I'm looking at the City Directories for Youngstown, Ohio (Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. )

My ancestor William Staines (with his wife Catherine) and two of his sons moved to Youngstown from England in the late 1890s. A son from Catherine's previous marriage (Willam Morris) also moved to the USA in the same time frame.

In the 1900 census william Staines the elder is a 68-year old 'Day labourer'; he had been an iron worker from 1851 until at least 1893. Catherine was 66 in the same census. Neither of them appear in the 1910 census.

In 1900, 1901 and 1902 I can find entries for William Staines (and his wife Catherine), William Staines Jr and Ernest Ernest Staines

In 1903 Ernest is present, but neither of the Williams.

In 1904 Ernest and the younger William are present; the younger William is no longer shown as William jr.

William sr's wife Catherine appears in the 1905 census of New Jersey with her son William Morris; there is no indication that she is a widow, but her husband is not present

By 1908, she is back in Youngstown and recorded as a widow.

I conclude from this that William sr died between 1902 (when he was last recorded in Youngstown) and 1908 (when Catherine is first recorded as a widow).

Does the fact that William jr ceased to be shown as William jr in 1904 suggest that William is dead by then, or could it simply mean that he was no longer resident in Youngstown?

Does the fact that the 1903 directory was published in January 1903 tell me anything about when the data was gathered -- and so, when William sr ceased to be resident for whatever reason?

  • How do (did, 2 years ago) you know that the Catherine and son William in NJ 1905 are your Catherine and son William? Of course they might be, but it was a big country even in 1905.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 13:28
  • @RonJohn, because I'd traced them from birth in England, through marriages, censuses, and their emigration to the States. I then traced the families forward and made contact with a cousin who still lives in Youngstown; we confirmed out connection using DNA.
    – user6485
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 13:41

3 Answers 3


I see no way to distinguish based on city records alone between a husband who split and a husband who died. About the only thing you can deduce from the City Directories that in 1904 there seems to have been no longer any need to distinguish between William jr. and William sr.

You presumably have ages and professions from the 1900 US census. That should help you answer the fundamental question: Why did Catherine and William Morris (I take it that is William jr.) move to New Jersey (where in New Jersey?) and back? Was she looking for work? Living with relatives? Could it be that William sr. moved back east in search of work, with her following after he was settled? Maybe he died in New Jersey?

There are just too many possible scenarios to fix on one without more information.

  • William Morris in New Jersey is a son from Catherine Staines previous marriage; not the same person as William Staines jr who is a son from William Staines first marriage. I'll edit the question to make that clear, and add details about ages and occupations.
    – user6485
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 14:56

Carefully. Consider the following from genwriters enter image description here

Several publishers wrote that they relied on street canvassing and the willingness of residents to offer information/identification. Contrast that with a legal requirement to participate in Federal or State Censuses. And we all know that the Federal and State Censuses may "miss" people. I personally try not to rationalize the circumstances of a "missing person" without some other clues to explain the absence.

  • 1
    Thanks -- I'm not trying to explain the change in William's presence using this data (I have research plan for that) just narrow the interval if possible.
    – user6485
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 7:32

I'd offer a couple of options besides deceased or separated/divorced. He could be either in a prison or, more likely considering his occupation, in a sanitorium for tuberculosis or lung disease. That night explain the non-widow status, and the change afterwords. It might be possible to check locations near where his wife was staying to see if any sanitoriums were in the area and if they might have any relevant records.

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