Sunday, January 22, 2017

You Never Know What Information Will Just Fall Into Your Lap

Some very interesting information fell in to my lap about 2 weeks ago.  I don’t know why, but it still amazes me that information can fall in to our laps and that we can find information that is so out of the ordinary!  Information that no one in the family knew about.

A little background…..
In April I did a blog post to celebrate the life of my maternal grandfather James Jacob Hammond (see blog post Celebrating the Life of James Jacob Hammond).

I had learned from the 1910 US Federal Census that following the death of James’ mother, when he was 5 years old, in 1908 he and most of his siblings wound up in a Roman Catholic orphanage (St. Francis) in Dubuque, Iowa.  I got in touch with St. Francis and they were unable to find any records from that time period.  So, dead end.

I had been unable to find him in the 1920 US Federal Census and I never knew how long he had stayed at the orphanage or where he was in 1920. 

I was able to find my grandfather in the 1930 US Federal Census living with his brother Arthur in Brookings, SD.

Then a few weeks ago I was contacted through my account at with some pretty amazing information!  Someone reached out to me and said that he knew that my grandfather and his youngest brother Joseph had been among the first 100 boys at ‘Boys Town’ in Omaha, Nebraska.  What???  Remember that old black and white movie with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney?  Hmmmm….My grandfather and his brother Joseph lived at ‘Boys Town’ with Father Flanagan?  Interesting but that was about all I knew about ‘Boys Town’.  What as it?  When did they get there?  Why were they there?  How long were they there? What was it like living there?  Why weren’t the other 2 brothers there?????  Lots of questions.

It turns out this year will be the 100th Anniversary of when ‘Boys Town’ was started by Father Flanagan and they are trying to determine what happened to many of those first boys and let their families know about the Anniversary Celebration.  Oh and he sent me 2 photos of a group of boys (my grandfather is supposedly among them) with Father Flanagan.  WOW! WOW!

I started asking lots of questions, doing research and oh. yea…re-watching that 1938 movie about ‘Boys Town’.  I was given the name of a historian at ‘Boys Town’.  So, I have called and they are looking to see what they can find about my grandfather, his time at ‘Boys Town’, how he came to be there, etc.  This is something I would never have suspected and how grateful I am to this gentleman for reaching out and making contact!  I will definitely keep you posted!

Oh, and now I found my grandfather in the 1920 US Federal Census ……at “Boys Town” in Omaha, Nebraska!  Guess when I was looking in the 1920 Census earlier I had only looked in Iowa…..lesson learned-if you can’t find your ancestors where you think they should be….open your options and look in a broader area.

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. Can't wait to hear what else you learn Debby. This is a great connection.

  2. Thanks Diane. Who would have ever thought to check something like this.