Dear Ancestry Anne:
I have my granddad’s birth information: John James Sells, born April 15, 1877, Pennsylvania. But I can’t find official birth details or a certificate for him. I’ve found him in the 1880 census in Philadelphia with his mother, Mary Anne (listed as Ada on the 1880 census), and sister Georgianna. I also have Georgianna’s birth certificate, which was found for me by a kind person. But that person couldn’t find one for John.
Because I have his exact date of birth is there a chance of finding his birth record? I really need his father’s name to carry on and I’m not sure John’s father was the same as Georgianna’s father. My granddad noted on his own marriage certificate that his father’s name was also John Sells; Georgianna’s birth certificate indicates her father’s name was George Sells. Additionally, I can’t find a marriage certificate for John and Mary Ann.
Where can I look?
Jean Sells (in Australia)
On the 1880 census, both John Sells, age 3, and his sister Georgie, 11 months are shown. Their mother, Ada, or Mary Ann, is listed as a widow.
If the father of Georgie was George Sells, we can guess that he died in between 1878 and 1880. We know from the census that he was born in Pennsylvania. He may or may not have been John’s father, but John is using the Sells surname. Since John was born in 1877, if his father is also deceased, the date of death would have been between 1876 and 1880. Since your grandfather John never knew his father, he also may not have known his father’s actual name.
There are two George Sells in the 1870 census living in Philadelphia. Either one is a candidate to be the George who married Ada/Mary Ann. The first was born in 1851 in Pennsylvania, and is in the Philadelphia Ward 17 District 51, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; his father and younger brother are both named John. The second was born about 1850, location unknown, and is in the Philadelphia Ward 2 Dist 4 (2nd Enum) Philadelphia, Pennyslvania. Also realize it’s possible neither is the correct one, but they’re both work looking at carefully.
I would investigate both the George Sells from 1870 and see if you can find out more about them and their families. You may also want to track down newspapers in the span of 1876 and 1880 and see if you can find an obituary or a death notice for a George or John Sells. There may also be a will or settlement of his estate which could have his children and wife listed. Also, in 1880, we also see that Ada/Mary Ann is living at the same address as a Davis family. She may just be boarding there or they may possibly be relatives. See what you can learn about this family and investigate all the possible candidates for John’s father. You may find clues in the brothers and sisters of the pair of George Sells from 1870, too.
And finally, just because the kind person who found Georgie’s birth certificate couldn’t find John’s doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. You may want to see if someone else can search for you.