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Tried & True: Basic Resources Unite Living Family

This article provices a success story for genealogy research in census and obituary records. It encourages researchers to never give up even if they hit a "brick wall" in trying to find their ancestors.


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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by:
Word Count: 991 (approx.)
Labels: Death Record  Obituary 
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For those of you who need a success story once in awhile in your sometimes frustrating family history research, I have one for you! I have been the family historian for over 20 years. My children's grandfather had always known that he was adopted as a baby, but he never knew what had happened to his brother and sisters. It was during the Depression. Charlie Vaughn was born in 1930 in Sturgis, Kentucky, and as a baby he was put in an orphanage in Lyndon, Kentucky along with his older brother Robert and his sister Hazel. At 15 months old, Charlie was adopted by John and Susie Puckett and provided a loving home in Bowling Green, so he grew up not ever knowing what happened, and he never wanted to hurt the feelings of his adopted parents.

When Charlie was in his 70's, his granddaughter asked him would he mind if her step-mom did a little genealogy research on their family tree. So, about ten years ago, I began the search for Charlie‘s brother and sisters. I had nothing to go on except the last name "Vaughn" and the location of Sturgis, Kentucky. At the time, Charlie did not even know any of their first names nor did he know his father's or mother's names.

For about ten years, as a hobby, I searched for Charlie's natural parents and siblings. I had hit a brick wall like so many of us do during this type of research with not much to go on. Finally, when the 1930 census records were made available to the public, I found success! I went to the local Family History Center, and the 1930 census records showed Charlie's birth, listing all of his siblings, including his mother's name: "Tole"; it also revealed that she and the children were living with her parents in Sturgis, Kentucky! Wow! What a breakthrough. So, I went directly to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) to see which family members were still alive. Of course, the mother's death was unknown, as too many years had passed; but I was able to find that Robert had passed away in 1996. I was unable to find any other confirmation of death for the other two sisters. However, Robert's information from the Social Security Death index indicated that he had died in Tulare, California. With that information, I was able to search in the U.S. Genealogy web site in California for a possible obituary. I did not find an obituary, but I was able to obtain the name of the newspaper, the Tulare Advance Register, that would possibly have an obituary from 1996 for Robert Vaughn. I soon found the obituary online and discovered the names of the surviving relatives that were present at Robert's funeral! Hazel Upton was the sister listed! I thought to myself, "It just had to be the same Hazel, Charlie's sister, that he had not seen since he was a baby!" Further research led me to find that Hazel Upton lived in Tulare, California, also. Now, I just needed to find her phone number. I searched the white pages online and found three "Upton" phone numbers in Tulare.

Before telling Charlie about the possibility of his surviving sister, I asked his wife if it was okay if I called Hazel first. Afterall, Hazel was two years older than Charlie, in her late 70's, and I did not know what her reaction might be. Barbara, Charlie's wife, gave me permission to make the phone call.

On a Sunday afternoon, the second "Upton" phone number was successful. I asked if the woman who answered was Hazel. I introduced myself and carefully explained why I was calling. I will never forget her first words of emotional response. "You mean Charlie is still alive?," she asked. I could hear her voice crack. When I told her yes, that he was still alive, she asked me if he still had the burn scars on his feet that he had suffered when he was a baby in the orphanage! When I got off the phone and called Barbara to let her know that I was successful in finding Hazel, she approached Charlie on a peaceful Sunday afternoon one week later as they were driving through Kentucky, because she knew it would be emotional for him, also. When Barbara told him what Hazel had said about his scars, he had tears in his eyes, and he knew that she was his sister.

Charlie and Barbara drove out to California to see Hazel and her husband Woody, and they had a wonderful reunion after 72 years! Charlie later found out that his sister, brother, and mother had tried to find him several times in his early years, but the orphanage would never give out any information about him. He also found out that his father Roy Vaughn had apparently abandoned the family, and no one ever knew what happened to him during those Depression years. Hazel told Charlie that their mother had been financially forced to live with her parents, tried to raise four children on her own but finally had to send them to an orphanage. She had kept in touch with her other children except she was unable to find out what had happened to Charlie. Charlie's other sister, Elizabeth, had passed away also many years ago. Hazel was his only surviving sibling. However, Charlie soon found that he not only gained a sister, but his deceased brother had a daughter living in Georgia, and he reunited with her, also!

What a success story it was! With just a name and location of birth, a census record, a Social Security Death Index, an obituary, and a few genealogy sites provided a brother and a sister a joyous reunion after a lifetime separation! This type of success can also be yours, because there is a wealth of information in family research just waiting for you to find your long-lost relations!

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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