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William Toy Bartle, Our Brick Wall

Every genealogist 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 apparently belonged to my grandfather Harold Bartle Phelps. It has no journal type entries, but the unnamed author or authors recorded 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 details found in the journal.

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

  • On the page for November 3:
    • 1824 My Brother Geo Born
  • On a frontleaf, the deaths of several individuals are listed, including:
    • 1834 August My mother
    • 1890 August 5 Geo Bartle
  • On another frontleaf, the same hand recorded the names and birthdates of all of their "grandchildren."

Based on this information, we deduced:

  • Since the owner has a brother named "Geo. Bartle", his surname is also Bartle.
  • Only one individual with the surname Bartle can be a grandparent to all of the children listed.

Given the time period in which the writing changed from one individual to another, the initial owner must be Rev. William Toy Bartle. From this conclusion and other information given in the journal, we learn --

  • His father, name unkonwn, was born in 1800.
  • His mother, name unknown, died in 1839 when he was twelve years old.
  • His mother and father were from Prussia.
  • Rev. Bartle has a brother named George born in August 1824.
  • Rev. Bartle was born on 17 Feb 1822 in Mullica Hill, New Jersey.

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

  • 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?

Documenting and Citing Sources

I like to avoid junk genealogy. That's genealogy that's not backed up with sources and citations, in other words, worthless. The rule of thumb I follow, since I am not a librarian nor a professional researcher, is to make sure the citation I create would allow the average stranger to find the same piece of information again.

Since I am so hot under the collar about the topic of citations and sources, but nonetheless lacking in perfection, here are a few references I've used to help me do it right.

[Opens new browser window] Serious Citations columnist George G. Morgan gives practical suggestions for citing sources both on and off-line.

[Opens new browser window] RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees
This is Lesson 12 in RootsWeb's Getting Started guide, "Creating Worthwhile Genealogies: Evidence, Sources, Documentation, and Citation."

[Opens new browser window] Cyndi's Guide
Cyndi's great site is a fountain of knowledge, and the page linked above contains many useful links to information on citations and sources in family history work.