The Crack in Agnes's Brick Wall Widens #genealogy #methodlogy

The Crack in Agnes’s Brick Wall Widens

When working on a research problem, you may find the smallest of cracks that widen the brick wall of your ancestor. That was my case.

With the help of an amazing volunteer at the US Midwest Genealogy Research Community, my grandmother’s birth mother’s family is about to be discovered. If you missed the previous post, review it here “How Could I Miss That Clue for Agnes Anderson?

When I left off, I had the name of R P Sparks of St Louisville, Ohio sitting on Agnes Anderson’s death record all this time, just waiting for someone to notice. A fresh set of eyes looked at my document, and found the clue.

But Shelly, the amazing helper from Midwest Genealogy Society group on Facebook, was just getting started.

Two minutes after sharing the death record tidbit, Shelly posted a possible link to a Find A Grave Memorial page for R P Sparks.

How she figured that out is fascinating. All she had was this name and the town of St Louisville, Licking County, Ohio to go off of. No dates, or anything. Perhaps it helps that there are only 43 Sparks listed in Licking County, Ohio on Find A Grave. Anyway, the only R P Sparks is a Robert Peter Sparks of St Louisville!

In the afternoon, Shelly posted once again and this time she uses newspapers. She discovers a lawsuit where Richard P Sparks is involved in settling who should be the beneficiary of Agnes Anderson’s life insurance policy obtained through the B & O Railroad.

Agnes Anderson B&O Railroad Richard Sparks
Newark Advocate

I knew Agnes worked with the B&O railroad for some time before her death. I had not known that she had obtained insurance, nor who she would name as a beneficiary. She died hours after her daughter’s birth, so there would be no time to have the insurance policy name the child. This news article suggests that who her named beneficiary was. Since she never married, this Richard P Sparks was likely a relative of some sort. But what kind of relation? A brother? An uncle? A cousin? There is some discrepancy between the Robert Peter Sparks found in Find A Grave and the Richard P Sparks in this article. How will this play out?

In the evening, Shelly returns with more discoveries and I’m awestruck with the speed she’s finding these clues. She finds a likely census record for Amanda Sparks in 1870. It was in Licking County, Ohio and her name was spelled Amandy.

Jane George Thorton Lemuel Peter Matilda Amanda Sparks 1870
Year: 1870; Census Place: Newton, Licking, Ohio; Roll: M593_1233; Page: 372A; Image: 304; Family History Library Film: 552732; Household 6: Amandy Sparks in home of Jane Sparks

I know the value of changing the spellings of names when doing research, but I would not have been able to verify which Amanda Sparks was my Amanda without the previous discoveries. Agnes’s death record said Amanda was born in Missouri. I had searched for Missouri for a William and an Amanda but not knowing other relatives, such as a brother or father, I couldn’t trace Amanda back further or determine if someone with a birth of something other than Missouri was her.

The age of Peter in this record aligns with the birth date provided on Find A Grave listing for Robert Peter. Perhaps he was referred to commonly as Peter. With an Amanda and an R P Sparks in Licking County, this family could make sense. There might be further clues with R P Sparks (Richard/Robert Peter) being an uncle of Agnes’s who seemed to be in Newark, Ohio as a lone young woman, who never married and seemed to have no nearby family.

If the 1870 census is to be believed, I now have an approximate birth year for Agnes’s mother Amanda. Before, I could only speculate her birth date based on the death record of Agnes. If things play out, the crack in my brick wall just widened to add 5 more relatives, beside Amanda’s brother Peter. Talk about gold mine. Shelly was cracking open the brick wall and she wasn’t done yet.

She then posts an index to this death record for R P Sparks with the information that aligns with that found on Find A Grave. Unfortunately the name Caroline Jones is a mystery. It’s supposed to be Jane. I’m still trying to establish the full picture of this story, so I’ll leave the Caroline mystery alone for now.

Robison Peter Sparks Index to Death Record

Have I mentioned that Shelley was amazing? I can’t believe how hog-wild she was going. She then found a death record for a likely brother George Sparks, based off the 1870 US Census.

George Sparks Newark Ohio Death Record
“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch (, George Sparks, 30 Dec 1936; citing Ohio, reference fn 77652; FHL microfilm 2,022,735.

This record has Jane Weekly as mother, not Caroline Jones. Again, something to think about later. The St Louisville birth place and Evans Cemetery burial location keep putting this folks together.

Then, Shelly finds yet another newspaper entry for Agnes which discusses a property transaction.

Real Estate Transfers, Newark Advocate, 20 Mar 1920

Okay, so Agnes Anderson sells property to Robison P Sparks in St Louisville. I’m liking the looks of this theory that Robison Peter is Agnes’s mothers’ brother. I hadn’t mentioned that I had records of Agnes purchasing property on 24 March 1920, two months before her baby’s birth and her death. But, now I have questions on how she obtained property to sell to Robison given that she rented according to previous census records and the constant moving I tracked in the city directories. I also have another name variation for an R P Sparks in Agnes’s life. Robert, Robinson, Richard. Which is it?

Oh, doesn’t this all sound so wonderful and juicy. But, and there always needs to be a but in genealogy. But, this is still pretty speculative. I don’t want to accept this whole cloth. There must be something that confirms these convenient coincidences.

Guess what. There is, and you’ll have to wait to read it.

Read how the smallest of clues opened a genealogy brick wall to the bursting point. #methodology #genealogy #ancestors

This is the second in a multi-part series of posts on cracking through Agnes Anderson’s brick wall. I’ll link to all the posts when I’m done sharing them. It’s pretty exciting!

Previous Post

How Could I Miss That Clue for Agnes Anderson

Next Posts
The Crack in Agnes’s Wall Widens
The Piece That Ties It Together For Agnes Anderson
A Final Surprise About Agnes Anderson

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.


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