Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Bad Boy Uncle is Discovered

In a previous blog post I told you how I used the information at the bottom of an indexed record on as a springboard to find the original records.  Today, I will show you another example of my success using this information.

My father's family always presents challenges because of the common nature of their names.  My father is Robert Walker . . . see what I mean.  Because of this I often scroll through sibling names in the hope of finding  a name that is a bit more unusual so I can circle around and find the family that way.  I was searching for the name of my grandmother's maternal grandfather because I had been told he was a civil war soldier.  I had not had much luck, when I discovered that my grandmother's youngest brother was named Pierman McCoy. I knew there couldn't be too many of those.  I was not prepared for what I found.

Gertrude McCoy Walker

My parent's divorced when I was about seven, and I never saw my father or anyone from that side of the family again while I was growing up.  The story my mother told was that my father came from a prominent family and she felt that my grandmother believed she was not "good enough" to marry my father.  Is that true or just my  mother's assumption?  Who knows, but the few memories I have of my grandmother are of a very stern woman. I think of her more kindly now as I peel away the layers of  her life.

I entered the name, Pierman McCoy into the search hoping that he hadn't died as a child.  As I scrolled through the results, I paused, my mouth dropped open, and my eyes kept blinking as if I must be reading it wrong when I came to the record below:

                          Name: Pierman McCoy

Residence: 23 Apr 1927N

 I clicked to open up the record only to find an indexed record with his inmate number being the only additional information.  Wow, a true bad boy in the family.  How had they ever kept this secret?  But wait. . . could there be more than one Pierman McCoy?  Maybe Pierman was a popular name, and I just didn't realize it.  How could I be sure?

 So I scoured the page reading all of the information about the source information and the description of the records.  According to the information listed, the original records varied but included detailed information about the crime, sentence, and "mugshots" (yea!!!!). . . but the real jewels were found when I clicked on the words Learn more  

According to the Ancestry, information "In the early 1930s, prison officials began studying the personal history of inmates to determine placement in treatment programs."  The listing of personal information was astonishing and now I really wanted to see the original records. But could I? Are they public records? 

 I kept reading. . .  and at the bottom of the page I saw:

"How to Obtain Copies of Original Files:
The original case files are located at the National Archive at Kansas City, arranged numerically by inmate number. Please make sure to include this number when requesting a copy of a file from the archive."

The National Archives Central Plains Region (Kansas City)
400 West Pershing Road
Kansas City, MO 64108

I instantly sent an email citing his prisoner number to see if it was possible for me to get his prison file and to make sure that this was "my Pierman".  Happily for me, because I am a terribly impatient person, Jessica Schmidt, the Archives Technician, at the Kansas City Central Plains Region of the National Archives wrote back almost immediately.  It was good news.  The privacy limitation had expired and I could request a copy for $18.  She offered to look up the file and send me some identifying information so I could be sure he was the correct Pierman. She sent me the name of his mother, and Mary matched my gr. grandmother's name but it wasn't definitive.  I decided to write the check anyway because. . . I just had to know.
When the over-sized envelope arrived, I found my great uncle, my grandmother's brother
Pierman McCoy, inmate at Leavenworth Prison 1927 for the Dyer Act
 As I read through each of the documents nothing linked him to my family until I found this telegram that he sent to his mother.

 Now I have my proof.  It appears that my gr. grandmother was staying with my grandmother, her daughter at the time she received this telegram.  Carroll Walker is my grandfather.  As an attorney, I wonder how he felt about Pierman as a brother-in-law? Did he try to help him? My grandmother had four young children at home ages, 11,10,4, and 3.  This was not the first time her brother had caused trouble, and it also wasn't the last. How much did the children know? The only thing I am sure of is that my mother didn't know!

So read ALL of the information that gives you. Use it as a springboard to find "the rest of the story".  As a family historian you are not measured by how many people are in your tree or how far back you can trace your family.  Can you tell me the story of your family?



  1. Wow, what a great story, Margel--and a good lesson, too. It took a lot of perseverance to find that link. Way to go!

    1. Some ancestors are fun to research, and he is one, but I'm glad I didn't have to live with him.

  2. Wow what a story. I haven't found anyone quite like this in my line. All I could find is one of my ancetsors gave the police a hard time a lot when he drank too much.

    By the way, I see it's your two year anniversary you've been blogging according to Geneabloggers. Happy Blogiversary.

    Regards, Jim
    Genealogy Blog at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

    1. Oh my gosh, I totally lost track of that. Thank you.

  3. Your detective instincts are to be commended! Great story, and a wonderful reminder for us all to slow down and follow the trail that sites like start! Nothing like tracking down an original record. I also endorse your conclusion; my kids won't give a hoot about how many facts I peg to the RM5 database. They will be fascinated by the stories I reveal.
    Happy Blogiversary, btw!

    1. It gets better. The newspaper stories that I found after this are really crazy. Old Pierman was quite the handful. His poor mother.

  4. What a great find, Margel. I was just reading about how not to make one's characters in a novel too "perfect," or they are boring. I think the same is true of our ancestors. We need some ne'er-do-wells to spice it up -- and usually, even the good guys have plenty of flaws.