Thursday, September 2, 2021

John Wood Had a First Wife? Turn on the GPS!

Genealogy is never finished! There's always someone or something to research on the family tree. 

But in the 23 years I've been looking for ancestors, nobody ever mentioned that hubby's uncle John A. Wood (1908-1980) was married twice. 

Until this week. 

An older relative in the Wood family remarked, in passing, that John was once married to "Louise" or a lady with a similar name. A new clue.

I already knew about his wife Rita, named in my father-in-law's diaries and letters, as well as in John's obit and as the informant on his death cert.

John and Rita married in 1951. Their marriage cert has no information about previous marriages. I turned on the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) as I dug deeper into John's life before Rita.

Which John Wood is which?

Finding the correct John Wood in a veritable forest of men with similar names would not be easy. 

Luckily, John's obit (and several Census records) showed his middle initial and other details not shown on other documents, including the fact that he worked for DuPont for many years.

Looking for "John A. Wood" and "Louise" together in a Census in Indiana (where he was when he remarried) led me to two records on Ancestry. Both showed John married to "Elsie," and working in the chemical industry. That could very well be DuPont, but I had no real proof as yet.

Next, I redid my search with "Elsie" as the wife and immediately found John's World War II draft registration card. This seemed to be the correct John A. Wood--it had the correct birth date and birth city, and it listed his middle name as "Arthur," the only place it ever appears. Arthur is a family name on John's mother's side. 

I really felt on firm ground when I read that John's employer was...DuPont! His wife, "Mrs. Elsie Wood," is listed as the person who will always know John's address. So John's first wife was clearly a lady named Elsie (not Louise). Numerous clues led me to this conclusion (GPS).

When and where did John and Elsie marry?

Next, I searched for John and Elsie's marriage on FamilySearch, and found a record of their marriage in Porter, Indiana, on November 19, 1928.

My timing was good, because (as the citation at left shows), this Indiana database is only available online as of April, 2021. 

Even without the image (which I'll see soon), this transcription indicates I have the correct John A. Wood. My evidence, a la GPS: he is most definitely the son of James E. Wood and Mary Slatter, exactly as shown on the transcription. I need to see the image with my own eyes to suit GPS standards, but all the details in the transcriptions are a perfect match with existing evidence.

Now, with Elsie's maiden name and birthplace/birth date, I've been researching her background, adding her parents and other relatives to my husband's family tree.

If not for (1) a relative's casual mention of John's previous marriage, (2) his consistent use of a middle initial, and (3) a record of his employer/industry, I might never have been able to track down this ancestor's first wife. TY to the GPS for guiding me in the right direction.


  1. Yes, the GPS is a great guide. I admit to being "bad" and sometimes just cruising for any new tidbits, but when I have a particular problem to solve, I use the Research Like a Pro method which is based on the GPS.

  2. I love finding new info on relatives! Great job! :)

  3. What a fantastic discovery — and an excellent application of the GPS. However, hats off to your older relative who revealed the first vital clue that led you down a new family history path!