I am researching my family tree and am stuck because my ancestor, Henry Harmon, was 24 in 1850 so he is already living with his wife Catherine and child George.

The 1840 census doesn't tell me anyone other than head of house hold and I'm not sure of any brothers or sisters of my ancestor so I'm stuck.

I also believe there to have been another family with the same last name living in the area which makes it more difficult to tell who is who.

Basically I'm looking for a marriage record or any record really for Jacob Harmon/Eliza Stealman? of Greene county Tenn.

The 1850 census I have is Year: (1850; Census Place: Subdivision 10, Greene, Tennessee; Roll: M432_880; Page: 298A; Image: 602). It belongs to Jacob's son Henry and his first wife Catherine(Hope) and their son George. An image of it can be viewed at:

"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCDX-GHQ : accessed 29 February 2016), Henry Harmon, Greene county, part of, Greene, Tennessee, United States; citing family 90, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

The only thing I found linking Henry to Jacob/Eliza is Henry's death record which can be viewed at:

"Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1955," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NS95-V8K : accessed 1 March 2016), Henry Harmon, 16 Apr 1918; citing Cemetery, Mosheim, Greene, Tennessee, v 21 cn 107, State Library and Archives, Nashville; FHL microfilm 1,299,685.

I am also having the issue of Henry's wife's name. One death record of one of their kids states mothers name as Louise Stevens, while a different kids states Louisa Steelman( I believe different from Eliza's last name of Stealman) The 2 records can be seen here:

"Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1955," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NS9L-ZZZ : accessed 1 March 2016), James Franklin Harmon, 24 Jul 1949; citing Cemetery, Rural, Greene, Tennessee, 49-14690, State Library and Archives, Nashville; FHL microfilm 2,218,311.

"Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1955," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N9TY-9HM : accessed 1 March 2016), L. Elizabeth Crittenden, 08 May 1920; citing Cemetery, Mosheim, Greene, Tennessee, v 20 cn 223, State Library and Archives, Nashville; FHL microfilm 1,299,716.

  • 1
    Welcome to G&FH SE! As a new user be sure to take the Tour to learn about our focused Q&A format. As it stands you are not actually asking a question but I think you may be trying to find a birth/baptism record for this ancestor. For us to help with that can you edit your question to include his name and a reference to that 1850 census record, please?
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 14:03
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    Hello and welcome to G&FH.SE! It isn't necessary to add the specific reference to the 1850 Census if you don't want to, but it would help if you could say what other records you have about this family besides the 1850 Census, and give us some idea of what kind of information you've extracted from those records so far. It will help if you can narrow down a precise research question, and tell us what information you'd like to find.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:36
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    @PolyGeo A marriage record would be useful on the timeline, and for witnesses / FAN research, but it probably won't show parentage. Link to the FS Wiki article on Tennessee County Marriages: familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/…
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:42
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    Thank you PolyGeo for the rewording I wasn't sure really how to ask what I was asking. I did put in an extra citation that shows the link between Jacob/Eliza and Henry
    – Neo
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 8:48
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    I think you should keep this question focused on Henry and his identity in various records before moving on to Louise's identity as a separate question. That looks like a very useful death record because it gives not just his birth date and birth state but also the full names of both parents. I think you should try to use those to look for births of not just Henry but also any siblings around the same time and place with the same parents.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 11:30

2 Answers 2


Try to look on this problem as an opportunity for learning something new instead of a roadblock to overcome. You can't find your person in the 1840 Census because it doesn't list him by name. What did you hope to gain by finding that record? Is the information in other records, or can you learn what you want to know by combining the information found in other records? If what you'd really like to know is What records besides the census show people in family groups? then put that research question on your list of research goals.

When we get stuck, it's helpful to step back and review what we know about the family and what we've collected so far. If you haven't already, make a list of all the records you have about this family and work out a rough timeline. Look at all the information in all the records you already have. See if you can find clues, or prompts to other research questions. When you are sorting out two same-name families, you want to use every scrap of information possible to set them apart from each other.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes we actually need to go forward in time before we move farther back. Not counting wills and probate, the most complete portrait we have of a person is the one that exists at their death, so work systematically starting from the most recent record you have and work backwards as you review all the material you've collected so far.

From there you could try different approaches to solve your problem:

The secret to reading case studies is not to focus on whether or not the researcher knows anything about your family, but to see how they solved the problem. What source material did they use? How did they extract the information from the sources and analyze what they found?

If you've never read genealogical publications, search PERSI, the PERiodical Source Index created by the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center, and now free to search there.

Here are some resources you could use to get started:

Focusing on specific record groups:

Tennessee research:

Working with Pre-1850 Census records:

  • Using the US Federal Census by Lindsay Fulton -- webinar available for viewing in the video library on NEHGS's site American Ancestors with a free guest registration.
  • Ticked Off! Those Pesky Pre-1850 Census Tic Marks by Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, AG® -- webinar presented on 21 May 2015 as part of the Florida State Genealogical Society's Poolside Chats Webinar series. A recording is available to society members. The webinar is scheduled to be presented again on June 15, 2016 by Legacy Family Tree Webinars (free for the live broadcast and for the first seven days, by subscription or purchase afterwards).
  • Using Pre-1850 Census to Find Family Relationships by archivist Jean Nudd, available to view on the US National Archives YouTube channel.

Sorting out same-name people:

  • Technology and Techniques for Differentiating Two People with the Same Name by Geoff Rasmussen -- webinar presented on January 13, 2016 by Legacy Family Tree Webinars, and available for viewing in their video library by subscription or purchase.
  • Too Many with the Same Name by Karen Clifford -- webinar presented January 15, 2014 by Family Tree Webinars, and available for viewing in their video library by subscription or purchase.

Learning how to solve complex problems:

  • Did I Prove It? Ten Questions To Ask Along the Way by Harold Henderson (article posted in Archives.com's Learn from Experts section)
  • The Genealogical Proof Standard -- article at the website of the Board For Certification of Genealogists (archived snapshot via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine)
  • Solving Tough Research Problems by G. David Dilts, AG® -- class handout from a class given at the Family History Library (recording not available online)
  • Some People Really Need to Get a Clue! Document Analyzation and Evaluation by Jason B. Harrison -- class handout and Addendum from a class given at the Family History Library (recording not available online)
  • Indrect Evidence to the Rescue by Harold Henderson (article posted in Archives.com's Learn from Experts section)
  • Inferential Genealogy, by Dr. Tom W. Jones, handout from the FamilySearch Learning Center (video not available online)
  • Complex Evidence - What is It? How Does it Work? And Why Does it Matter? by F. Warren Bittner, a webinar available on demand (for a fee) from the BCG or by purchase or subscription from Legacy Family Tree Webinars.


The important principle to remember is that one record is not proof. Each item that you find needs to be evaluated and analyzed so you can understand its part in the larger picture.

For instance: for Henry's death record above, which is your source for the names of his parents, consider who the informant is (the person who gave the information). If a child dies, and a parent gives the information, they are asserting that the child belongs to them, which is something they might know from personal knowledge. If an adult dies, and the person giving the information for the record is one of their children, the informant can only know what someone else has told them (the informant can't be a witness to the deceased's birth event because they weren't alive at that time).

We also have to consider that the informant was not filling out the form but was probably dictating the information to the registrar, and the form you are looking at via FamilySearch could be a copy of another original. Each time information is copied by hand or passed to another via speech, there is a chance for errors to creep in.

See Elizabeth Shown Mills' QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map for a introduction to the process -- but don't forget that even primary source records can have mistakes. One mistake we sometimes see on a child's death certificate where the parent is the informant is for the parent's names to be the grandparents -- the informant gives the names of their own parents instead of their name and their spouse's name. The article Perils of Source Snobbery by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, published in OnBoard 18 (May 2012), reminds us to consider all sources and to verify whatever we find.

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    Wow lots of good info thanks! I've added a for citations for other census info I have.
    – Neo
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 16:49
  • @Neo You're welcome! I've added a couple of paragraphs to the end of my answer.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 20:16

Just adding one detail to Jan Murphy's extremely thorough research guide, I think it's worth specifically mentioning probate records and deeds.

Although not electronically indexed, FamilySearch's Tennessee probate records include Greene County wills starting in 1828 (and apparently some back to 1810). Will book #1 includes wills for a John Harmon (filed Nov 1838) and Jacob Harmon (filed Jan 1844). This Jacob Harmon's will lists sons Jacob Jr. and John, and several daughters (with married names), but no son Henry. If this isn't the same Jacob Harman, it may still be possible to assemble enough data about this Harmon family to eliminate them from other records.

Also, if you can locate (or have someone locate) the deeds for Jacob and Henry Harman's properties, the information about who they were purchased from (and who Jacob's property was eventually sold to) may provide useful family clues.

  • I've stumbled across that Harmon family as well I don't believe them to be related
    – Neo
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 16:48

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