I've been struggling with finding the parents to George Bismark Foster with a high degree of confidence. The death certificate for George Bismark Foster shows he died in Crosby, Minnesota on 9 Feb 1946 and was buried in Booneville, Missouri where he had previously lived with his first wife, Anna M. Faught at her death in 1931 and whom he had married in Missouri in 1890. I have clear records of George Bismark Foster from 1900 onward with evidence supporting all of the following.

  • 1 Jun 1900 — 221 Maple Avenue, Independence, Jackson, Missouri (Census)
  • 1906 — 522 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri (City Directory)
  • 1908 — 522 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri (City Directory)
  • 19 Apr 1910 — 934 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri (Census)
  • 1911 — 934 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri, USA (City Directory)
  • 1912 — 934 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri, USA (City Directory)
  • 1913 — 934 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri, USA (City Directory)
  • 1914 — 934 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri, USA (City Directory)
  • 1915 — 934 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri, USA (City Directory)
  • 1917 — 934 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri, USA (City Directory)
  • 3 Jan 1920 — 934 South Main Street, Independence, Jackson, Missouri (Census)
  • 1921 — Independence, Jackson, Missouri, USA (Newspaper Ad)
  • 1923 — 2729 North Main Street, Hutchinson, Kansas (City Directory)
  • 7 Apr 1930 — 418 1/2 Spring Street, Boonville, Cooper, Missouri (Census)
  • 16 Aug 1931 — Boonville, Cooper, Missouri (Death of Anna)
  • 1941 — Crosby, Crow Wing, Minnesota (Death certificate)
  • 9 Feb 1946 — 211 3rd Street N. W., Crosby, Crow Wing, Minnesota (Death of George)

However, before 1900, things get very murky. His death certificate shows:

  • Father: James Foster of no record
  • Mother: Arbella Bell of Saint Louis, Missouri

My best lead so far, is for his father to be a Dr. James W. Foster married to an Arbella unknown, but this is a messy connection. I do find a key city directory listing from 1889 in Kansas City that shows a George B Foster who is a clerk at F. Lack & Son with a residence of 517 Holmes that coincides with Dr. James W Foster living at the same address. George B Foster is also listed in 1888 as working at Kansas City Heat Power and Light Company at 501 Baird Bldg, but no home address is given, while Dr. James W Foster is still listed as residing at 517 Holmes.

The trouble is that George Bismark Foster death certificate shows his date of birth to be 29 May 1869 in Kansas City, Missouri and the 1900 census agrees and shows he was born in May 1869 in Missouri, but the 1880 census for J W Foster and wife Arrabella Foster shows he is only 9 years old on 2 Jun 1880 and thus born around 1871 in Missouri and the 1870 census for James W Foster and wife Arabella Foster shows he is not yet born on 1 July 1870, corroborating the 1880 census giving an 1871 birth.

How can I square these two conflicting pieces of information? Is the George B Foster born to James W Foster and Arabella my George Bismark Foster or a different person with a similar name?

The spelling of Arbella varies between all the sources and none of the Dr James W Foster sources give her maiden name of Bell as shown on George's death certificate. I was not able to find any obituaries to add to my stock of information either. In 1900, George lists May 1869 birth, does it make sense that it could be off by two years when he is only around 30 years old and then consistently off in his death certificate? Could he have been an illegitimate child and thus hidden from the 1870 census and fudged in 1870 before going back to the truth in 1900? The middle name of Bismark or Bismarck seems unusual, does it make sense that a physician would pick such a middle name and not someone in a lower trade. George's businesses were Confectionary, Fuel, Coal, and Grocery, would a son of a physician likely end up in this line of work?

The Dr. James W Foster is my best lead, but I'm at a loss of how to proceed at this point to get a consistent picture. Please suggest how I might try and move forward at this impasse?

  • I wouldn't consider a census conflicting because the age is off by two years; I've seen much worse.
    – user47
    May 27, 2015 at 2:35
  • @JustinY Except that the 1870 corroborates by showing George not having been born yet.
    – WilliamKF
    May 27, 2015 at 2:50
  • 1
    Do you have access to an image of the death certificate? Who is the informant?
    – Jan Murphy
    May 27, 2015 at 14:42
  • 2
    @JanMurphy Yes, I have an image, the informant is Lorene Foster, his second wife. I've added a link to the death certificate above in the description.
    – WilliamKF
    May 27, 2015 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


You are right to be concerned about whether the James W. Foster family is the correct one for your George. On the one hand, that family is a good fit on the names, and fair in time and place. On the other, the birth date does appear to be in conflict with the two censuses. Most importantly, though, is you don't yet have enough data to settle the issue. The candidate family is promising enough to pursue, and records for the era are not so sparse to think that further search would be hopeless.

One thing you might look for is a marriage record for George and Anna which gives some additional data. I don't know about Missouri, but in some areas it was common to have county marriage registers which give useful data such as residences, occupation, and parents. If you know the places of marriage and residence, you may also be able to find newspaper accounts which give details of the two families involved. Any information gleaned from this search should be useful regardless of who George's parents turn out to be.

You can also approach it from the other side: learning more about Arbella and James W. Foster. If you can find obituaries for either, those may have details which help to confirm or refute the connection. For instance, Arbella's maiden name might be mentioned. If a will or other estate records can be located, it's possible that they also might give relevant evidence.

  • In the Leavenworth Times, Kansas of Friday August 22, 1890 I found a marriage announcement that reads: George B. Foster and Anna B. Fought, were quietly married by Judge Tarr, yesterday morning. but notice the middle initial is incorrect B instead of proper M.
    – WilliamKF
    May 27, 2015 at 17:48
  • @WilliamKF In my experience the middle initials in newspapers and records can vary depending on whether the initial stands for the woman's middle name, or is standing in for the maiden name.
    – Jan Murphy
    May 27, 2015 at 23:37
  • @JanMurphy In this case, the maiden name is shown: Fought, so could the middle be in error, or reflect the husband's middle name?
    – WilliamKF
    Jun 25, 2015 at 17:48
  • @WilliamKF It's possible that the B could have been a copy error (using the husband's middle inital B 'by attraction'), or it could be that the informant on Anna's death certificate made a mistake. When you have two sources that differ and no other information, how do you know which one is correct? Both newspapers and official records can have mistakes in them. What other sources do you have with Anna's middle initial (either B, M, or something else)? I wouldn't say the M was 'proper' on the basis of one record. As you look for more records, keep an open mind about what you're looking at.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jun 25, 2015 at 20:48
  • 1
    @JanMurphy In addition to Missouri death certificate, the 1880, 1900, 1920, and 1930 censuses also list M as middle initial, so I feel pretty confident her middle initial is M.
    – WilliamKF
    Jun 25, 2015 at 23:23

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