Reconnecting Laurence Eugene Babb proved to be a challenge for one of our members who recently contacted me. They had searched in vain trying to locate him using info handed down from his wife Josephine, but the names she had given didn’t seem to match up to anyone. Laurence had vanished without a trace in the 1950s from Boston, Massachusetts never to be heard from again. The reasons for his disappearance are unknown to this day and because so much time had passed between his disappearance and when our member started asking questions, the memory was fuzzy.
All I had to go on was that he was born in 1910 in NH, but lived as an adult in Boston prior to his disappearance.
I somehow, miraculously was able to locate him, but to do so I had to take a trip through his life to do so. I thought I’d share how I came to identify him so others could see the thought process in action.
First, I entered the few details I had into Family Tree Maker, which is always where I start. Once I synced the tree to the online copy, I started to receive hints for him, the first of which were a number of Boston City Directories that showed him living with Josephine in a house in Boston for many years. The records end in 1957, so I would presume that is when he went missing.
After importing this information and syncing again, I was given new hints. This time is was the 1940 Census. Showing him and Josephine in the same place in Boston but with a child Lawrence Babb Jr. Note the misspelling of his name, which isn’t uncommon in Census Records. Both the Jr and Sr are spelled incorrectly, which is why you have to be careful when searching for exact spellings. I found it because Family Tree Maker uses broader search criteria and correlates the records with other family members in the record to be certain it is recommending the right item. This isn’t fool proof but gets you close enough to flip through and see for yourself. In this case I was helped by the less usual first name of his wife Josephine. I was also able to verify that he was born in 1910 in NH on this record.
Next, I came across him with his parents in the 1910 census as he was just an infant then. He did have a sister Elizabeth as well. His parents are George A. & Catherine Babb of Portsmouth (Ring any bells yet?). George was born in Maine (Portsmouth is just on the other side of the border). A marriage record would later prove that Catherine’s maiden name was Lynch.
Still wanting to fill in the blanks, I again synced and then found him in the 1930 Census. The information was consistent and there didn’t seem to be a 1920 Census record, so satisfied that I now knew who his parents were, I proceeded to locate records for them. I quickly came across a marriage record for George A. Babb & Catherine Lynch that listed their parents
Moving back to 1900 we find George living with his parents in Bath, Maine. His marriage certificate lists Bath, Maine as well and includes his parents’ names as George L & Lizzy (Ayers) Babb. They are in my master tree, also living in Bath, Maine and I’ve paired them together and grafted Laurence’s lineage back into the tree. Note that one of Laurence’s uncles is a Eugene, which also helps corroborate our match. Incidentally, it is also my brother’s middle name, which is why it stands out to me. My brother never liked the name and wishes he had a cool story to tell about it. Perhaps this can be the one.
This provides a cautionary tale that you must take family stories with a grain of salt. Time has passed and memories aren’t as sharp as they were at the time of the event. My Maternal Grandfather used to tell people that he was half Irish and Half American Indian, which is why he liked to drink and couldn’t hold his liquor. I spent weeks going around with a 2nd cousin who believed that to be fact and couldn’t understand why there is no Native American Blood in our tree. I finally explained to him that my Grandfather was full of crap and had all sorts of sayings like that (most aren’t politically correct in our modern world, so I won’t tell another one here). My point is that you can count on about 80% of a family legend being true. The closer the connection the more likely it is accurate. But you need to go and corroborate with real facts obtained by real documents. Of course they have their weaknesses as well, such as is the case with closed adoptions and things people deemed too shameful to share. Record the stories anyway and make notes to the effect if you have suspicion that they might not be true.
I checked the facts and now we have a brand new branch for our tree. If you haven’t guessed by the locations Laurence is a descendant of Phillip Babb of the Isles of Shoals. His family never moved from the general vicinity in 365 years!