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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: Look Beyond the Index
by Rhonda R. McClure

January 16, 2003
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

As I was working at the library recently, I was reminded once again of the rule about indexes: Just because your ancestor isn't listed in the index doesn't mean he isn't listed in the records. The problem is that genealogists love indexes. Perhaps we love them too much. We have become too dependent on them, in that if we can't find what we are looking for, we move on. The same is often true when searching online or CD databases, we are too quick to give up the search.

Indexes are tools, but they are never 100% accurate or complete. Remember, like so many of the other secondary resources we turn to, they were developed and compiled by humans. Humans, despite the fact that we may believe otherwise, are fallible. We make simple mistakes all the time, and the more you turn to the original records from which the index was created, the more you will realize how much is truly missing.

Be creative and never give up at the index.

Some But Not All

As I mentioned, I was in the library when I was again reminded to go beyond the index. I was researching a Charles Baynes who, according to the 1900 census was born in November 1871 in Canada, and his family was English, not French. When I did this research originally, the 1881 Canadian census had not yet been indexed. Although his birth put him too late for the unindexed 1871 index, it might have been searchable when used in conjunction with the entries found in Lovell's 1871 Directory, which has been indexed in The Canadians 1600s-1900s, a part of's International and Passenger Records Subscription. This time around I checked the 1881 Canadian index to see if there was any family that looked like a possibility. There was one, though the age of Charles was off by a year and I was hoping for some additional confirmation about the family. Fortunately, I learned Charles' partial birth date in the 1900 census and found his brother living in the household. The brother, George M. Baynes, was listed as having been born in April, 1878 also in Canada. This gave me an additional name and partial birth date to work with and to help me in identifying the family.

The 1881 Canadian census index, which is more of an extraction of the census, listed everyone in the household as well as the gender, marital status, age, ethnic origin, place of birth, religion, and occupation. From this I learned that the family of G.A. Baynes, who had a son Chas. C., age 8, and a son George, age 2. While Charles' age was off, given the date of birth of George, I suspected that this might be the right family. If I was right, both Charles and George were born in Quebec and were Church of England instead of Catholic. The family was listed in Montreal in 1881, so I decided to begin my search there.

While I have used the wonderful parish records for the Catholic churches in Quebec, I was not sure what I would find for Church of England in Montreal. I was pleased to discover that there was an index from 1766 to 1899 for the non-Catholic parishes. Of course, I went immediately to this microfilm in the hopes of finding Charles and George and verifying that the births were what I had listed from the 1900 census.

In working in the index, I discovered listings for a Geo. McLeod Baynes who was baptized in 1878 in Christ Church, an Anglican church in Montreal. There were a few other Baynes entries for the 1st Baptist Church, St. Paul's Presbyterian, and a reformed Episcopal church, but only Christ Church was Anglican. I extracted all of the Baynes entries for Christ Church, but was dismayed when I realized there was no Charles in my final list. While he was missing, I decided to look up Geo. McLeod Baynes to see what it showed me. I was excited when I found that he was born 28 April 1878. The baptismal record listed his birth date, the full name of his father, George Aylmer Baynes, and the maiden name of his mother, Elizabeth Griffin. I was excited because this seemed to answer what the GA stood for in the name of the head of the household in the 1881 census.

Since I had found George and felt relatively comfortable that it was the right person, I decided to look at the 1871 and 1872 volumes of Christ Church to see if I could find Charles, even though he hadn't been listed in the index. When I didn't find him in these, I decided to go on to 1873 to see what it might reveal, even though I was a little discouraged. In the 1873 index, I found a listing for a Charles George Christopher Baynes, born 20 November 1872, and baptized 1 April 1873, which explained why he was not in the 1872 volume. I then began to look for all of those extracted from the index, as well as two daughters listed in the 1881 census who did not show up in the index. I was pleased with my work when I uncovered all but one of the baptisms of the daughters. I even discovered an adult baptism for the father, George Aylmer Baynes, which listed the full name of his father William Craig Baynes and the full maiden name of his mothers Elizabeth Chase Harvey.

Working with Index Limitations

Another family, with the surname of Clark, of all things, has also given me fits of late. According to the death register entry for Katie Beatrice (Clark) Carter, she was born in 1868 in Springfield, Illinois. Her father was Wallace W. Clark and her mother's maiden name was Margaret A. Canady. While I wasn't too eager to work on the Clark line, I decided to check the 1870 census index, which is available on in the U.S. Census Subscription, for Wallace Clark in Illinois and see if I could pick up the family. I already had all the census for Katie as an adult within her own household and was hoping to located her as a child in the household, as a two year old. I was surprised and a little nervous when I did not find one.

My next step was to turn to the 1880 census index at the Family History Library to see if I could find Wallace and his family that way. After all, Katie would only be 12 or so, and should have been living at home. It would all have been so easy, but as is often so want to do, I found nothing. I first typed in Wallace Clark and none of the entries appeared to be what I wanted. I then tried the wife, Margaret,Clark. Finally I tried typing in Katie's maiden name. To say I was a little desperate by this point would be an understatement. So I began to play with the search function and asking for female Clarks born in 1845 in Indiana, information that I had on Wallace's wife Margaret.

Since I had come up empty with Margaret's name, I was hoping this would give me something. I had found Margaret's death record earlier and that was what supplied me with her date of birth and her state of birth. When I did this, I discovered a Mary A. Clark who was born in 1845 in Indiana. In going to this individual in the census, I found she was living in the household of a Nancy J. Canady, and Mary was listed as married. What excited me about this find was that on Margaret's death record her parents were listed as Phila A. Canady and Nancy J. Wolfe.

Getting creative with the index search is what revealed this entry. I don't know why Margaret is listed as Mary in the household. I also found three other daughters of Nancy J. Canady listed in the same household and all of them were listed as married. They were certainly old enough to be married with families of their own.

Of course, as so often happens with genealogy, in trying to answer one question I ended up with many more questions, all of them surrounding this entry in the census. I don't know why the married daughters were living with their widowed mother. They did not appear to be listed in another household, as sometimes happens when people were enumerated twice.

A Little Cluster Research

When I located the death record of Margaret A. (Canady) Clark, I started with an index. In searching that index, I did not limit my note taking to just Margaret. Instead I wrote down other Clarks that I had identified. After finding the married daughters living with mom, I went back to the index of deaths looking for Canady entries. While I didn't find anybody with the surname Canady, I did find a Clark entry that I overlooked the last time. I wrote the information down for Della Jane Clark and went to find her death record.

The death record of Della Jane Clark paints a slightly different picture. She is apparently the daughter of Margaret A. Canady, but she lists her father's name as William Clark. So now I must go back through census indexes looking for a William Clark who was born in Indiana. Unfortunately I have no age or estimated date of birth for him, which will make searching for him all the harder.

However, I will keep looking. Every stone I unturn offers another piece to the puzzle. Sometimes it means going back to a record already searched and looking at it differently or being more conscientious as I look for a name.

In Conclusion

As you have seen, relying on an index or doing just a single search may leave you empty handed. Looking at the research from all angles or taking a chance and going through the original records from which the index was compiled may turn up things you never expected to find. In the case of the Baynes family it gave me two more generations.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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