Anna M. Alischer married Charles John Brockhouse in 1928 and had 3 children (1930, 1934, 1942). In 1930 they were enumerated in Beaver Falls, Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

I think I've identified the family's 1940 census enumeration in White Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, but I am reluctant to enter the data. There are too many discrepancies for all to be copy errors by the enumerator, who was not careless with the other families that I have evaluated on that census sheet. The informant is marked and should have been knowledgable about the family.

How I have handled the record to date:

  • I have added the census record in the person notes with a table discussing the conflicts. The (1940) census event has been left open, as if no record had been found.
  • I have investigated to determine whether individuals with details matching the 1940 census household appear in other records. I have not found any of them.
  • I might add the event citation if additional evidence turns up - for instance, school attendance or land ownership records - showing that the target family was indeed living on Steffin Hill Road between 1935 and 1945.

Is there anything else I could do with this record or other paths to investigate its validity?

Expected household:
Charles Brockhouse, head, born 1909 Ohio
Anna M. Brockhouse, wife, born 1911 Pennsylvania
Robert W. Brockhouse, son, born 1930 Pennsylvania
Barbara A. Brockhouse, daughter, born 1934 Pennsylvania
Orpha M. Brockhouse, widowed mother, born 1883 Ohio [husband John died 1918]
[A 3rd child, Charles J. Brockhouse, was not born until 1942]

1940 Census record:
Charles Brockhouse, head, born abt 1901 Pennsylvania, owns home
Mary Brockhouse, daughter, born abt 1902 Pennsylvania, marked as informant
Chas J Brockhouse, son, born abt 1930 Pennsylvania
Margaret Brockhouse, daughter, born abt 1932 Pennsylvania
John Brockhouse, son, born abt 1935 Pennsylvania
[Orpha not found at all]
Source Citation: Year: 1940; Census Place: White, Beaver, Pennsylvania; Roll: T627_3429; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 4-136. Lines 2-6

link to FamilySearch census record
link to Ancestry census record

Evaluation table from my database notes

Edited to add:

I already have the 2 earlier censuses, both say Charles born abt 1910 in Ohio: 1910 census- living in Richland Ohio, with parents John Brockhouse [indexed as Brookhouse] & Orpha M, older sister Mary A; 1920 census - living in Beaver Pennsylvania, with widowed mother Orpha and sister Mary, in household of maternal grandparents Wallace Ludwig & Ada. Other records are also consistent with his birth on 15 May 1909.

Summary of sources found for Charles and Anna (note that few of these are dated in the target timeframe 1935-1945)

Charles John Brockhouse [born 1909 Richland Ohio, died 1975 Beaver Pennsylvania]
Ohio, Birth Index, 1908-1964, Charles J Brockhouse, 15 May 1909
1910, Plymouth, Richland, Ohio, Charles J Brockhouse [Brookhouse]
1920, Beaver Falls Ward 3, Beaver, Pennsylvania, Charles J Brockhouse
1930, Beaver Falls, Beaver, Pennsylvania, Charles Brockhouse
Social Security Death Index, Charles Brockhouse 1909-1975

his parents
Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994, John H. Brockhouse & Orpha M. Ludwig, 1900 Richland, Ohio
World War I Draft, John Henry Brockhouse, Beaver, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Death Indices, 1918, John H Brockhouse
Pennsylvania Death Indices, 1950, ORPHA M BROCKHOUSE

Anna M. Alischer Brockhouse [born 1911 Beaver Pennsylvania, died 1993 Beaver Pennsylvania]
1911 Ellis Island passenger list
1920 census with parents in White, Beaver, Pennsylvania
1930 census with husband and son in Beaver Falls, Beaver, Pennsylvania
Social Security Death Index, Anna A Brockhouse 1911-1993

newspaper articles
The Daily Times - Jun 8, 1928 marriage announcement Brockhouse-Alischer
Reading Eagle - Apr 8, 1945 [earliest mention of Brockhouse in Reading, so far]
Reading Eagle - Mar 6, 1950 [Brockhouse family moving [back] to Beaver Falls]
Beaver County Times - Jan 9, 1964 [lawsuit for damages from being rear-ended in 1963]
Beaver County Times - Sep 18, 1973 [Charles Brockhouse retirement from Babcock & Wilcox]

Anna's mother - The Daily Times - Oct 6, 1942 obit Anna Schmidt m Alischer
Anna's father - Beaver Valley Times - Oct 27, 1951 obit Stephen Alischer
grandson - Beaver County Times - Feb 28, 1974 obit Ronald Brockhouse
Charles - Beaver County Times - Sep 12, 1975 death Charles Brockhouse
Anna - Beaver County Times - Nov 4, 1993 obit Anna Alischer m Brockhouse
[daughter Barbara's 2013 death notice does not mention her parents]

  • Might the Mary in 1940 born circa 1902 be a sister not a daughter or wife? Do you have a death record for his sister Mary?
    – user104
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 14:30
  • 2
    Both Charles' and Anna's SSDI records on Ancestry say that the SSN was issued before 1951. If you asked for copies of their SS-5 application, that might have residence information. Due to recent restrictions that have been placed on access, you may need to provide proof that their parents are also deceased in order to get a record that has not been redacted. See this post from The Legal Genealogist: legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/05/31/ordering-the-ss-5
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:47
  • 1
    Also found: City directories at Ancestry for Reading: 1943, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1950 for Charles, Anna, and Orpha. That gets you back a few years from the 1945 Reading Eagle newspaper article. (No directories in Ancestry card catalog under Reading for 1946, 1949.)
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:22
  • 1
    No entries for Brockhouse in 1942 Reading directory at Ancestry (looked at image; BROCK followed by BROCKWAY). Latest Beaver Falls directory (named as such) is 1927. Any nearby cities whose directories might list residents of Beaver Falls? I'll check Wikipedia.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:28
  • 1
    Seen on WorldCat: 1940-1941 rural directory for Beaver County, PA. worldcat.org/title/… holdings at Allen County Public Library (Ft Wayne IN), Columbus (OH)Metro Library, St Louis (MO) County Library / publisher is Tri-State Genealogical and Historical Society.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 18:03

3 Answers 3


I have a similar case in the 1930 Census. I have city directory listings showing where my focus family might be, but I cannot find a 1930 Census record. Ancestry.com suggests a match to me where the parents in the household have similar names and ages as my focus family. In my case, the hinted-at family lives on the other side of the state from where I was expecting to find mine.

What I did in that case was to assume that the family in the hint was indeed a different family, and set out to gather as much evidence as I could to establish that they were NOT the family I was looking for. The principle is -- if I find both families listed in each record set (e.g. 1920 Census, 1910 Census, and so on), and the more I can find events for each family in two different places at the same time, the more likely it is that they are two different families. So my goal was to work out the timeline cradle-to-grave for the children who were born in the USA, and arrival-to-grave for the generations who were immigrants. On the other hand, if they were the same family, theoretically the evidence itself would drive me to that conclusion -- there would be too many interconnecting pieces to support the premise that these were two separate families.

Eventually I found the obituary for the head of my focus family (#1) which suggested that his residence in my focus town had been continuous; the funeral notice which followed asserted that he had been cremated and at which cemetery. For the hinted-at family (#2), I found a memorial on Find A Grave which shows the head of the household being buried in the eastern part of the state, near the area where he resided in 1930. A headstone is not in itself a record that someone is buried there, but the date of death is almost a decade different. I also found the death date for the wife in family #1, which is decades different from the wife in family #2. (I sent a note to the person who owns the memorial on Find a Grave asking how he knows that the person in his memorial is the father of the children in family #1, but have not received an answer.)

I haven't yet found my focus family in the 1930 Census, but I have accumulated enough other evidence about family #2's movements over time (including 1920 Census records for both families) to satisfy myself that they are two separate families. Apart from the events I looked at, the two heads of household have different middle names, different occupations, and so on. I looked not only at the sets of siblings, but the business associates, fellow lodge members, etc. of the heads of household and other members of the family. Economic indicators can also be useful in separating same-name families.

Having consistent evidence of two families, living in two towns in different parts of the state, with evidence for the dates of death for the two heads of households, and with both men having very different occupations -- all of the evidence suggested to me that there are indeed two families. I suspect that the person who created the memorial on Find a Grave has been misled by similarity of the names and by the Ancestry hint system (which depends heavily on the similarity of the names), the same as I had been when I first started out as a new Ancestry user.

I like your table, but I would not use 'right' and 'wrong' for the column headers. I would put "expected" and "not expected", "consistent" and "inconsistent", or some other more neutral, non-conclusional language.

Your 1940 Census family (family #2) owns the house they live in, so property records might be one place to start -- for 1935 it says "R" for rural and not 'same place' or 'same house'. Can you establish when this family purchased the house? and work backwards from there?

For your known family (#1) in 1930, can you find records about their residence which match the 1930 address and then work outwards from there, year by year? Can you access property tax records that show if the houses are still standing, and see who owns the property now, and when it was purchased?

You have already looked for other records but have come up empty so far. Broaden your search to include friends, associates, neighbors -- and think of ways to search for your family (or families) without using their full names. In another part of my focus family's tree, I found an obituary by accident -- I was searching for more information about someone else in the family, who was listed as a bearer at the funeral of the person whose obituary had eluded me. Her surname was not spelled the way I had expected it to be, so searching for her name had failed.

In my focus family #1, I first found the death date of the head of household in a city directory; after that, I found his obituary by searching around that date for his place of employment and his first name -- again because a surname search did not bring up the article about his death.

I've had other census records not turn up in a surname search because the family members were indexed with the surname of the family above them (the head of household's first name was filled in with his own surname). Stephen P. Morse's One Step-Web Pages have aids for searching multiple census years at once, searching on first name and other indexed criteria but not by surname.

Juliana Smith, who blogs for Ancestry.com, has written many times about researching same-name families. For other ideas on how to approach the problem, see also Quicklesson #11: Identity and the FAN principle by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

  • Addressing above points in the same order (breaks due to char limits): Contemporary directories for Beaver County tbd. I plan to check these if the right place and time are available. Alternate 1940 census matches, all outside Ohio & Pennsylvania, have already been excluded, both because the household details are even more divergent and because of matching 1930 census records. I've been burned by jumping on obvious but incorrect matches and hints too, that's why I use hints and online trees as last resorts for further research.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:32
  • Instead of "right"/"wrong" column headings, would "positive"/"negative" be acceptable? I had already mentioned checking property (and school) records. However these are not accessible to me at this time. Also as mentioned above, the 1930 census address (317 12th Street, Beaver Falls) is owned & occupied in 1940 census by Stanley Winogrocka & family (PA Beaver, ED 4-47, Beaver Falls Ward 3, sheet 13A, Lines 15-21). On the 1940 census, there are no house numbers on the Steffin Hill Rd addresses, complicating tracing ownership.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:34
  • My reference to not finding other records was in connection to looking for another older Charles Brockhouse, with wife Mary and 3 children, matching the 1940 household. I already have a lot of detail on the Alischer side of the family (my connection is through Anna's maternal grandparents), from censuses and newspaper articles. For Brockhouse, Charles' father was born in Cincinnati and died young. As mentioned in a comment, I am still looking for Charles' sister Mary after 1920. Unfortunately, the earlier newspaper records in Beaver County are patchy and badly OCR indexed.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:38
  • 1
    Bad newspaper OCR makes it a challenge! Newspapers sometimes list transfers of property; a search for the 1930 Street address might yield the timeframe for when the 1940 residents bought that property, and a search for "Steffin" might find property transfers about Steffin Hill Rd.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:43
  • 1
    I'm simply trying to avoid the mindset of "these are my relatives but the enumerator made a mistake" as an easy out when there's no clear evidence a mistake has been made by the enumerator, or by the person who may have copied the census in the office.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:56

I am not so familiar with US records – all my research is in the British Isles and Australia – but my own decision processes would lead me to conclude with some level of confidence (but not certainty) that this record is not for your target family.

I don’t think I can add much to Jan’s excellent answer, but here are some of the criteria I would use to assess this record, and why I would put a low probability on the unlikely event of a major misrecording in this record, rather than the more likely event that it is simply different family who happens to live in the same area. (Extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence and all that.)

  • Only one of the family members has the expected name.
  • The dates and places of birth for the parents are inconsistent with the expected values.
  • You don’t provide a link to the 1930 Census record, but the father’s occupation in the 1940 record was listed as “labourer”: was this consistent with the occupation in 1930? It doesn’t have to be the same, but it should be similar in its educational requirements, e.g. warehouseman, porter, wagon driver, bricklayer, construction worker, not doctor, dentist, traveling salesman, station master. Even with the Depression in between I wouldn’t expect too much downward occupational mobility.

I wouldn’t worry about the extra child if s/he is an infant – children who died young can be missed in initial searches of birth records sometimes. But the fact that the daughter doesn’t really have the right birthdate, even though the mother is the informant, is another count against this being the same family.

  • Agreed that there are major discrepancies; that's why I have not accepted the record. Charles was a factory laborer on the 1930 census [familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XCZZ-7F8] It is the location (proximity to Anna's relatives), that has kept me looking at this family.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 13:36
  • Could the incorrect information be the father's first name? If so, it could be your Charles' brother or cousin and the proximity to Anna's family would make sense.
    – Verbeia
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 20:45
  • Charles had no brothers. I have not investigated his father's family in Ohio, so there could be cousins. However, I have searched for other Charles Brockhouse (and variant spellings) born 1900-1920 in Ohio or Pennsylania, and not found any. There are other Charles Brockhouse, both older and younger, in other states.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 21:17

The first thing I'd do is nail down the parents in the 1910 and 1920 census to check dates and places of birth

The head of house (born 1901) simply could NOT have a daughter Mary born in 1902 so Mary may be Anna M from the 1930 census

  • Already have the 2 earlier censuses, both say Charles born abt 1910 in Ohio: 1910 census- living in Richland Ohio, with parents John Brockhouse [indexed as Brookhouse] & Orpha M, older sister Mary A; 1920 census - living in Beaver Pennsylvania, with widowed mother Orpha and sister Mary, in household of maternal grandparents Wallace Ludwig & Ada. Other records are also consistent with his birth on 15 May 1909.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 14:11

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