When Genealogy Trips Go Sideways

I recently took a trip to Iowa and spent a few days in Des Moines. My main point of my trip to Des Moines — and also to the Menlo and Guthrie areas — was to find more information on one of my 2nd great grandmothers, her parents (specifically her mother) and her sister. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned.

What I know … Lydia Ann Clark was my 2nd great grandmother. She was born on April 18, 1864 in Menlo, Guthrie, Iowa. Her parents are Henry Clark and Catherine Stearns. Lydia lived in Iowa until at least 1892. In 1885, she married Thomas Hall Thierman and they had three daughters — all born in Iowa. By 1900, Lydia had moved to Southern California where she lived until her death in 1943.

Before going to Iowa, I knew that Lydia also had a brother and a sister but I didn’t know much about either of them. I also had quite a bit of information on her father – Henry Clark – but didn’t have a lot of information on her mother – Catherine Stearns.

What I was hoping to find: The first information I have on Catherine Stearns was her marriage to Henry Clark in 1862. Via census records, I know that she was born in Pennsylvania around 1840 but I don’t have any specifics. I also don’t know the name of her parents. I was also hoping to find more information on Lydia’s sister – Mahala Clark.

Unfortunately, I ran into two problems. I was really hoping to find a copy of the marriage certificate between Henry and Catherine. But, no marriage certificate exists. Iowa didn’t start issuing marriage certificates until 1880. Prior to that, marriages were only recorded in a register.

In regards to Mahala, births were also not recorded in Iowa at the time — especially for girls. The only time there would have been a record for a girl born in that time was if she needed a social security number in the 1930s. Mahala would have been in her 50s by the mid-1930s so she wouldn’t have needed a social security number.

The good news is that I was able to confirm the information I already had, so I know I’m on the right track.

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