ancestor story, dna

John Baptiste Jerrain – Part Four, Evalute, Assess, and Research Some More

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Oh Boy!!

The pieces I was collecting were so promising!  What if I had found John’s family?!  It was certainly possible.

Here’s the thing though – there were definite conflicts and one of the jobs of a genealogist is to resolve conflicts.

I also need to be very careful that my personal biases – especially the one in which I really wanted to be able to add some names to those empty yellow boxes up there – don’t influence my evaluation of the information.

So what did I need to keep in mind as I reviewed and completed more research?

  • My John seemed to spring up out of nowhere.  That fact alone means that something about his pre-marriage records is going to be “off”.  This will require very careful analysis of all records to look for the hidden clues and indirect evidence that I may have missed so far.
  • The Joseph & Anne Gerain/Gerin family MAY connect to John Baptiste.  Whether or not they do, I need to research them as completely as I can in an effort to prove that one of two things is going on.  EITHER, 1 – Their Joseph/”G” is my John, OR 2 – Their Joseph/”G” is some other person entirely.  We also have one more little twist here – their Joseph and “G” aren’t a perfect match.  I need to be careful with that.
  • There is a DNA link between matches who descend from Hortence Gerin/Gerain and my family.  If Joseph & Anne are not the parents of John Baptiste Jerrain, I need to be watching for any hints of another connection to this family.

On top of all of that, I had a growing list of questions I needed to resolve:

  • IF Joseph & Anne are the parents of John and IF Hortence and Sylvie are his sisters, why didn’t John’s descendants know ANYTHING about them?
  • If Joseph/”G” was my John, why hadn’t Joseph/”G” been on our radar?  Could he be traced going forward with this family?  Where did the “break” in records occur?


Okay, so what next?

Well, obviously we need a chart!  Charts are the best!!

I am going to very tentatively assume that Joseph from the travel record and “G” from the 1860 census are the same person, but still track them as potentially separate individuals as well.   That is reflected in the chart below.


John Baptiste Jerrain charts


And we totally need a chart for the family of Joseph & Anne.


GerainGerin family


Next, we need a little geography help.  It’s important for all of this data analysis that we all understand that St. Anne and Papineau, previously known as Weygandt, are very close geographically despite being in separate counties:


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Okay!  Now let’s go back to that 1860 census and take a closer look.


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view full record here


One very important job every genealogist must not skip is evaluating all of the information in a record.  Part of that analysis is looking at the other people, events, etc on the record.  In a census, I often look at the full page AND the page before and the page after.  So what interesting pieces of information are on this census page?


Well, we better click on over to the next page to see the rest of the household:


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view full record here


There she is!  John’s future wife, Estelle, as a 10-year-old.

Okay.  That is not definitive proof of anything, but it sure does add a bit of weight to the possibility that my John is Joseph/”G”.

Proximity is everything when we are talking about future relationships forming.  Especially in 1870 rural Illinois.

So what next?

LOTS of research on the Joseph and Anne Gerain/Gerin family.  This research occurred over many, many months and included many, many records both online, at the FHL in Salt Lake, and in local archives.  I’m going to do my best to hit the high points here.  Please note that there are many records I am going to leave out.  If you are a family member and are interested in more of the nitty-gritty details, shoot me an email, the address is on the sidebar.

Let’s take a closer look at Joseph Gerain/Gerin.  Based on the travel record and the 1860 census, we have a potential birth year range of 1818-1822.  We also have a birth location of France, residence of Papineau, Illinois, a spouse named Anne, and for extra spice let’s throw in a residence of St. Anne, Illinois, and the surname of Jerrain.  I want to see if I can find a death record for Joseph.  Who might the informant be?  What else might I learn?

Here are my search results:


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view full results list here


Those first three results were really catching my eye!  We have a Joseph Jerrain marriage in Kankakee County, Illinois with apparently two records for that same event.  We also have a death index for a Joseph Geran dying in Kankakee County, Illinois.  Let’s start with the marriage.

Here’s the first one:


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view record here


And here’s the second one:


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view record here


These two records definitely seem to be about the same event.  The first one has that all important “Film Number” at the bottom.  Let’s hop over to FamilySearch and see if they have that microfilm.  Hover over “Search”, choose “Catalog”, open up the “Film/Fiche” option and type that microfilm number in there and hit “Search”:


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We have two catalog items.  The first one is the wrong time frame.  The second one is what we are looking for.  Click on that.


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Notice that in the image below, we have an index we can search if we haven’t done that yet.  But we have, so let’s scroll on down for those microfilm entries.


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Oh!  Lots of microfilm on the list.  Gotta find ours…


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I hit “Command F” and pasted the microfilm number into the box to find mine faster:


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There it is!  And, HOORAY!  No key indicating it’s locked.  I can view this one from home.


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Then some hunting to find the record.  Here is the entry for Joseph Jerrain.  Now the question is, is this Joseph the father of Hortence, Sylvie, and Joseph/”G” and husband of Anne or is it Joseph/”G”?  Of course the other possibility is that it’s neither…

This record is an entry in a two-page book.  I’ve cropped it down to the relevant entry:


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view full record here


Okay, so first of all, this record is a good match for Joseph, the father of Hortence, Sylvie, and Joseph/”G” and husband of Anne.

I LOVE that his last name is spelled Jerrain!  More support for the possibility that my John belongs to this family.

We have an 1879 marriage between:

Joseph Jerrain who lives in Papineau, Iroquois County, Illinois and is a Farmer, aged 60.  This is his second marriage and his parents are listed as John B Jerrain and Annie O Phillip.


Julia Clemont, maiden name of Julia Perran, residence of St. Anne, Kankakee County, Illinois, aged 49, born in Montreal.  This is her third marriage and her parents are listed as John Pottier and Marriannee Lemis.

This seems like a great match to the Joseph Gerain/Gerin from the travel record and 1860 census.  Right away I have new questions though:

  • When did Anne die?
  • Is Perran really Julia’s maiden name or is that the surname of her first marriage and her father’s surname is her maiden name?  I don’t want to assume anything…
  • Joseph’s father is listed as John B Jerrain!  Is this more underlying evidence that I’m on the right track…?

Before we chase this new info, what about that death record up there in Joseph’s search results?

At first, I was super excited, it seemed like it could potentially be Joseph’s death record.  I chased that record down through the FamilySearch catalog but it wasn’t my Joseph.  Here is the note I added to Joseph in my Ancestry tree, “The Joseph Geran who died 25 May 1887 was a student, listed as 26 years, 1 month, and 2 days.  He is listed as having been born in Canada.  Image can be viewed here.”

Darn it!  That Joseph doesn’t match Joseph the father, or Joseph/”G” the son.  The good news in all of that is that this death record didn’t eliminate the possibility that my John and Joseph/”G” are the same man.

I did lots of digging in lots of places and couldn’t find a death record for Joseph Gerain/Gerin/Jerrain (and a whole bunch other variants).  Or Anne.  She was just gone.

I tried finding more information about Julia and found a few tid-bits, but nothing super definitive.

Next, I cracked open my “Father Chinquy Ledger” from Saint Anne, Kankakee County, Illinois.  (This book was purchased from the Kankakee Valley Genealogical Society)  I found one very interesting entry.  It reads, “14 Mar 1858, Henry Martin, 8 days old, Born to Toussaint Martin & Louise Belanger, Godparents: Joseph Gerin & Anne Garde’.”


I’ve been researching in Québec and Illinois among my French ancestors for about 5 or 6 years now.  Most of the time the godparents are not a married couple – at least in my family.  Occasionally, however, they are.

What if Anne Gardé is Anne, wife of Joseph Gerain/Gerin/Jerrain?

I wanted to see the image of this record!  Again, I did some digging in the FamilySearch catalog and found the image:


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view full record here


No extra insights but I did verify the spellings of Joseph Gérin and Anne Gardé from the index.  I made myself a note on Anne’s page in my Ancestry tree that this record might contain her maiden name.

Next, I shifted to the potential sisters – Hortence and Sylvie.

Hortence married Antoine Goyette and proceeded to have a whole bunch of children very close together.  She is last seen on the 1880 Census with her husband and children and then she’s gone.  Antoine marries again, twice.  The first marriage occurs on 22 September 1895.


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view record here


I dug into the FamilySearch catalog again to double check the image and make sure this is my Antoine Goyette and that he is marrying for the second time.


view full record here


It’s my Antoine and he is, in fact, marrying for the second time.  So now I have a window for the death of Hortence.  She must have died sometime between 12 June 1880, the date the census was taken, and 22 September 1895, when Antoine marries again.

Digging around I finally found a possible death for Hortence.  It’s a big bummer.  In so many ways.


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view full image here



Mary Goyette, aged 49, died 31 December 1893 at 7:20 pm.  She died in the Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane of Acute Tuberculosis with the complication of Insanity that lasted for three months.  She was removed by friends and buried in St. Anne.

So sad!

And such a bummer that no other family details are listed on this record.  No parents, spouse, children.  Despite looking for other records generated at the time of her death, I have found no additional information to prove that this is my Hortence.  It is important to note that the records regarding Hortence use variations of Hortence and Mary/Marie/Maria in equal measure.  Most likely, her name was Marie Hortence and she used both names how she saw fit.

It is also important to note that there is a Jerrain Family Plot in the St. Anne Cemetery.  I have been attempting to learn more about this family plot, so far, unsuccessfully.  (But I haven’t given up!  I need to know who is buried there!!)

The logical part of me wondered this – IF my John is Hortence’s little brother and IF this death record is for Hortence, is it possible that little brother didn’t talk much about his older sister who died in the hospital for the insane?  Could this sad tale be part of why we didn’t know anything about John’s pre-marriage life?


Okay, what about Sylvie?

Sylvie married John C Fenouille 29 August 1865 in Kankakee County, Illinois.  Despite Sylvie’s maiden surname in the index on Ancestry of “Gerrand”, the actual image appears to read “Gerrain”.


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view record here


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view full record here


Sylvie and John would have one known child, Alice Corrine Fenouille, born 18 June 1866 in Kankakee County, Illinois.

Eleven days shy of three years after Alice’s birth, John marries Josephine Sprimont.  Unfortunately, 1869 marriage records in Kankakee don’t have much detail.  So the record doesn’t tell me if John was widowed and it doesn’t even tell me if it’s the second marriage for John.  It seems most likely that Sylvie died between the birth of Alice and John’s marriage to Josephine.  This assumption is further bolstered by the land records I found after John’s marriage to Josephine in which Sylvie’s father gives land to John.  If the marriage failed, I’m guessing the ex-father-in-law wouldn’t be giving John land.  But since he did, I’m thinking it was the father-in-law trying to help out the widowed son-in-law.

No death record has been found for Sylvie.

IF Sylvie is my John’s sister, her likely death between 1866 and 1869 means that NONE of John’s children would have met potential Aunt Sylvie because the first child for John & Estelle was born in 1872.


We’ve just wiped out both sisters at young ages and in circumstances that give us some possible explanations for why their story didn’t pass down through my family.


But what about Joseph/”G”?  Can we trace him going forward?

And what about Joseph & Anne?  Can we find any more records between the 1860 census and their deaths?


For quite a while I could not find them.  I tried some tricks but just wasn’t pulling up the records.  When I finally buckled down and paged through the census records, I made some progress.


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view full record here


Ummm… do you see that record up there?!

That is the 1870 Census for the Joseph & Anna G— family living in Papineau, Iroquois County, Illinois.

The last name is a total mess.  It’s indexed as “Green”.  It most closely resembles “Gren”.  But we have Joseph, aged 52, a Farmer, born in France.  An inferred wife named Anna, aged 51, born in France.  A son JOHN B, aged 18, born in France!!

Why on earth hadn’t I paged through the census looking for this family before?!!

Let’s take a moment for a short aside right now.  Because this research was started by my Grandma, then worked on by my sister before I picked up the torch, there were some gaps.  Not gaps because they weren’t trying to be thorough.  Grandma started working on this before existed.  My sister started working on this about 16ish years ago when records weren’t as easily accessible.  They weren’t sloppy, just limited in resources.  I picked this up a few years ago and started where they left off.  When I do it all myself start to finish, it’s easier to see the gaps in research effort and identify instances when paging through a census would be a wise choice.  But because I came at this project in such a messy way, I didn’t realize I had never done that!

Okay, now back to that record up there.  In order to make sure this was just a census-taker error and not another family, I searched for Joseph & Anna/Anne Gren/Green/Greene in Illinois and couldn’t find a second family with any variation of that last name.  This is totally the Joseph & Anne family.

So let’s update our charts!!

{Insert lots of squeals of delight, much happy dancing, and a healthy dose of – “BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET TOO EXCITED” being shouted from the rational part of my brain!}


John Baptiste Jerrain charts (1)

GerainGerin family (1)


Oh boy!  Had I found that record that would tip my opinion?







I’m too rational.  I still wanted an explanation for the whole “Joseph” instead of John on the travel record issue.  I just couldn’t let that go.

But, I did feel comfortable enough that I had attached all of these people to John in my research tree.  I was hoping that if a new collection was added to Ancestry, that having them in my tree attached to John would mean that hints would come my way.  Even though I made the tentative attachment of John to Joseph & Anne, Hortence, and Sylvie, I wasn’t ready to tell the world.

I kept searching.

I found more land records, probate records (but not for Joseph yet – boo!), mentions in county histories, newspaper articles, and on and on.

I had a really nice cluster of people to hopefully get back to France:

  • Joseph Gerain/Gerin/Jerrain
  • child of John B Jerrain & Annie O Phillip
  • married to Anne, possibly Gardé
  • children named: Marie/Mary Hortence, Sylvie, and Joseph/John Baptiste


But how on earth was I going to get them back to France?

And where was the record that would resolve the last of my concerns?  Did it exist?


And if it did, would I be able to find it…?


…to be continued…




8 thoughts on “John Baptiste Jerrain – Part Four, Evalute, Assess, and Research Some More”

  1. You’re keeping me on the edge of my seat! Another remarkable piece of research, Amberly. When you talk about going page through page in a census, I assume in a particular enumeration district? Since most of my early family members in the US lived in large cities, primarily Philadelphia and NYC, I can’t imagine doing that! Amazing work—I learn so much from your posts.

    1. Thank you, Amy! Such a nice compliment.

      In my case, I paged through the entire town – it’s tiny so if I remember right it was about 35 pages total. Paging through Philadelphia or NYC would feel impossible. If I had the same problem in a large city, I would definitely focus on an enumeration district and then the surrounding ones as well if needed. But before I did that, I would probably use some unusual search parameters first. Things like, search using first names only but use the two most unusual names in the family one as the primary person and the other as a household member. Then I would be really restrictive with birth year and place and just keep messing with the terms. I tried those tricks with my family but it didn’t get me there. 🙂

  2. super interesting, can you tell me more about the cemetary plot? how do you know about it and where is it (this is alot like studying and understanding the Bible, you need to know the customs and culture of the times and area…did french people call Josephs “John” for short like we call John’s Jack etc…etc…

    1. Hi Heather! Yes, so the cemetery plot came up when I wrote the post about Orval Jerrain Maffit. I wish that I could remember where I saw the notation – I’m guessing in his death record OR in the Maffit family book – whatever it was, I wrote on a green post-it “Orval Maffit buried in Jerrain Family Plot @ St Anne Church?” and stuck it on my pen holder in my office as a reminder to track down what I could. So far, no response back. I think I’m going to move on to the local historical society to see if someone there knows anything about it.

      Good question! No, John and Jean are equivalents. Joseph was Joseph. But no worries, answers coming tomorrow. 😉

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