Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Part Two


Durban to The Drakensberg” by John Hone, 1988, photo of Durban, Natal, South Africa

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  He is the younger brother of my 3rd great grandmother Catherine Boles.  John, his wife Christina, and his 7 living children who were all born in Scotland, just up and disappeared in 1890.

In 2014, a serendipitous connection with a kind stranger from Scotland, led me to an immigration record for all 7 Boles children traveling to Natal, South Africa without their parents.

Then there were the 3 marriage records for Elizabeth, Christina, & Helen Boles.  All 3 marriages took place in Natal, South Africa.  Helen’s 1906 marriage record stated that she had the permission of her parents to marry.

This was the first clue that indicated John & Christina Montgomery Boles might have also gone to South Africa.

I scoured FamilySearch and Ancestry looking for any record collection that might help me build on what I knew but I couldn’t find anything.  The collections were sparse and had very limited time frames.  I did some basic googling with no great results so I did what we all do at times, I set the John & Christina Boles family aside.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I revisited this part of my tree.  I was committed to adding something to this story.  So I dove into some google searching to see what record collections exist for Natal, South Africa.  The National Archives for South Africa led me to a bunch of potentially helpful records.  The only problem was that they look like this:


I wasn’t entirely sure where I could go next based on this data.  So I went to my good friend, the FamilySearch wiki.  But.  I went to it through google.  The wiki itself has a terrible search algorithm so it’s best to use google as your entry point.  I found myself on a page entitled “South Africa Natal Death Notices“.


Close to the bottom of that screenshot you can see the section “Microfilmed records at the Family History Library”.  This link takes you to a catalog entry on for microfilms containing Estate Files for Pietermartizburg (Natal).  The collection includes 419 microfilm reels organized by year and file number.

This discovery got me pretty excited so I searched the National Archives of SA website as thoroughly as I could to identify as many potential estate files for John, Christina, their children, and the 3 sons-in-law that I knew of.  I had quite a list.  I compared it to the FS Catalog entry to identify microfilm numbers.  My list of microfilms was growing.

My big question was this – What exactly will I find in those Estate Files?


When I go to BYU for research, I can order two microfilms from the FHL in Salt Lake City for free, every two weeks.  No more.  I was trying to decide how much of my precious research time to dedicate to this family.  Which films should I order?

While pondering on this set of questions, I discovered that there is a 5 year window of estate records available on FamilySearch in a browse only collection for Transvaal.  I checked this against my list and discovered one candidate: William Wise, husband of Christina Boles.

Hooray!  This meant I could view an estate file from home to get a sense of what this record type, for this location might tell me.  This was just what I wanted.

Because finding this particular record took several steps, I will outline those steps in detail.

The first step was finding William’s file number on the National Archives of SA website.


I was looking for file number 3681 in the year 1959.

It was time to take that information over to FamilySearch.  I went to the main “Search” menu on FamilySearch and got myself to the South Africa landing page that looks like this.


Then I scrolled down to the bottom to find the browse collections.  These are collections that only have images with no index.  You search them like a digital microfilm.


Then I selected the Transvaal Estate Files.


From here, I clicked on “Browse through 191,580 images“.


Then I selected the appropriate year of 1959.


That led me to a screen filled with file number ranges.  My file number was further down the page so I scrolled down.


I am looking for file number 3681 which falls into the very last number range of 3660-3736.  I clicked that range.


Now I am essentially looking at digital microfilm.  You can see that first image has a large stamped code of “3660/59”.  I am looking for 3681 which is only 21 files later.  I left this page on the “thumbnail” view and scrolled down until I could see the first page of file 3681.


There is my file on the third row, far left.  I can now click on the thumbnail to view the first image of my file.  Then I click the little arrow in the black menu bar to arrow through the file.  What I discovered was a 5 page estate file.  Page one is the cover sheet.  Page two is the death notice.  Pages three and four are William and Christina’s will.  Page five is “Acceptance as Trust of Executor”.

Just to give you a little taste, here is the death notice for William.


From this record I learned so much new information!  I added a birthplace in Scotland of Trenent, age at death in years and months (which helped me narrow down a time frame for birth), address at time of death, date and place of death, and the names of William and Christina’s 3 children (including their daughter’s married last name).

Finding this file got me really excited to see John and Christina’s Estate Files.  I moved those microfilm right to the top of my BYU list.  On my next visit I ordered both microfilm and hoped for the best!

Was I finally going to learn when and why John Boles went to South Africa?


…to be continued…


George Vickers Young Update

Young and Costellos

Costello & Young Family, left to right: John Costello, Mary Brown Young Costello, Andrew Brown Young, Catherine Brown Young, James Young, Alexander Brown Douglas Young, George Vickers Young. Children in front, left to right: Virginia Costello, Dan Costello, & Vince Costello.


A few weeks ago I wrote about my great grand uncle George Vickers Young.  I shared the information I had gathered from family and various records.  I shared that my great grandmother had always lamented, ‘I wish I knew what happened to my brother George.’  And then I told the story of contacting George’s 98 year old ex-wife to try to find out the end of his story.

Well here’s the thing.  Eileen’s story helped me build a bit of a framework and so I went looking for more information and the information I found doesn’t match Eileen’s story very well.  The portion of her story that isn’t jiving with the records is this:

George & Eileen married in Montana and then moved to Denver, Colorado.  They owned a business there that was a type of confectionery drug store with a soda fountain.  One day George got tired of it all and walked away.  Eileen was left with quite a mess to clear up, bills, paperwork and the like.  Once she had things settled, she left Denver and returned to Helena, Montana to her ice cream shop there.  She filed for a divorce in Helena and was single for several years before she remarried Kenneth Blackmore.  Eileen heard that George had some sort of a job in Denver after he left her and the business but she doesn’t recall what the job was.

Eileen did have difficulty remembering several things I asked her about and couldn’t remember any dates so I know that anything she shared is really only a guide but I am having some difficulty reconciling the city directory entries with her account.  Here’s the breakdown of the city directory entries from the year of their marriage forward:

    • 1947 Spokane City Directory – G Vickers Young (clk Garland Supply)
    • 1953 Helena City Directory – George V Young (v-pres genl-mgr The Freezer Inc) & Eileen Young
    • 1954 Helena City Directory – George V Young (v-pres-genl mgr The Freezer Inc) & Eileen N Young
    • 1957 Helena City Directory – George V Young & Eileen N Young
    • 1958 Helena City Directory – George V Young & Eileen N Young

I can’t find George and Eileen together in a Denver city directory.  There is one entry in the 1956 Denver city directory for a Geo V Young, no spouse listed and his workplace is Park Hill Freezer.  This may be him as he worked for The Freezer Inc in 1953 and 1954 but where is Eileen?  Did they actually move to Denver and then move back to Montana together?  Are the 1957 & 1958 city directory listings inaccurate?  Did she include George’s name but he was really living in Colorado?  Is that why they don’t list an occupation?  According to Kenneth’s obituary, Eileen married Kenneth in 1958.  That is not several years after the last city directory entry for George & Eileen together.

Oh the questions!

Setting the issues of residence aside for a moment, I’m still curious about his death.  On my original post, Alex from Root To Tip commented with a potential SSDI for George.  The index reads:

U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-Current
Name: George Young
SSN: 470-12-7744
Last Residence: 80202 Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA
BORN: 11 Aug 1906
Died: Mar 1982
State (Year) SSN issued: Minnesota (Before 1951)
Source Citation: Number: 470-12-7744; Issue State: Minnesota; Issue Date: Before 1951.

The birth date on this record is a perfect match.  Before talking to Eileen I would have likely dismissed this record because George Young is such a common name and I hadn’t known George had ever lived in Colorado or Minnesota.  I’m still not sure about the Minnesota connection but I do know from Eileen that George served in the military during WWII so maybe he was in Minnesota for a time because of his service.  This record looks like a good possibility to me now.

So what is the bottom line?

Well, I’m a bit mystified by the dates of residence in Colorado.  I don’t know if I will clear that up.  I’ve considered calling Eileen back to ask a few follow-up questions.  But I don’t know.  I’m not sure that would be fruitful and so far I haven’t been able to come up with questions I think she can answer.

The SSDI looks like a good match, so I have added this record to my list of items to order.  Hopefully his file will contain enough information to determine if this is my George.  If so, I will finally know when and where he died.

Thanks for the suggestion Alex!