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Though his known life history is quite lurid, I have spent 40 years searching for the parents of my great-grandfather. He was born in 1859, first married in Salt Lake City in 1884, divorced while in prison, arrested repeatedly for minor crimes, imprisoned a second time in the early 1890's, married my great-grandmother in 1897 (after she had given birth to an incestuous child with her father), and then manages to divorce her on the same day she divorced another man (because she was caught in a bigamous situation). All of this is reported in various Utah and Western newspapers in 1908. The marriages and births of children from my great-grandparents are duly recorded (though with a good deal of fantasy information). Regretfully, none of the sources list his parents names. The only available census to solve this riddle about him is 1900, and that information is suspect on too many levels to list here. What am I missing as a place/way to search?

Some facts about his life:

  1. Joseph Edward Raymond was in the Utah Territorial Prison from 1885 to 1888 and again in the early 1890's. I have copies of those records.
  2. The 1860 and 1870 censuses have multiple options in New York for "Joseph Raymond", as indicated on the 1900 census as POB. Same in Pennsylvania, which is shown on the prison record, though not specifically named as POB.
  3. No Utah record exists to show Joseph ever owned real property.
  4. Joseph died a pauper in 1910 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Salt Lake City.
  5. His father-in-law (Joseph Winkle Sawyer) was fairly notorious because of an incest trial in 1896, after he had a child with daughter Eugenia Dorleski Sawyer. How JE Raymond met Eugenia is lost because Eugenia made a point of laying false trails all over the place to protect the incestuous son (Thomas Ray "Raymond").
  6. The marriage of JER and Eugenia in 1897 was likely more for Eugenia to gain respectability than for romance because they separated within a year or two, leaving Eugenia with a second son (Joseph Corwin Raymond).
  7. The only place the name of JER's 1st wife appears is in the divorce papers of 1887 where she is allowed to use her maiden name - Jessie Larsen. A news article at the time lists her as Julia Larson. No prior census in U.S. shows a Jessie Larsen who could have been his wife.
  8. Two of Eugenia's sisters married into polygamous marriages in Southern Utah.
  9. JW Sawyer was a key figure in Green River, Utah during the years of the "Wild Bunch" (which included Butch Cassidy). Sawyer even owned a tavern/brothel while he was sheriff.
  10. Lastly, recent DNA evidence seems to show that somehow JER is descended from Joseph Roger (born 1770) and Marie Magdeleine Babin (born 1780). Family lore includes claims JER is of "Basque descent". The surname "Raymond" derives from Toulouse, France, when hundreds of Raymonds of Toulouse made their way through Canada and into the U.S.. The recent DNA evidence supports an Acadian ancestry.

Family lore also has JE Raymond as a contortionist at the Salt Palace, and at some point a member of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. I started searching in 1975 and no record remains of minor employees at the Salt Palace, nor is there a record of low level acts or employees of the "Wild West Show" that actually did perform in Salt Lake City in the mid 1880's.

  • I'm not sure the reference to "Ancestry.com" in the title is quite right here. – GeneJ Oct 17 '12 at 19:32
  • P.S. There are some very early Raymond families in New England. We might be related, Michael. – GeneJ Oct 17 '12 at 19:34
  • You assert that "3) Joseph never owned real property.". Do you have direct evidence of that or are you saying that you have found no evidence that he owned land? The distinction can be very important. – Fortiter Oct 29 '12 at 12:28
  • Do you have any possible birth dates? I wasn't able to spot anything where you mention his age, do the prison records or marriages have that? – Rob Hoare Nov 10 '12 at 9:27
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Ah, another apparent alien birth--as in, "dropped in from Mars or some other 'Area 51.'" While I have many individuals in my database, I spend by far most of my time on these challenges.

At least in certain periods and places, it is not uncommon to find that historical records about an adult are void of direct reference to a parent or parents. Circumstance is often further complicated by migration, church and courthouse fires, slavery, etc.

In his class on Inferential Genealogy, Dr. Tom Jones, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, writes that all genealogical problems and questions fall into one of two categories--those of identity or relationship. Others are welcome to disagree, but our alien birth challenges require a good deal of questioning about both.

Jones' class is freely available online. He steps through several cases in which little or no direct information is available from which someone's ancestry could be known--and yet he solves each case. Though you might approach the cases he presents a little differently, if you haven't taken the class, I would encourage you to do so.

A few other noteworthy comments:

  1. You make no mention of census prior to 1900. Unless we have an immigration circumstance (ha! and I don't mean from Mars), then one expects your man may have been reported in both the census of 1870 and 1880. While you may not be able to identify him from those records yet, you should know those census entry prospects.
  2. You mention newspaper items and BMD/vital records. What about the court records themselves?
  3. Although you make no mention of property ownership, have you at least pulled the deed indexes from relevant places at relative times for the surname? Are there plat maps or directories--anything that might help you discover the names of his neighbors.
  4. Have you researched the "associates." In your case, names he was known to associate with might appear in the newspaper or court documents. Perhaps he was in business with one or more persons?
  5. Work the timeline and work it in conjunction with all the record groups you investigate. If you have first notice of him in 1884 at Salt Lake City, that is your pivot point. Who else of the same or similar surname was born, married or died there at about that same time?
  6. Do you know how he met his wife? Err... probably that should be his first wife?

Inferential genealogy builds on clues--names, dates and places are only some of the clues. It may also seem more challenging at the start if the name is common or the place is well populated. Not long ago I finished an Ohio 1800's era "Joseph Miller" project that involved inferential genealogy.

When the direct information/evidence is not available, inferential genealogy is our friend.

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Here's one possible research plan.

Take all the information and clues you have and assemble them in chronological order on a timeline. Also make a list of assertions which have no time element.

Break these items down into smaller and smaller questions and investigate these questions separately, as if you are dealing with a case where multiple people all have the same name, and you have to sort out all the sources. You can't tell in advance which bit will provide the clue that will lead to a breakthrough, so look at everything. Remember that newspaper collections are done with OCR and that it isn't always possible to find people when searching for their own name, so do keyword searches with keywords from events, and/or the names of associates.

You may have these already, but for an example, here are two articles from the Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT) (accessed via Genealogy Bank):

Date: September 16, 1885 Paper: Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT)
Volume: XXXIV Issue: 34 Page: 545

Date: September 16, 1885 Paper: Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT)
Volume: XXXIV Issue: 34 Page: 556

These describe a person named Joseph Raymond who stole a horse and buggy from his employer W.O. Sawyer.

Raymond has been once convicted of petty larceny, having stolen a watch from Sawyer, and has served a torm [sic] of imprisonment in the city jail for the offense. After his release, he was again engaged by Sawyer as stable keeper and express wagon driver. (Page: 545)

Might this be your Joseph?

Who is W. O. Sawyer? What business did he own?

Is W.O. a relative of your Joseph Raymond's father-in-law Joseph Winkle Sawyer?

This has no direct bearing on the question you asked, but to bust brick walls, I look at everything. I found one key obituary by searching not for the person's name, but by searching for his employer. So gather more information on associates, ask questions, and see what turns up. You never know.

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FamilySearch may include records that you cannot find on Ancestry.com.

You mentioned that the 1900 Federal Census is the only one available to solve the riddle, but if he was married in 1884, wouldn't the 1870 and 1880 Federal Census help as well?

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  • 1
    +1 Lorraine, I wondered about earlier census tracking too. – GeneJ Oct 10 '12 at 20:20
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    @GeneJ, Lorraine W, and ColeValleyGirl - Thank you for the kindness of your replies. I will turn to Inferential Genealogy for more insights, but here are a few direct answers: – Michael Raymond Gates Oct 17 '12 at 17:33
  • 1)Joseph Edward Raymond was in the Utah Territorial Prison from 1885 to 1888 and again in the early 1890's. I have copies of those records. 2) The earlier censuses have multiple options in New York for "Joseph Raymond", as indicated on the 1900 census as POB. Same in Pennsylvania, which is shown on the prison record, though note specifically named as POB. – Michael Raymond Gates Oct 17 '12 at 17:36
  • 3) Joseph never owned real property. 4) Joseph died a pauper and is buried in an unmarked grave in Salt Lake City. 5) His father-in-law (Joseph Winkle Sawyer) was fairly notorious because of an incest trial, and had a child with with daughter Eugenia Dorleski Sawyer. How JE Raymond met Eugenia is lost because Eugenia made a point of laying false trails all over the place to protect the incestuous son. – Michael Raymond Gates Oct 17 '12 at 17:46
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    @MichaelRaymondGates Thank you. I hope you will edit/append your original question with the valuable comments you have made here. This will make your question more valuable. – GeneJ Oct 17 '12 at 18:41

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