I have been searching for my grandfather John Howard Coulter who was born at Bellaire, Belmont County, Ohio, on 22 Feb 1896.

He married Clara Mae Newton and had two daughters Mildred (1918 Ohio) and Edna (1916 Ohio - 2004). He left the family abt 1939 and never returned.

My mother never knew what happened to him and I have tried to find him as a mission from her. Social Security was no help. I've looked all through ancestry.com. He may have changed name or spelling, who knows? So frustrating.

In the 1940 Census there is a H. Colter in Washington D.C., which could be a lead. Rumor was the Govt was looking for him regarding the service.

He had a sister, Alice V. Coulter McClelland. Parents were: Francis M. Coulter and Margaret Pelkey (orig name Peltier).

Timeline events
1896   born in Bellaire, Belmont County, Ohio (Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003)
1900   residing in Bellaire Ward 3, Belmont, Ohio with parents∗, sister and grandmother (United States Census, 1900)
1910   residing in New Philadelphia Ward 1, Tuscarawas, Ohio with parents; occupation errand boy in enameling works (United States Census, 1910)
1914   marriage to Clara Newton in New Philadelphia, Ohio, but license issued in Ohio County, West Virginia (West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970 & West Virginia Vital Research Records - Marriage Records). Both mothers gave consent
1917   residing in New Philadelphia, Tuscarawas, Ohio; occupation reaming (U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918). Hearing and vision defects noted, so probably did not serve in the military.
1920   residing in Goshen, Tuscarawas, Ohio with wife & 2 children; occupation tinner in tin shop (United States Census, 1920)
1930   residing in New Philadelphia, Tuscarawas, Ohio with wife & 2 children; occupation tinner in tin shop (United States Census, 1930)
1940   probably∗∗ residing in District of Columbia, Police Precinct 12, District of Columbia with older cousin Lorene J Colter; occupation machinist in government office building (United States Census, 1940)
1942   residing in Washington DC; occupation self-employed (US World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942)

∗ Mother Maggie born in Canada, according to several, but not all, of the sources.
∗∗ Discrepancies - entry uses (middle) name Howard, age is off by 2 years, marital status is single, and residence in 1935 is Newark, Licking County, Ohio. Informant not marked.

Wiki tree profile John Howard Coulter (1896)
(Original poster may be the same as profile manager Charlyn Beatty).

  • 3
    What province/state and country is Bellaire in? Do you have other places he lived, before 1939? You've tagged the question as "Canada", but mentioned Washington DC, so it's unclear.
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 8:22
  • 2
    You mention a marriage and births of two daughters - where and when did they occur, and have you sighted those certificates for clues like his occupation, etc?
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 11:08
  • 1
    We are often times frustrated in searching for details of the ordinary lives of our ancestors. The problems are magnified when the person (apparently) did not wish to be found. Although we sometimes imagine that genealogy is a little like detective work, that is actually a romantic fiction. What you are asking is not family history but a missing person investigation.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 10:49
  • The Southern California Genealogical Society is hosting a webinar (5 Dec 2015) "The Curious Case of the Disappearing Dude" which might help. See scgsgenealogy.com/webinar/jes-index.html for the current schedule.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 23:59

1 Answer 1


The timeline appended to the question currently ends with John Howard Coulter residing in Washington DC in 1942.

Update: Ancestry's "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007" database has an entry for John H Coulter, Birth Date: 22 Feb 1896, Birth Place: Bellaire Bel, Ohio. "Claim Date: 10 Aug 1966" & "Type of Claim: Death Claim " suggest he died in 1966. More details should be available from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Options for further research:

  • Divorce - Ohio or DC (he is "single" in 1940 census)
  • City directories (to define residence periods)
    -- New Philadelphia, Ohio
    -- Licking County, Ohio (possibly Columbus)
    -- Washington DC
  • Border crossing records (to confirm if and when he left the country or returned) (The original poster did not explain why she thinks he may have gone to Canada)
  • Newspapers - Ohio and DC (may document divorce, death, obituary or other events)
  • find Lorene Coulter in city directories and newspaper articles, especially after 1930, as John may also be mentioned or referenced in some way
  • other extended family members in newspapers, especially obituaries
  • mother's birth location (if John did go to Canada, he may have visited her relatives)

SSDI entry was not found. Possibilities:

  • died before electronic entry of deaths commonplace (d. bef 1975) - death in 1966 suggested by Claims Index, mentioned above
  • death not reported to the SSA - refuted by entry in Claims Index, mentioned above
  • never had a SSN - probably refuted by entry in Claims Index, mentioned above (no SSN cited in entry). (Was unlikely anyway, as he had been an employee working in tin shops (1920 & 1930), rather than in the exempted occupations. He may have been a government employee in 1940 and was self-employed in 1942).

Other military records are probably not applicable. John does not seem to have served in World War I and he would have been in his 40s during World War II.

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