandson Harry Armstrong aged 20 years.

The probability increases that Kattie Armstrong is Catharine Daily and that Harry Armstrong is Catharine’s son.  However we will need to see documentary evidence to prove this.

We can narrow in part the information pertaining to Annie by looking backwards at her future husband Peter Daily’s census record for 1850.

Although we are searching the Laughlin family, looking at records of the Daily family will help Pam narrow down information regarding Annie because she does not appear in this record.  Peter Dailey can be located in the home of his probable father Joseph Dailey a shoemaker.  Peter is 24 and a shoemaker.  Peter is recorded as being born in Ireland, his next eldest surviving brother is John’s (age 22) birth is recorded in Massachusetts, as is 16 year old Catherine.  Joseph 13 and Rose Ann, 4 are recorded as born in New York.  The family is recorded now in Peoria, Illinois. 

While we will need to confirm the birth places for the above children in later census records, this provides us with a reasonable timeline for Peter’s movements.  Born in Ireland, he moved within a couple of years to Massachusetts where he spent the next 6 plus years.  By approximately 1837 the family had moved to New York again they have remained in New York for about 9 years.  Based on Peter’s sister Rose Ann’s birth 4 years ago the Daily (or Dailey) family have only been present in Peoria for less than 4 years (about 1836 or later).  Annie is not present in the household.  This means we can narrow Annie and Peter’s marriage to sometime during the 1850s. 

It also means that it is potentially more likely that Peter’s family made their way to Peoria via either the Erie Canal or the National Road rather than up the Mississippi from New Orleans to Chicago and onwards either overland or by way of the Illinois River.  

Knowing this information about the Daily/Dailey family will play a crucial role in beginning the search for Annie Laughlin prior to her marriage.  It is likely that Annie will have met Peter in either Peoria or New York or even possibly en-route between the two places. However at this stage we cannot rule out the potential that Annie may have migrated via the Mississippi River from New Orleans.

It is also likely that Annie and Peter’s marriage took place in or near Peoria.  However at this stage we must not rule out that Annie and Peter could have met and married along the route of the Daily/Dailey migration.


Step 3: Before we bring the research back to Ireland.

Before looking more deeply at the potential half-siblings for Annie suggested to Pam by Ancestry or even attempting to bring back the research to Ireland there are three crucial items I want to follow up on:

  1. Attempt to locate a marriage licence / certificate for Annie and Peter.  Although couples were not required by law to obtain a marriage licence until 1877 in Illinois a few earlier marriage records do exist.  These may be in the form of marriage registers, returns or applications.  Even where the information may be slim, this is a very important step.  I’ll explain why in just a minute.
  2. Attempt to ascertain if an 1850 US Federal Census exists for Annie.
  3. Attempt to ascertain if birth/baptisms records can be obtained for all 10 of Peter and Annie’s children.

Genealogy can be full of surprises, none more so when we are dealing with women for whom there may be very little documentation.  In the days when childbirth was frequent and had high mortality rates for both women and children not following up on vital event records for all of the children and marriages can, all too easily, inadvertently create fatal flaws of lineage into our own and collateral lines family history.

Over the years I have encountered many men with second and even third wives who have the same forename as the first wife.  Equally I have encountered families where the declared (or inferred) parent is actually a step-parent.  Sometimes this is easy to spot in other cases it can be very difficult and only attention to minute detail or a surprise DNA result will bring the information into focus.

Pinning down when immigration occurred is an equally important objective, especially if we are dealing with common names or ancestors who have emigrated or migrated.  Building detailed timelines of when events occurred gives us something concrete to compare potential records against – for example by narrowing the potential date range for Annie’s birth we can look at the 1830 date of immigration on the 1900 census and quickly see that this is an unlikely date based on the rest of the information accumulated.  Equally ascertaining that Catherine was born around 1859 means she could not be 40 in 1910 allows us to be reasonably certain that Annie is unlikely to have been born in 1847 and therefore had her first surviving child at the age of 12.  Finding the additional birth or baptism records for the currently unidentified children of Annie will also help pin down a timeline.

Assuming Catherine is Kattie Armstrong, the census records show a total of 7 of Annie’s ten children.  We need to know if these children were born between the dates of the other seven or whether any were born before Catharine, as an older child may offer a potential birth date for Annie.

As a child I was frequently on the receiving end of the exasperated comment ; “More haste; Less Speed”  and boy was this brought home the hard way when I started researching my own genealogy.  Just because a record says X, does not mean that X is true.  I followed the information on a marriage certificate, 6 months of research later I had to undo all my hard work.  Had I bothered to go to the newspaper library (no digitisation back then) to try and find the marriage announcement in the local paper I might just have spotted the discrepancy! 

Just after I had sent the first draft through to Mike of this stage of the research Pam forwarded more details which included an Ancestry ProGenealogists’ (APG) Report for “Annie” (The report can be viewed here). 

  • We can see from the Report that APG have come to the same conclusions regarding Annie’s potential date of birth.
  • We can also see which record sources APG have researched in their Research Journal.



This entire case-study was released as a series over several weeks in the Green Room forum. Between each release, we challenged the members to help and offer comment – so we could use our collective brain – before the release of the next part of the case study. Here was the challenge we issued to the members at the end of the current part of the case-study:

We are particularly interested in your thoughts and inputs when it comes to the following questions – let’s think of it as our Green Room Challenge:

  1. Can you identify any additional record collections or organisations from which we might be able to locate a marriage between Annie and Peter?   These do not have to be on-line records. 
  2. Can you identify any additional record collections or organisations from which we may be able to obtain birth/baptism records for Peter and Anna’s 10 children?
  3. Can you suggest any other avenues of potential research in the USA that might help us find additional information that pertains either directly to Annie or historical background that can help Pam find out more about Annie’s life in the USA.
  4. Can you search any of the record collections that you or someone else has suggested (especially the offline records).

Once we get your replies on the forum we will begin to work through any potential additional information that may help us find where in Ireland Anna lived and when she arrived in the USA. 

(You can see the full set of comments and suggestions offered when we first published the above part of the case-study here. Feel free to have a look. When you are ready, come back here to jump on to the next part of this case -study.)


You can now Click here to comment on this Case-Study or ask further questions in the Green Room forum