Saturday, May 24, 2014

SNGF: Researching on

This week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings is:
1) You're going on a scavenger hunt - for records of one of your relatives.  You can pick a relative who lived in the 1800 to 2000 time period.  A brother of one of your ancestors might be best (since males don't change their surname).  Or the husband of a sister of your ancestor.  Tell us the name of your chosen relative. 

2)   Go to FamilySearch and search for records for that relative.  Start on the Search page -  Search any way you want.   

3)  Tell us what you found in the FamilySearch record collections.  Did you find something new about that relative?   

4)  Write your own blog post, comment on this post, or write something on Facebook or Google+.

 I’ve been scanning photos from an old album of my mother’s and ran across this photo of her grandmother, Martha Elizabeth “Mattie” Coffey Swicegood, and Mattie’s sister, Aunt Belle. Belle’s full name was Melinda Isabell Coffey. She was born on 27 Oct 1869 in Maries County, Missouri; married John T. Fields 23 Aug 1888 in St. Clair County, Missouri; and died 24 May 1965 in California. I’ve never really researched this line, so now’s as good a time as any!

A search for “Melinda Isabell Coffey” born 1868-1870 in Missouri, father’s name Squire Coffey, turned up only one appropriate record on

·        1870 Census []: Melinda, age 0, is listed with her parents, Squire (43) and Drusilla (36) COFFEE and 5 siblings ranging in age from 16 to 3 and living in Jackson township, Maries County, Missouri.

A search for “Belle Coffey” born 1868-1870 in Missouri, father’s name Squire Coffey, did not turn up any additional records.

So, I switched to searching for Belle’s husband, John T. Fields, born 1862, died 1928 and found:

·        1880 Census []: John T., age 17, is living in Jackson township, St. Clair County, Missouri with his parents, C. R. (Caleb R), age 71) and Elizabeth (age 41) Fields, and 4 siblings—Mary E. (15), James R. (13), Lonora A. (11), and Emma (5).

·        after scrolling through 10+ pages of results—mostly Civil War records, even though I set birth year as 1860-1865—I got fed up and quit looking for any more relevant records.

·        I attempted to look in the FamilySearch Family Tree, but was thwarted when I tried to sign in. Even after changing my password, I couldn’t get in and there is apparently no online account support. Very frustrating.

In short, I found very little for either Belle Coffey or her husband, John T. Fields, at FamilySearch. This may have been the most frustrating search I’ve ever done on FamilySearch. Even when I clicked “exact search” I got huge numbers of totally spurious “matches” and nothing very useful.


  1. Ginny- A quick search using the same search terms as you did for Melinda at, (with the exception of using the surname Fields), located her in the following records: the 1900-1920 U.S. census, the 1940 U.S. census, and the California death index. These were the first five hits in the results list. BTW, in the 1940 census she is living with her daughter Violet. Her son, C. Roy, is enumerated two households away. Hope this helps!

    1. Unfortunately, those 1900-1920 census records don't appear to be for "my" Melinda. The 1940 census record doesn't pop up on the first page of results for me.The death record could be correct, but I haven't been able to verify that yet. I know that she's buried in Missouri.

  2. How frustrating! And disappointing. I did the challenge and and had never accessed the FamilySearch Family Tree. I did it last night without any problems, but I didn't find anything new on the person I was researching.

    I was, however, able to find a new record for the ancestor I used in my search last night! And, that information led to an exact date of birth (I only had the year & month) & a middle name (I only had an initial). It also gave me a physical description as it was a WWI draft card! So, it was a fruitful attempt for me.