Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My friend, Emily, wanted to find out her paternal, great-great grandma's maiden name.  The information she had included:

  • Name - Helen Tiernan
  • Born - Abt 1879
  • Spouse - George Tiernan
  • Immigrated - 1907
  • Death - Michigan
Helen's timeline is pretty sparse, but the immigration date stands out to me. I love to search the censuses, so I start with the 1910 US Census.

So from the 1910 census we discover:

  • George was born about 1881 in England to an Irish father and English mother and came to America in 1902.
  • Helen was born about 1880 in England to English parents and came to America in 1907.
  • Neither has yet been granted citizenship.
  • They were married about 1907 which is shortly after her arrival so I am guessing her first husband is deceased or dies during the immigration.
  • This is the first marriage for George and the second for Helen.
  • She has two sons from her first marriage, William and Arthur Esler, and two with George Henry, George and August.
  • William Esler was born about 1899 in England to English parents.
  • Arthur Esler was born about 1901 in Ireland to English parents.
  • George was born about 1908 in Michigan.
  • August was born about 1909, calculating from the date of the census, August 1909, hence the name August.
  • They live in Novi, Oakland, Michigan where they rent a house and George works as a farm laborer.

From the 1920 census we find:

  • George Henry, Helen, George A and August V are still renting a home in Novi, but it looks like they own the farm now.
  • William and Arthur are not living with them.
  • George Henry and Helen have three additional sons, Holcomb L, age 8, Spencer H, age 2 years 4 months, and Raymond R, age 3 months.
  • They became naturalized citizens in 1913.
I didn't find them on the 1930 census, yet.


My next search was Find A Grave and didn't find a record for George Henry or Helen Tiernan.


My google search for Helen Tiernan was difficult because there was a woman in the New York area with the same name who had committed a terrible crime so I was flooded with hits about the wrong Helen Tiernan.


I decided to begin searching other family members to hopefully gain information through their records and also doing some location searches.


Using USGenWeb, I went to Michigan records and found a Michigan Cemeteries Index. In checking the Novi Corners Cemetery, I found an Arthur J Tierman, 1901-1919 (files.usgwarchives.net/mi/Oakland/cemeteries/n10002.txt). Indexes that are in text format are easily search using Crtl+F. It is an indexed record so the last name could be an transcription error.  


Going back to Find A Grave, I search for Arthur Tiernan and find his record in the Novi Corners Cemetery, Novi, Oakland, Michigan. There is a picture of the headstone with the correct spelling of the last name and same dates as the cemetery index. On Find A Grave, when your results page is showing, there is a box in the upper left corner that says:


Find All Tiernan(Last Name Searched) in:

  • Novi Cemetery (name of cemetery)
  • Novi (name of town)
  • Oakland (name of county)
  • Michigan (name of state)
Clicking the link for Oakland county gave me results for (all results were in Novi Cemetery, Novi, Oakland, Michigan:



Arthur J (1901-1919)



Dorothy H (1930, 5 months old)



Holcomb L (1911-1936)



Lawrence Roger (1939- 1994)



Marie (1901-1953) 



Spencer H (1917-1936)




There are also two records for "Tiernan,". Opening these records, the headstones read, 



"Mother, 1877-1957", 



"Father, 1880-1930"


I believe these are George Henry and Helen's headstones. Contacting the cemetery for other records would be the next step for this trail.


Since we believe Arthur J took his step-fathers name, my next search is for William Tiernan. This time I used FamilySearch.org. The record of William's marriage is located (Record 119).



"Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925," William J. Tiernan (1923)

view original

groom's name:

William J. Tiernan
groom's race:
groom's age:24 years
groom's birth date:1899
groom's birthplace:Cairo, Egypt
bride's name:Marie R. Everett
bride's race:
bride's age:21 years
bride's birth date:1902
bride's birthplace:Union Hill, Ohio
marriage type:
marriage date:01 Apr 1923
marriage place:Vernon, Shiawassee, Michigan
groom's father:Geo. H. Tiernan
groom's mother:Helen Barber
bride's father:Bert Everett
bride's mother:Jennie Shephard
groom's marital status:
groom's previous wife:
bride's marital status:
bride's previous husband:
film number:2342757
frame number:
digital folder number:4210120
image number:183
reference number:v 8 rn 119
Source Citation
"Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NQ9B-VMD : accessed 24 April 2012), William J. Tiernan (1923).

The birth dates are estimated from the age listed on the certificate. Helen's maiden name is listed as Barber. Names, age, parents and location all match up.  And check out the groom’s birth place! In genealogy, I find that answers lead to more questions.


To verify, using Find My Past, I search the BMD for Helen's first marriage. If you have used the BMD before you know it only gives you one person's name, the year, and a three month window of when the event occurred. Then a reference to a volume and page number.  There is an additional search feature that give you the three other people listed on that page in the volume. Robert Esler is one of the three names that is on the same page as Helen Barber for marriage records Jan-Mar 1897. This would be enough evidence to send for the marriage record. The original would contain valuable details.


Well, that's one question answered and many new ones for Emily to search out the answers for. I hope this helps.