Monday, March 05, 2012

My Brick Wall - Eliza Bourke

I've hit a sort of brick wall with some of my research on my 2nd great grandmother, Eliza Bourke.  I guess it's actually more of a Catch-22 than a brick wall, but it's frustrating nonetheless.  I'm hoping that if I post her information here, one of two things will happen: (1) I will realize that I missed something; or (2) someone will think of something I haven't done yet and give me a nudge in the right direction.

Goal:  Determine the county in Illinois where Eliza Bourke was born.

Here's what I know:

  1. Eliza Bourke/Burke/Burk was born between 1859 and 1860, most likely in Illinois [death certificate, obituary, 1870, 1880, 1885, and 1990 censuses].
  2. Eliza's father Louis Bourke (age 40) and Mary somebody (age 35) (probably her mother) were born in Canada.  They must have emigrated to the U.S. sometime prior to 1854 and settled in Illinois.  At least 4 children were born to the couple, one of them being Eliza Bourke, while they lived there until at least 1863.  Between 1863 and 1867 they relocated to Michigan and had at least two more children, and then relocated again to Nebraska between 1868 and 1870 and had at least one more child.  A gentleman by the name of Francis (age 72), born in Canada, also lived in the household in 1870.  This could be Louis' father. [1870 U.S. census - Saunders, Nebraska]
Here are the problems I've run into:
  1. I cannot locate Louis Bourke (using many spelling variations, wildcards, etc.) or any other member of this family on the 1860 U.S. census using the search features on Ancestry or FamilySearch.  Not only in Illinois, but anywhere in the U.S.  Given that the first child listed on the 1870 census was born in Illinois and is age 16, they should be living somewhere in the United States in 1860.  I can only guess this is due to poor quality images that were indexed and the name just got indexed far enough off the mark for it not to appear in my search results.
  2. Birth records in Illinois were not kept by the state until 1916.  All birth records prior to 1916 are kept at the county level.  Unfortunately, most of the counties didn't start keeping birth records until the 1870s ... 10 years too late for me.
  3. Louis Bourke's date of death is unknown to me, so I can't request a death certificate or an obituary until I narrow that down.  I have found no mention of his death in any searchable online newspaper source.  So no information about his family is forthcoming from that front either.
Without being able to find them on the census, I cannot find potential birth counties for Eliza.  Without the birth county for Eliza, I am unable to narrow down their county of residence, and thus am stuck doing a page-by-page search of the 1860 for the entire state of Illinois looking for Bourkes until my eyes bleed.  There has simply got to be a better way.

As I was typing this post, a thought occurred to me.  They were Catholic.  So I reached out to the dioceses in Illinois to see if I could locate any birth or baptism records.  Hopefully I will hear back from them in the next few days.  Sadly, I think the records are probably kept at the Parish level, so I may be out of luck on that front as well.

Another thought occurred to me ... land records.  I did a search for land patents for Bourke in Illinois and came across some records for Francis Burke in Thompson Township from 1849 and 1850, but after a page-by-page search of the 1860 census images for Thompson Township, found no Burkes at all, so I don't know if this is the same Francis Bourke from the 1870 census.  There were no land records for Louis Bourke/Burke.

If any of you brilliant readers have any ideas to narrow down my search, please let me know!

Do we share any ancestors?
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com


Rob said...

One surname variation you might try is Bourque. Seeing as the family was in Illinois in the mid to late 1800's, was Catholic, with given names Louis and Mary (Marie), perhaps they were from French Canada.

Good luck,

Jenny Lanctot said...

Thanks, Rob! They actually WERE from Canada, according to the 1870 census. Louis' father listed his place of birth as Canada ... I will definitely try that variation and see if anything shakes out! Thanks again!

Post a Comment