, , , ,

When genealogists get stuck in a particular line of research, they talk about hitting a ‘brick wall’. Some ancestors like to be elusive! Even though you know they should appear on a particular census, they’re just not there.

That happened to me with Emma Rohring, my 1st cousin 2x removed. Even though she was mentioned in her mother’s obituary as still living in 1954 and still living in 1963 when her brother Roy died, I could find no trace of her after an attempted border crossing between Canada and the US in 1912.

Emma Rohring (photo courtesy of a family member)

Emma Rohring (photo courtesy of a family member)

Time and again, I reviewed what I knew about Emma and the documents I had already found:

* lived with parents Charles & Anna Rohring in Wilson, New York, aged 8 (1900 US census)

* pupil at Western NY Institute for Deaf Mutes in Rochester, New York, aged 12 (per 1905 NY State census)

* married Louis Charles Jemis12 Oct 1909 in Niagara, NY (per New York County Marriages index)

* lived with husband, mother Anna and two brothers in Brooklyn, Kings, NY (per 1910 US census)

* husband accused of bigamy (per article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wed Mar 30 1910)

* lived with husband and newborn son, William, in Berlin, Waterloo, Ontario (per 1911 Canada census)

* tried to cross the Canada/US border 10 Jun 1912 and was debarred (refused entry to the US)

Based on this information, I formulated a few assumptions:

* Louis Jemis, feeling the heat after being accused of bigamy in 1910, ‘escaped’ to Canada with wife Emma (their son, Wilhelm John Jemis, was born in Berlin, Waterloo, Ontario on 16 Apr 1911)

* Louis, Emma and young son must have found another way to cross into the US from Canada; when Emma’s mother died in 1954, mention was made of a surviving daughter, Emma Kelly ‘in Illinois’

Where did this couple go?

After spending too much time trying to break through this brick wall on my own, I turned to a Random Act of Genealogical Kindness group on Facebook. An amazing woman became intrigued with the story and stayed up very late one night searching for information online. What she found was the following family on the 1920 US census living at Brentwood Drive, Adams Township, Lucas County, Ohio:


The family name appears as ‘Jamison’ but based on first names, birth dates and places for Louis, Emma and William, I was certain it was the right family. Next to Emma’s name are the words ‘don’t know’ and ‘deaf and dumb’. Son William’s birth place is noted as Canada … and there are three more children, all born in different states: Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio.

Obviously, Louis had found a way to get his family across the border.

So, there’s a few bricks punched through this wall. Time will tell whether I’ll be able to find out more about Emma and her family’s life after 1920.

What’s your family story? WeGoBack can help find it.