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Ask Ancestry Anne: Is Wilson really George’s Father?

Question:  I have found a possible connection to my great-grandfather, George W. Coulter (1857-1926) who died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I have a lot of information that seems to link him to a man named Wilson George Coulter (1827-1881), who I believe, is his father.

I don’t have specific linking documentation, just a LOT of situations where they are found in the same locations at the same time. The suspected father of my ancestor traveled due to his being a preacher, and my great-grandfather is found in many of the same areas. For example, according to his death certificate, George was born in an obscure town, which is where the preacher was stationed at that time. My George had a child born in Lancaster, which is where the preacher died. Plus, a George Coulter with same occupation as mine is in the city directory for Lancaster on same street as preacher’s son, Peter Henry Coulter.  It seems extremely unlikely that this is a mere coincidence. Should I add this to my tree even though I don’t have them living together. I am 99.9% sure they are family.

— Cynthia Coulter Marcinik

Answer: Short answer: No. 

Let me first commend you for digging deep to find everything you can and then recognizing that you still don’t have anything that states outright that George W. is the son of Wilson George Coulter.

But what you are doing is using an excellent tactic for making that connection when you can’t find document proof — you’re looking for friends, neighbors and other relatives, all of whom could help you make a strong case that you’ve found the right person.

Let’s look at what we know.

In 1880, George Coulter is living in Allegheny, Blair County, Pennsylvania.

Wilson George Coulter is living in Newport, Perry County, Pennsylvania in that same census.

In 1870, the same Wilson Coulter is living in Medford, Burlington County, New Jersey, and you’ll notice in 1870, there is a George living in the household. But unfortunately, in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census the relationship is not stated.

In 1860, the same Wilson Coulter is living North Newton, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and again there is a George of the right age living with him. (This one is hard to read)

So where do you go next?

In the 1900 census, we are told that George Coulter and Minnie were married ca. 1878; it also tells us that he was born in April 1855.

Possible documents that might state the parent/child relationship:

  1. George’s marriage certificate, but you will need a location
  2. George’s birth certificate, again a location
  3. You state that Wilson dies in 1881.  It is likely there was a will or an estate settlement which would possibly include his children.
  4. When does Wilson’s wife, Mary die?  If it was after Wilson, she is likely to have a will or estate settlement.
  5. What churches did Wilson work for?  They may have directories that include George or state something about him.
  6. Do you have an obituary for George?  Maybe it names his mother or father or both.
  7. Another route would be research the other children of Wilson and Mary and see if a direct connection can be made.  Then you can possibly draw a connection between George and the sibling.

 I agree with that it is highly likely that Wilson is George’s father.  But likely is not proof, is it?  Keep searching, the answer is out there.

 — Ancestry Anne

  1. ancestry-stickynotes posted this