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Sunday, July 17, 2016

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One Indexed Court Record Leads to Genealogy Gold Mine

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In Clicking Into Your Missouri Ancestor's Story, you saw how indexed court records of a railroad "right of way" and two criminal cases enabled you to learn about stories and events that took place long ago. This is difficult research, but if you approach it with the goal of uncovering the story or filling out the details of your ancestor's life, soon you will be overtaken by the sheer fun of sleuthing. In this article the focus will be on one record and how one record led to a gold mine of genealogy treasures.

Always remember indexes are helpful, but you must access the original record to get the rest of the story. In 1886, Eliza R. McNeil appeared as a defendant in the Vernon County Circuit Court of Missouri for moving out of the School District 52 into the Nevada School District in the same county. The index to the case stated that there was some "stipulation regarding school taxes." You probably would agree that this is not much information to begin researching. Well, follow the thought process here to see what was uncovered.

The one detail that stuck out was that Eliza had moved from one place to the Nevada area within Vernon County, Missouri some time before 1886. So, searching the 1880 Census may reveal her prior location. The 1880 Census showed that she lived in Osage, Vernon County, Missouri. Perhaps that is where School District 52 was. The household consisted of:

Robert W Mc Neil Self, M, 63, New York, United States
Eliza R Mc Neil Wife, F, 59, Massachusetts, United States
Timothy W Stearns Brother-in-law, M, 53, Massachusetts, United States
Taylor Stearns M, 26, Missouri, United States
Laura Marshall F, 19, Missouri, United States
James N Hill M, 20, Missouri, United States
William B Bowland M, 59, Pennsylvania, United States

Eliza was married to husband, Robert W. McNeil. His brother-in-law, Timothy Stearns, is living with them. That leads you to believe Eliza's maiden name might be Stearns. They do not appear to have any children. Also living with them are two servants, Laura Marshall (B), and Taylor Stearns (Mu).

Eliza's memorial on Find A Grave appeared just below the 1880 Census record in the search results on FamilySearch.org. You call that serendipity, and there is always room for that in genealogy! The details entered by users on a Find A Grave Memorial still need to be documented, but you can discover important clues that way. You learn that Eliza was married twice to the following spouses:


The inscriptions on the graves for Eliza and her spouses provide vital information about each, but those details also need to be verified. The greatest discovery from the monument for Cecil Ball is an inscription from Eliza's second husband showing that he (Robert W. McNeil) erected the marker in honor of Cecil D. Ball.

Even the slightest details to an ancestor's story can make you curious for more. The fact that Eliza's second husband erected a monument to her first husband, Cecil, makes you interested in learning more about them. 

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