Brick Wall Case Studies #29: Identifying the family of a man who lived in Indiana who doesn't appear listed by name in any U.S. census records

Hugh married his wife, had one son, and died a short time later. Newspapers, studying families with his surname in the area he lived, and census records helped us know what family was his.

What We Knew

  • John R Drysdale died in 1934 in Henry County, Indiana. His death certificate listed his father as Hugh Drysdale and his mother as Amanda Collins.
  • Hugh Drysdale and Amanda Jane Collins were married in 1853 in Rush County, Indiana. Their marriage document only listed their names, the date, and the place of the marriage.
  • Amanda Collins married William H Parks in 1866 and appeared in later census records with William Parks and other children they had. John was her only child with Hugh Drysdale. Hugh appears to have died young.
  • No other documents had been located about Hugh Drysdale. He had not been located in any U.S. census record.

Records We Located

  • We searched for records for Hugh Drysdale in Indiana in the census and other records, but didn't locate anyone of that name in the area.
  • Because Hugh married in Rush County, Indiana in 1853, and his wife had been located in Rush County in 1850, it seemed likely that Hugh's family members were in Rush County in 1850. We looked at the 1850 census for Drysdale families living in Rush County. We didn't locate Hugh, but in the 1850 census, there was a William Drysdale family with the father William born in Tennessee.
  • We searched some digitized newspapers for Rush County for members of the Drysdale family. We located multiple newspaper articles in which John R Drysdale, son of Hugh, was mentioned as a relative of the William Drysdale family. William Drysdale was the right age to be a possible brother of Hugh Drysdale, and thus could be John's uncle. Family information said that John and William's son Gurney were cousins, so an uncle connection seemed likely.
  • William Drysdale's obituary said that he was born in Montgomery County, Kentucky, that he also had lived in Rush County, Indiana, and died in Bates County, Missouri.
  • William Drysdale was found in the 1850 census and 1860 census in Rush County. In the 1840 census, he was listed in Daviess County, Indiana. Also found in Daviess County was a John Drysdale who was the correct age to be the father of William. (Note that William and his brother Hugh both named sons John.) John Drysdale had a son in household in the 1840 census of the correct age to fit Hugh as well. There were no other Drysdale families in this area in this time period.
  • This John Drysdale was also found in the 1830 census in Montgomery County, Kentucky, the birth location of William Drysdale and the only Drysdale family in the entire state of Kentucky in the 1830 census. John had a son the age of William in the household and a son the right age to be Hugh as well. John Drysdale was found in 1820 in Montgomery County as well. He married Martha Mclaughlin in 1809 in Montgomery County.
  • It appears that Hugh is the brother of William Drysdale and that both of them were sons of John Drysdale and Martha Mclaughlin.


Hugh Drysdale appears to be the son of John Drysdale and Martha Mclaughlin of Montgomery County, Kentucky. The sources we located are listed for Hugh and his family members in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID LR2P-T7P.

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