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William Toy Bartle, Our Brick Wall

Every family historian has one -- a road block, a dead end, a brick wall. That one ancestor who just won't give up the goods on their ancestors. My second great-grandfather Reverand William Toy Bartle is ours. Despire having a lot of information about his immediate family, we have almost nothing on his parents.

Some of the clues we have come from a diary we found among the papers of Betty Phelps, my grandmother. It was apparently among my grandfather Harold Bartle Phelps' papers when he died. It has no journal type entries, but the unnamed author or authors recorded in fine penmanship the births, deaths, and marriages of a large number of Bartle and Phelps' family members.

The name of the writer remained a mystery for quite some time until we were able to piece together the following information.

These and other entries on the frontleaf of this diary allowed us to triangulate on the original author.

  • The deaths of these previously unknown individuals are listed:
    • 1834 August My mother
    • 1890 August 5 Geo Bartle
    • 1892 September 1 E. G. Bartle
  • On the page for November 3, the same hand has written:
    • 1824 My Brother Geo Born
  • On the frontleaf, the same hand recorded the names and birthdates of "grandchildren."

So if the owner has a brother named "Geo. Bartle," then the owner's given surname must also be "Bartle". Then if the individual is a grandparent to all of the children listed, only one of those eight grandparents would have the birth surname of Bartle.

This leads us to conclude, given the time period in which the writing changed from one individual to another, that the initial owner appears to be the Rev. William Toy Bartle himself. Based on the evidence in the diary --

  • His father was born in 1800.
  • His mother died when he was twelve years old, in 1839.
  • His mother and father were from Prussia.
  • Rev. Bartle has a brother named George born in about 1824.
  • Rev. Bartle was born on  17 FEB 1822.

Based on public records, Rev. Bartle's birth location is given as both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We cannot locate any census records for any "Bartle" in New Jersey from 1810 to 1830. Many Bartle surnames found in Philadelphia at the same time.

  • No birth records were kept in New Jersey in that era.
  • Iowa, State Census Collection, 1885 states his birthplace as New Jersey and his parents as "Native" not "Foreign" born.
  • 1880 US Census reports his parents both born in "Prussia"
  • 1900 US Census states his birth location as New Jersey, and his parents' as Pennsylvania.
  • California Voter Registration Roll states his birth location as New Jersey.

Thirty years after beginning our search, we're still stuck. What's your brick wall story?