by Delia

A number of years ago, I was helping a customer with an unusual search. She was helping a friend whose frail great-aunt Margaret had been born in Fort Wayne. In the 1920s, when Margaret was very small, she, her mother and siblings left the area after her father, Frank died. Margaret's mother lost contact with her Frank's relatives, but Margaret had always wanted to know more about them.

The census was no help as Frank and the family were together in 1920, but the wife and children were elsewhere by 1930. This was before we had an electronic obituary index for Fort Wayne that covered all of the 20th Century, so we started by looking in the book indexes, which were broken down by years, for an obituary for Frank in the 1920s, to see if his parents or siblings were named. We could not find an obituary in the index between 1920 and 1930, so we back tracked to the city directories, where we found Frank and family, listing his occupation and place of employment. Other people of the same surname were also working at the same place, so we followed up by seeking information on them, hoping they were relatives. After reading through several obituaries, we finally found Frank's parents' obituaries in the 1930s, with Frank listed as a survivor! No location was listed for him, which lead us to believe that he was in Fort Wayne at the time. He was not, however mentioned in the obituaries of his siblings in the 1950s and 1960s, nor was there ever an obituary for Frank. Finally, we looked at the cemetery records for the family, and there was Frank, buried with the rest of them, having died in the mid-1940s, 20 years after his wife and children had left, with the children always believing that he was dead. The only further clue was a notation on his gravestone: "Died Richmond, Ind." Frank had been in a state institution for the mentally challenged all along. A sad end to an interesting search. But a reminder that one needs to check, and verify, every fact to obtain the full story.