When What You Know, Isn’t What’s Correct

I’ve spent the better part of a decade searching for the estranged brother of a family member. Due to various circumstances, the only information I had came from the one brother I knew. He told me when his brother was born and his name. I wanted to locate the estranged brother to see if he could answer some questions about his parents, who died when the brothers were fairly young. Since the estrangement didn’t happen until they were adults, I assumed the brother knew his brother’s name and birth year and focused my search on these pieces of information.

Thanks to new social security records available via ancestry.com, I finally found the estranged brother. Turns out the birth year was quite off and the name was close, but the middle name was wrong. I had been searching based on the wrong information.

Oddly enough, both brothers had the same middle name. They were the only children of this particular marriage and the middle name was not a family name as far as I can tell. I’ve never come across siblings that both have Matthew or Steven as a middle name. Very odd, but intriguing.

Unfortunately, the estranged brother died in 2004, not long after I began looking for him. I don’t believe he ever married or had children, so this particular search has likely ended. The brother I knew died a few years ago, so there’s no longer anyone to bounce ideas off.

Research can feel so overwhelming sometimes, whether the person has a common name or not. I always tried different combinations, different ranges of birth years, etc. but always came up empty handed until I was able to pair the mother’s maiden name with the death information. I only wish I had been able to do this when these brothers were still alive.


4 thoughts on “When What You Know, Isn’t What’s Correct

  1. Well, now I’m curious. What did you find out? How did her maiden name play a role in learning more? Did it answer the same middle name question?

  2. The mother’s maiden name confirmed I had found the estranged brother, even though the full name and birth year was different than what I had been looking for. It didn’t answer the middle name question – both men had the same middle name, say Edward (because I don’t want to give the actual names here). Not named for their father or grand-parents, etc. I have no idea why you would give two kids the same middle name. Finding that the estranged brother died has certainly brought up more questions for me, but I don’t think I’ll get any answers since neither brother is alive today.

    • Just a suggestion – maybe put a notice in a Craigslist that is local to where the estranged brother lived asking for anyone who knew him well to contact you. Explain why. Maybe under “MISSED CONNECTIONS” or a similar category with his name in the subject. They might be able to tell you more about his life there and maybe he revealed information to them. It definitely can’t hurt to try. And, it’s free.

  3. Sometimes it seems like I just hit walls when doing family history research. But in the process, I’m also often surprised by some of the amazing tidbits I’ve found that I wasn’t even really looking for.

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