Brick Wall Bertha: Step 5 – A Genealogy Case Study

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Step 5 of the Genealogy Brick Wall Busting Process is to Research and then PROCESS that research. Let’s dig back into our case study of “Brick Wall” Bertha. I am ready to make progress and chip away at those bricks!

Watch This Episode, or Continue Reading Below

If you missed the overview of Brick Wall Busting Step 5, or if you’d like to review Steps 1-4, you can find the links below.

Now let’s jump in to make progress on the Brick Wall Bertha project.

Follow the Research Plan

One of the first items to complete on the research plan (created in Step 4) was to order the full case files for the homestead claims of William C. and Bertha Barton. They claimed homestead land in Louisiana and in Oklahoma.

Once the digital files arrived, it was time to SLOW DOWN and fully process this new evidence.

Step 1: Carefully Evaluate New Evidence

The case file for the Oklahoma homestead claim was 28 pages long! But, it contained a lot of information, facts, and details about the Barton family. I took the time to create a new research report just for this file. I transcribed all 28 pages and made notes about my analysis of the evidence found in each document.

Step 2: Add to the Timeline

Several new facts were added to the timeline for William C. and Bertha Barton:

  • the death date and place for William C. Barton were confirmed
  • the date that the family moved from Louisiana to Oklahoma was confirmed
  • information on when improvements were added to the homestead, such as the house, the hen house, and the barn

Step 3: Correlate with Previous Evidence

Correlating the death information for William C. Barton given in the Rejected Civil War Pension File and the Oklahoma Homestead Claim File really gave some new insights.

In the pension file, Mrs. W.C. Barton stated that her husband, William C. Barton, died on the 14th of July 1898. She wrote this statement only a month and a half after his passing. By itself, this was solid proof of his death, given near the time of his death by his wife who was a witness of his death.

In the homestead claim file, Mrs. Barton again wrote a statement declaring that her husband, William C. Barton, had died on the 14th of July 1898. This declaration was made in September 1898, about two months after his death. This was identical proof from the same witness (his wife).

However, in the homestead claim file, Mrs. Barton adds this detail: “his remains intured [sic] in accordance with his request, near their house on our homestead…” Wow! This explains why no cemetery record has been found for William C. Barton. He was buried on the homestead near the house.

What makes William C. Barton’s death information so much stronger evidence in the homestead file? In order to prove her rights to receive the homestead land after her husband’s death, Mrs. Barton had to bring witnesses with her to the homestead office. These witnesses had to testify that they knew Mr. Barton, Mrs. Barton, and that Mr. Barton had died. S.M. Woolsey and Thomas Eberly came as those witnesses. They stated that they knew the Bartons and that they witnessed Mr. Barton’s deceased body being laid in the coffin and buried in the yard.

Now, we have not only the word of Mrs. Barton, but the word of two witnesses as well. The evidence for Mr. Barton’s death just got a lot stronger.

Step 4: Add to the Research Plan

As I went through each step with the homestead claim files, I came up with a few new ideas on where else I should research the Bartons. I added those items to the research plan and I perform that research when I come to that item on the plan.

Keep Chipping Away

I will keep working through my research plan, processing each find as I come to it. This brick wall will eventually come down! I can’t wait to share the conclusion to this case study with you in the future when the solution to Bertha’s origins is FINALLY found.

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See you next time,


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