As a genealogist, I’ve read official record after official record. You can, of course, glean a myriad of information from baptism records, marriage records, census records etc. You can make assumptions about what an ancestor’s life was like based on where they lived, what their occupation was, how much schooling they had etc, but nothing gives you an insight in to how they really felt like a letter. Continue reading Old Letters Give You Glimpse in to Ancestors’ Day to Day Lives
When originally researching this family, I had hit a couple of brick walls, both involving children “disappearing” after parents were divorced. One was concerned the child of William’s son, Thomas, and his wife Josephine. The other brick wall concerned the son of William’s son by his second wife, Mary.. Frederick Leo. I couldn’t find Frederick Leo and wife Concetta’s son, Frederick, after his parent’s divorce.
I am very used to making sure that when searching for info on a family.. that I search all possible spellings. With the Ratcliffe family, I ran in to that in the very early records where things were sometimes spelled as they sounded, however, with the Ratcliffe’s in the US I had not run in to any alternate spellings with the family who stayed in the Middletown area.
With the release of the 1940 Census and a new subscription to a newspaper archive I had begun an extensive search for these two missing branches of the family. After a few searches with no results, I plugged in “Radcliffe” instead of “Ratcliffe” and struck gold.
It seems that with both Thomas Ratcliffe and Frederick Leo Ratcliffe.. their ex-wives and children began using the Radcliffe spelling after getting divorced. I was first able to find Frederick’s ex wife and son in 1940 living with her mother. (See below)
This new discovery not only allowed me to fill in the missing blanks on the descendents of Frederick Leo Ratcliffe, but while doing a search in the newspaper archive, I found Thomas Ratcliffe’s obituary which listed his daughter’s name!
The lesson for all genealogists it to NEVER limit yourself to one spelling of a surname. Even if a family didn’t use the alternate spelling permanently.. there are often cases where the name gets spelled wrong in various records or news articles. It is therefore always a good idea to check every possible spelling of a surname.
I’ve added a page to the site with the updated lines. You can view the info and the sources here: Update: The Descendends of William Ratcliffe and Selina Shallcross and Mary J. Shevary
As a post script to this story.. I eventually linked one of these Ratcliffe/Radcliffe lines to an Adamaitis family in Bristol, CT. During my genealogy research I did a general google for that surname in Bristol..and did a double take when my husband’s niece’s name showed up. Well.. I hadn’t made the connection that she is engaged to an Adamaitis!! After checking with her family to ask what her fiance’s parents’ names were.. it turns out it’s the same family! So I am related to her fiance! This can be filed in the “It’s a Small World” category for sure!