Wondering if there are techniques to break through a brick wall with circumstantial evidence rather than hard evidence. Drawing a blank on my 3rd great grandfather in my paternal line. He lived in an area where there were many families with the same surname and a well established family tree going back to the first immigrant in 1660. I seem to be one generation away from being able to connect to this tree. Any tips/insight would be greatly appreciated. My 3rd great grandfather died early which seems to be causing problems.

Here's what I know:

My 3rd great grandfather's name is John Perry Emory or Perry Emory (b 1825 d 1860). He had three sons Arthur Wells Emory, Charles Ernest Emory and Ogle Tilghman Emory. They lived in Queen Annes County, Maryland. When I first started I knew my 2nd great grandfathers name was Arthur Emory. I soon found what I believe to be the family in the 1850 census and the fathers name was Perry and his occupation was a sailor which confirmed what my grandfather told me (he died at sea when the children were young). I later came across Arthur Wells Emory's obit and it confirmed that his father's name was John Perry Emory, but the name of Arthur's mother is different than the 1860 census. But, the census has to be correct, I think the obit made a mistake. The only other info I've been able to find on Perry Emory is: "Pere Emory (which is apparently what he went by) married Sarah Downes May 26, 1851" from a list of weddings in Queen Annes County.

In this link: http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=brucen&id=I4269 I suspect one of these guys to be Perry's father because of the fact that Perry named his first son Arthur Wells Emory. Also one of the sons in the link is named Peregrine. Pere is a nickname for Peregrine.

I wanted to post an update to this question. It's been quite a journey. I was able to find the parents of Pere Emory. Turns there was a chancery record stating the parents. Pere's father was Peregrine Emory who was from the family I suspected in my initial query. Peregrine Emory the father did inherit around 1000 acres of land, but had sold it all off by the time Pere Jr. was born. Along the way he went bankrupt and that seems to be the reason there weren't any probate records. The chancery record in addition to the FAN leave little doubt that Peregrine is the father.

Would be happy to post a mini case study if anybody is interested.

  • 1
    One thought re John Perry Emery's wife: how do you know he didn't marry twice? That would account for a different name in the obit and the census. I wouldn't automatically assume either source was more likely to be correct.
    – user104
    Jul 16, 2013 at 18:09
  • I made an edit above. I found him in the 1860 census not 1850 apparently right before he died. Sarah had to be the mother since she is listed as the wife in 1860. Arthur was born about 1855/56 Charles was born about 1857 Ogle was born about 1859 Yeah he may well have married twice but it seems like Sarah would have been the mother. Also there is no record of a John/Perry Emory marrying a Rachel Ann that I have found.
    – semory
    Jul 16, 2013 at 18:28
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    The probate and property records for Queen Annes County need to be thoroughly investigated for members of the family. Perry's death likely generated records, and relatives may have made provisions for the family. If real property was owned, the deeds may have relevant history embedded in them.
    – RobertShaw
    Jul 17, 2013 at 20:11
  • Don't know if this may be pertinent or not, but Pere also means "senior" or "father" in French. English translation of père père Pronunciation: /pɛʀ/ father Dupont père = Dupont senior lepère Dupont (fam) = old Dupont (colloq) Definition of father in the British & World English dictionary Definition of father in the US English dictionary. Jul 20, 2013 at 22:22
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    A mini-case study as an answer would be superb -- thank you for offering!
    – user104
    Jul 29, 2014 at 7:37

1 Answer 1


In any case where you have a person with siblings, it helps to study all the records that you can find pertaining to that group of siblings. Also study any associated people (what some call the "cluster", or what Elizabeth Shown Mills calls the FAN (friends, associates, neighbors). Mills' site has several useful QuickLessons, including:

QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map

RobertShaw is right; probate records can be especially useful. The more context you can establish, the easier it is to be sure you have the probate records for the right person.

Examining case histories can be extremely helpful, especially when they cover the same geographical area and time period as your target family; they can give clues to record collections and other resources for that time and place.

  • 1
    The FAN principle has been huge in my research into Pere Emory. Thanks for the link.
    – semory
    Jul 28, 2014 at 19:01

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